Nebraska Cornhuskers wide receiver Samori Toure (3) during their football game against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Finding The Next Samori Touré—Should Nebraska Search For A Receiver In The Transfer Portal?

December 03, 2021

About a year ago, a tall, skinny receiver who played at Montana decided to bet on himself and transfer to a Power Five program for his final year of eligibility.

Samori Touré was an FCS All-American in 2019 while at Montana. In four seasons with the Grizz, he caught 155 passes for 2,488 yards and 20 touchdowns. But he wanted to see if he could replicate what he did on the FCS level against Big Ten defenses. He found himself in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Touré’s lone season as a Husker should be viewed as a transfer-portal success story. He won the bet he placed on himself. Touré led Nebraska with 46 catches for 898 yards and five touchdowns. He provided the kind of big-play threat that the Huskers’ offense had been missing before he arrived.

Touré was a perfect match with Scott Frost, who was able to draw up passing concepts that fooled defenses and left Touré with single coverage down the field. Touré hauled in catches of 68 yards against Buffalo, 70 against Northwestern and 72 against Ohio State. He tied the school record for most 100-yard receiving games with five and was 33 yards away from breaking it.

With a must-win-early 2022 season staring Frost in the face, should Nebraska take a peek in the transfer portal for the next Samori Touré? The next immediate-impact player?

Before you ask yourself that, ask yourself another: do the Huskers already have that person on the roster? There are already interesting pieces in Nebraska’s wideout room that could fill the role Touré held so well.

But before Frost tried to court anyone, whether that be in the portal or junior college, his first order of business was to be finding the person who is going to coach the position these guys play. And on Friday, Nebraska got its guy. Mickey Joseph, a former Husker quarterback who has spent the past five years as LSU’s receivers coach, was hired for the same role at Nebraska. With the Early Signing Period approaching on Dec. 15, the clock is ticking—Joseph will need to hustle on the recruiting trail before many of the quality players get scooped up by other schools.

Omar Manning and Zavier Betts appear to be returning to the program and have talent—can the new receivers coach, whomever it may be, unlock their potential and give those two consistent playing time? Manning finished with 26 catches for 380 yards and two touchdowns while Betts had 20 catches for 286.

Then there’s the curious case of Oliver Martin. The transfer, who’s had stops at Michigan and Iowa, had that clutch six-catch, 103-yard receiving day at Illinois, but then disappeared. After that game against the Illini—in which he clearly looked to have a connection with the now departed Adrian Martinez—he had four catches the rest of the season. He did battle an injury after the game in Champaign, but went through pregame warmups for much of the remainder of the season with little game action.

With the loss of other receivers like tight end Austin Allen (38 catches, 602 yards, two touchdowns) and wideout Levi Falck (18, 223, one score), the Huskers still have young options like Alante Brown (5-foot-10, 185 pounds), Will Nixon (5-11, 185), Latrell Neville (6-4, 195), Shawn Hardy (6-3, 190) and Kamonte Grimes (6-3, 200).

Brown hasn’t seen consistent playing time while Nixon, Neville, Hardy and Grimes were all either first- or second-year players. Nebraska also has Victor Jones Jr. and Grant Page committed in the 2022 class.

More additions could do the receiver room at Nebraska well. Which names could the Huskers target in the portal? There are big fish, like Oklahoma’s former five-star talent Jadon Haselwood, who put his name in the portal following the exit of Lincoln Riley to USC. While Haselwood is really good, it may be unrealistic that he chooses to go from Norman to Lincoln.

Is there another Samori Touré available? Here are four names to watch.

Jake Bobo, Duke

Like Nebraska, the Duke Blue Devils finished 3-9 and are going through some pretty big changes on its coaching staff and roster. Longtime head coach David Cutcliffe and the school reached a mutual separation agreement, which ends his 14-year career at Duke.

The Blue Devils will need to replace their top receiver, too, in Jake Bobo, who has one year left of eligibility. Bobo is a big target at 6-5, 215 pounds and led the team in receiving with 74 catches for 794 yards and one touchdown. In a win over Northwestern early in the season, he had his best game (who didn’t against the struggling Wildcats) with 11 receptions for 109 yards. Against Louisville, he hauled in nine for 102.

This is just one example, but Bobo runs a great route on this play, which creates separation between him and the defender:

Bobo has experience—in four years in Durham, he has 126 catches for 1,441 yards and three touchdowns—and can mentally handle a playbook as diverse as Frost’s because, well, he played at Duke.

Sam Crawford Jr., Tulsa

If Nebraska is looking for a do-it-all athlete who can catch passes and contribute on special teams, Sam Crawford Jr. should get a phone call.

Crawford, a 6-1, 209-pound Texas native, caught 114 passes for 1,623 yards and 10 touchdowns in three seasons with the Golden Hurricane. He also returned 15 kickoffs for 252 yards.

Crawford’s best game this season came against one of the top teams Tulsa played—one-loss Houston. Crawford hauled in five catches for 101 yards against the Cougars, who are playing undefeated College Football Playoff hopeful Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference title game this Saturday.

Here’s an example of how well Crawford gets off the line of scrimmage:

Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda, New Mexico State

Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda entered the portal on Nov. 28 and has since gained offers from Minnesota, Utah, Iowa State and others. Garcia-Castaneda is a 5-10, 185-pounder who transferred to the Aggies from Saddleback College, where he led the team with 56 catches for 953 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman.

With Touré gone, Nebraska could be in search for a vertical threat, and Garcia-Castaneda might provide it if given an opportunity. This season at New Mexico State, he had 36 catches for 567 yards and four touchdowns. On Oct. 2 against San Jose State, Garcia-Castaneda caught seven passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns.

On this example below, San Jose State’s safety gets sucked toward the line of scrimmage on the slot route that breaks to the middle of the field, leaving Garcia-Castaneda all alone for the long gain:

 

Garcia-Castaneda showed his speed on this long touchdown catch against in-state rival New Mexico:

Emmanuel Logan-Greene, New Mexico 

Emmanuel Logan-Greene was a versatile part to New Mexico’s offense for three seasons, and before that, he spent the 2017 season with Frost at UCF. He’s now in the portal and looking for an opportunity somewhere.

Logan-Greene is a shifty all-purpose back at 5-9, 175 pounds. In three seasons with the Lobos, he had 63 catches for 625 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 71 yards and 17 carries. In limited action at UCF as a freshman, he caught five passes for 75 yards.

Logan-Greene caught seven passes for 107 yards against New Mexico State, Garcia-Castaneda’s team. Here’s him running a quick slant from the slot and getting a first down on third down:

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