It could be wild in about a week or so.
On Thursday, Nebraska wide receivers coach Troy Walters joined Husker Sports Nightly to talk about the wide receivers before the start of fall camp. His conversation with host Greg Sharpe eventually hit on 12 guys who are in the mix at wide receiver.
"You're not going to do it with one guy," Walters said of trying to replace Stanley Morgan Jr. and the school-record 1,004 yards he put up in 2018.
But will it take a dozen? Probably not quite that many by the time we reach the end of the season. Here at the start, however, that's how many top contenders the Huskers have competing for catches. Last year, seven wide receivers recorded a catch. That number will probably grow this season, but by how much?
Go ahead and write JD Spielman's name in ink on the depth chart. That's the one certainty in the wide receiver room. I would be somewhat surprised if Kade Warner and Kanawai Noa weren't near the top of the group by the time South Alabama visits Lincoln on Aug. 31. Walters noted Warner's leadership during the summer and the experience Noa, a Cal transfer, brings to the room.
Whether Warner, Noa and Spielman are the first three out for the first play of the season might depend some on Wan'Dale Robinson.
"Wan'Dale is a special player," Walters said. "He plays both running back and receiver. He came in and he's grasped the offense very well. He just brings another dimension both as a running back and a receiver."
Robinson was limited in the spring by an injury, but you'd have to be ignoring the obvious, based on how the staff talks about him, to think he's not a big factor this fall if healthy.
Nebraska does have two seniors at wide receiver, perhaps two of the only senior contributors on offense, in Jaron Woodyard and Mike Williams. Walters talked about the learning curve the two junior-college transfers faced last season. They should be in a better position to contribute in 2019, but I'd put them in a similar spot as Andre Hunt. The redshirt freshman, according to Walters, topped the depth chart at the end of spring but maintaining that edge is going to have to be earned throughout fall camp. All three will certainly play, but is one ready to emerge as a can't-take-me-off-the-field type in 2019? We don't know yet.
If not, there's the remaining fleet of freshmen and Walters made it sound like all three are going to have a shot. Jamie Nance enrolled for the the spring semester. He was a bit "raw" and needed to add weight (he did), but Walters noted he's one of the Huskers' fastest players. Walters has also been encouraged by the summer reports on Demariyon "Peanut" Houston and Darien Chase.
"Both of those guys bring a dimension," Walters said. "Peanut, he can run. He's a 10.5 [100-meter] type player, great hands, can probably play inside or outside. Darien Chase is kind of a bigger receiver. Great hands, great route-running ability. I think both those guys are going to figure into the rotation this year."
The new redshirt rule would allow the true freshmen to appear in up to four games without losing a year of eligibility.
"It's a good rule," Walters said, "and those guys will definitely see four games and probably more this fall."
Those are my italics, not Walters', but it was one of the more eyebrow-raising moment of his talk with Sharpe. He also mentioned two other wide receivers, Miles Jones and Jaevon McQuitty.
Hopes seem to be high for Jones coming off a redshirt season in which he battled a hamstring injury and then had shoulder surgery midway through the year. "If he can stay healthy he adds another element as a guy that can play receiver as well as line up in the backfield," Walters said. "He's an explosive football player as well."
McQuitty, a sophomore, might have the steepest hill to climb. Walters noted how long it takes to recover from a serious knee injury like the one McQuitty suffered as a true freshman, not just physically but mentally. This is just my interpretation, but that's probably not the synopsis you want to hear when facing a position battle involving 11 others.
The battle for snaps at wide receiver, what should be one of the most closely watched and competitive of fall camp, gets underway in earnest next week.
The Grab Bag
- Great read from Jacob Padilla who looks at Nebraska’s tackles for loss and how they compared to this staff’s numbers at UCF.
- There won’t be a resolution in the Maurice Washington case before the Huskers’ season opener.
- Derek Peterson and Jacob Padilla share some of what they saw at Nebraska’s basketball practice in the latest Varsity Club podcast.
- Recruiting is getting more competitive among the Big Ten West schools. That’s a good sign writes Greg Smith.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.