Redshirt freshman wide receiver JD Spielman led the Red team with 70 yards receiving in Nebraska’s spring game, including that absolute gem of a touchdown catch in the corner on a Tanner Lee precision strike. He had four receptions on five targets, which made for a pretty efficient “debut.”
Spielman was, essentially, as advertised. There was some hype surrounding the freshman after taking Mike Riley’s redshirt decision down to the wire last fall and then earning offensive scout team MVP honors following the 2016 season. Throw in that he was an excellent lacrosse player, Spielman was once committed to Ohio State to play lacrosse, and his famous football family, Vikings GM Rick Spielman is his adopted father, and you have a backstory that matches the intrigue around his abilities on the field.
And people are starting to take notice. ESPN’s Brian Bennett compiled a list of “breakout” players from the spring and Spielman made the top eight.
The MVP of the scout team offense last year, Spielman looks ready to contribute where it counts this season. He impressed coaches most of the spring and went out and grabbed a 30-yard touchdown among his four catches in the spring game.
OK, so maybe the writeup on Spielman isn’t the most exciting, but I’m still somewhat surprised to see him on the list. Considering that Riley named Tanner Lee the starter a week ago, there was a tap-in putt here for Nebraska’s breakout candidate. (Unless Lee was considered enough of a known entity that winning the job wasn’t considered a breakout. I would accept that argument, though also be somewhat surprised by that.)
Spielman should get a ton of touches in 2017, though there is some competition at the slot. Keyon Williams had the most targets (eight) and catches (six) in the spring game and everyone enters the summer assuming true freshman Tyjon Lindsey will have some sort of role this fall.
Still a good pick, ESPN.
Dropping in on the Ducks
FoxSports.com’s Stewart Mandel does the new coach in a new place story for Willie Taggart and Oregon.
The Ducks are one of the more difficult games to project for Nebraska’s upcoming season. On the one hand, Oregon returns a ton of talent on offense and, while the offense that made Oregon famous may be shelved, Taggart’s USF attack wasn’t exactly plodding. Of course, the Ducks’ problem was on the other side of the ball a year ago. Oregon made former Colorado defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt one of the highest-paid assistants in the Pac-12 to try and fix that.
Still, there’s some interesting comments from Taggart in here. Like this one:
“I was really shocked at how weak we were as a football team,” Taggart said. “Having this great facility, it’s easy to get complacent. You assume recruits are just going to come, but you’ve got to go get them.”
And this one:
“We have a guy or two that can play at some positions, but not a whole [position] group that we feel comfortable with,” Taggart said.
Savvy expectation managing? A little game of cat-and-mouse? Both seem possible, though it’s worth noting that, while Taggart has been a successful rebuilder now at two different schools, his first teams at Western Kentucky and USF both went 2-10 in year one.
The Grab Bag
- Athlon ranks the Huskers’ schedule as the fifth-toughest in the Big Ten.
- Oh, good ol’ anonymous scout quotes. It’s that time of year and one branded Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer a “pure millenial.”
- Michigan’s Ugly American publicity tour of Italy included more hijinks yesterday.
- Paul Myerberg of USA Today looks at “what to like” about Wisconsin in 2017.
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.