Nebraska improved its offensive outlook over the weekend. It will be hard to tell if the Huskers improved the actual offense as there will be no before and after photos to compare, but here in the land of pure projection I'm thinking the addition of Kanawai Noa is a significant development.
The graduate transfer wide receiver from Cal announced he was joining the Huskers for his senior season on Sunday
Noa would've been California's leading returning receiver had he opted to stay in Berkeley. He had 30 receptions for 369 yards, both third-best, but did it in nine games, did it on a team that was pretty deep at wide receiver. Vic Wharton III, a Tennessee transfer, had more than 1,700 career receiving yards. Moe Ways, a Michigan transfer who struggled to find his niche in Ann Arbor, went for 383 yards in his one season with the Bears.
Noa, however, was Cal through and through. A 3-star prospect, he committed to the Bears over Washington State and played in all 13 games as a true freshman, contributing on offense and special teams. An injury cost Noa the 2016 season, but he bounced back big with 788 yards in 11 games in 2017. That landed him on the Biletnikoff Award watch list for 2018. Missing four games and Cal's moribund offense––the Bears ranked 116th nationally at 21.5 points per game and 115th at 343.1 total yards per game––didn't exactly help his candidacy.
But Noa was as proven an option as was likely available in the grad transfer market. The only grad transfer candidate listed here who was even close to Noa in terms of production was Louisiana's Keenan Barnes (1,150 receiving yards over 35 career games). That's what Nebraska's getting with Noa.
And it comes with a bonus. As long as there are graduate transfers there will be a handful of talented and proven players each year. Getting one of those is hard enough, but the Huskers had an edge––former Cal defensive line coach and native Hawaiian Tony Tuioti. Not only did he give Nebraska an in, he also got to watch Noa work over multiple seasons. Talented or not, transfers are always a bit of a gamble. Will he fit in culturally? What are his habits? Does the reward outweigh the risk?
You can feel pretty confident that all of those questions were answered when it came to Noa, thanks to Tuioti. That's an advantage few get.
Unlike running back, where we're not even certain who all of the options will be in the fall, wide receiver was at least complete coming out of spring ball (minus the addition of two true freshmen). You slotted JD Spielman in at No. 1 and then . . . well . . . things got interesting. The Huskers had options, but they all required counting on some development from what we've seen to this point.
Noa is in a different category. He's shown he can do it over a full season of Power 5 football. And now he's at Nebraska.
The Grab Bag
- Mike Babcock offers three takeaways from Nebraska’s series win over Arizona State.
- Jervay Green’s former WNCC teammate, Dru Kuxhausen, offers his impressions of the Huskers’ new guard and Green’s backcourt mate, Cam Mack.
- Speaking of basketball, Nebraska added to its roster again over the weekend.
- Nebraska keeps upping the competition level on its roster.
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.