The competition for playing time picked up again on Monday after a week off for spring break. The Huskers are back on the practice field and one of the key position battles — wide receiver beyond JD Spielman — rages on.
“Great competition that’s going on,” offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Troy Walters said after practice on Monday. “Guys are fighting everyday. Andre Hunt is playing well; we scrimmaged last Friday and he had a good scrimmage, made some plays. Jaron Woodyard has taken that next step where he’s a guy that now he feels comfortable in the offense and he can play fast. We know what JD can do. Wan’Dale [Robinson] is a dynamic, explosive guy. Wyatt Liewer is a guy that was on the practice squad last year but he shows flashes — longer kid, great ball skills. We’re excited about all the guys we have.
“We have eight more practices so the guys know that they’re competing against one another and playing time, depth chart roles are being established. We’re having a great competition.”
Woodyard was known for his speed when the Huskers recruited him out of Arizona Western Community College, but he never really got a chance to show off that speed on the field for Nebraska last season.
He’s looking to change that heading into his senior season.
“I’m a lot further along than I was last year, just coming in late and learning the playbook and everything,” Woodyard said. “But I feel confident in the position we’re in right now. Everything’s going good, I’m learning the plays and stuff.”
Woodyard didn't enroll until the summer — he had to take care of a math class that kept him from enrolling earlier — and that set him back. He felt like he had all the talent needed to succeed, but he wasn’t confident enough in what he was doing to play freely and without thinking.
Woodyard saw the field in a limited role, playing in eight games and catching one pass for 10 yards.
“It definitely is a humbling experience,” Woodyard said about his first season at Nebraska. “I know what I can do so I wasn’t too worried about not doing good. I just wanted to come in and do my job and be a part of this.”
Now the Huskers will need more form him with Stanley Morgan Jr. no longer around. Woodyard expanded on what Walters meant by “taking the next step.”
“Just buying in and wanting to learn more and wanting to get on the field more, so you work harder off the field as well as on the field and do what you have to do to get on the field,” Woodyard said.
Woodyard said he started to catch his stride and feel comfortable in the middle of the season, but by then it was hard to really carve out a role. In addition to learning the playbook, he’s spent the last year building up his body, something he didn’t do much of at Arizona Western.
“I put on more muscle, less fat,” Woodyard said. “Just coming from a JUCO level, it’s just a different standard than the hold you to. There’s no real strength and conditioning at my JUCO, so when I came here it was a major change. I feel like I’m in the best shape in my life right now and our strength and conditioning is the best.”
During the winter—in addition to workouts—Woodyard stayed busy by participating in track and field at Nebraska, running the 60-meter dash.
“It was something that I always wanted to do in college,” Woodyard said. “They didn’t have it at my junior college I used to go to. I had the opportunity to run here so I took advantage of it. It was pretty fun … Track always helps, it just helps staying in shape and everything so it was a nice transition.”
Now he’s hoping to see that speed translate onto the football field. Woodyard is playing primarily at outside receiver but is willing to do whatever he can to help the team.
Walters’ press conference on Monday wasn’t the first time Woodyard has heard his work praised by his position coach.
“He tells me every day that I’m getting better and I need to continue to get better,” Woodyard said. “I’m just going out there with a chip on my shoulder just to get better everyday.”
Snaps are up for grabs at wide receiver and Jaron Woodyard is trying to make a strong case for himself during his first and only run through spring ball at Nebraska.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.