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Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska Wide Receivers Already Showing Edge, Toughness, Work Ethic

July 13, 2023

Garret McGuire’s excitement is palpable. He speaks to the media with a calm demeanor over his enthusiasm for the job. Then he puts the whistle on and radiates energy. With just a few weeks left behind fall camp, Nebraska’s wide receivers coach told Greg Sharpe his position group is responding with their own energy.

“They are fun, they have matched my energy, which is pretty crazy to say, but they’ve matched my energy,” McGuire told Sharpe in an interview that aired Tuesday night. “We’ve got some dudes with a natural toughness and edge to them. They’re working really, really hard. That’s one thing you have to say about our room is that we’re working our tails off.”

The first-year college assistant coach said he’s getting used to Nebraska with the warmer weather. It also helps that football season is coming around the corner. Recruiting trips back to his native Texas in January, May and June satisfied his football itch. Now he’s back in Lincoln with the family in the receivers room. They have this creed, PTF—protect the family. And to McGuire, it feels like a football family. In this family comes second chances. Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda and Zavier Betts are both back on the roster this fall. Garcia-Castaneda put on 7 pounds of muscle in the spring and Betts completed 21 hours of class credits in the spring so he could be eligible this fall.

Sharpe asked McGuire about the entire receivers room. Betts and Garcia-Castaneda are both hungry, McGuire said. Hungry, grateful and excited to be Huskers again. Garcia-Castaneda is dependable with great hands and good routes. He also matches the coach’s enthusiasm in the run game. Betts, physically, looks different from the rest of the group and still shows the burst off the ball Husker fans enjoyed seeing in 2021. They’re both back with returning receiver Marcus Washington, who enters this season with high expectations. He’s encouraged coaches in his toughness and explosiveness, and McGuire made sure to note his willingness to learn despite his veteran status.

“He’s kind of locked onto me and he hangs on every word that I say, which is really really awesome to see an older guy do that,” McGuire said. “Marcus is a smart player, he’s played a lot of football. He knows all three spots and he’ll be able to play all three spots, so I’m really excited for Marcus.”

Transfer portal arrival Billy Kemp IV brings an edge to the room. He’s a undersized receiver (occasionally listed at 5-foot-8) but plays with a chip on his shoulder. McGuire acknowledged that with his biases, he believes it would be fun to play receiver in Nebraska’s offense this upcoming season. Kemp fits that system well for his intelligence and decisiveness. The Huskers also added former Baylor receiver Josh Fleeks in December. He’s a dynamic playmaker and a big target. McGuire said there’s a chance Fleeks will be involved in the return game, just to move him around and find ways to get him the ball.

Sharpe and McGuire also noted the returning walk-ons in the room. Ty Hahn, Alex Bullock, Roman Mangini, Taveon Thompson and Barron Miles all bright a hardened spirit.

“They just have that edge which most walk-ons have because you’ve been doubted your whole life,” McGuire said after complimenting Mangini’s potential future as a coach. “You get a chance to put something on tape and they are.”

Nebraska’s significant freshman class is also getting a chance to put things on tape. The Huskers added several athletic playmakers in the 2023 recruiting class who could make immediate contributions. Head coach Matt Rhule previously said he wants some of those freshmen to make immediate impacts. At the top of that class is Lincoln East graduate Malachi Coleman. Coleman gained knowledge of the system by watching every spring practice. He’s already impressed the receivers’ coach, who is watching the former Spartan live for the first time now. Coleman arrives in the room as the voice of the freshman class. McGuire is already impressed by

“He’s kind of the leader of that freshman crew right now from what I’m seeing and what I’m hearing, he’s got a voice in the room,” McGuire said of Coleman. “It’s cool to hear him answer questions because it puts pressure on some of those other freshmen because he’s answering questions at a really high level. Those other guys don’t know that but Malachi is ahead so it kind of speeds up their learning process a little bit.”

Nebraska also added Tennessee native Demetrius Bell. Bell plays fast, decisive and with confidence. McGuire also noted the receiver is a tough kid from Tennessee, much like offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield. Nebraska also added Jeremiah Charles, a gifted athlete from Arlington, Texas. Charles played for tight ends coach Bob Wager at Martin High School and is a tough, gritty player who won’t shy away from work, McGuire said. Kansas City native Jaidyn Doss brings pure competition and a strain for extra yards into the room. Doss was a relatively early member of Nebraska’s 2023 class and stayed pledged throughout the coaching shift. Omaha Westside graduate Jaylen Lloyd brings exceptional ball skills and pure speed to Nebraska.

“He’s another guy who I can’t say it enough, he’s from Omaha and that means something,” McGuire said. “His mom went here and was a track athlete here. So it means something for him to wear the scarlet.”

Brice Turner, the speedy receiver from Bay City, Texas, arrives as the first commitment to Nebraska in the Rhule era. Turner’s entire family, McGuire said, of 17 people dropped him off in Lincoln to make sure he was at home. McGuire credited Rhule and defensive line coach Terrance Knighton with finding Turner and getting him to Nebraska. Turner is also a prepared learner who tries to be 45 minutes early to each lift. Then there’s D’Andre Barnes, the late singing day commitment from Colorado. He’s fast, big and can change directions. McGuire said Barnes fits the mold of what this staff seeks.

It’s a room with a lot of excitement in its potential. In order to meet that potential, the Huskers will need returning faces to step up, veteran transfers to find their footing and new faces to burst onto the scene. Either way, McGuire’s contagious energy has the group looking forward.

“We’re going to have some fun and an exciting August, for sure,” McGuire said.

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