Replacing the production of Stanley Morgan Jr. was top of mind this spring for Nebraska heading into the 2019 season. As a senior, Morgan posted 70 catches for 1,004 yards and seven scores. It’s not easy to replicate that type of production.
But there is something else that Morgan brought to the table for the Huskers: fun.
In general, the wide receiver group is quieter this year with Morgan. The leader of the group is now JD Spielman, a dynamic playmaker for the team. However, Spielman isn’t the most talkative guy and prefers to let his play do the talking.
Offensive coordinator Troy Walters explained it during a radio appearance this summer.
"[The spring] was more focused, not as much fun as we probably had in the fall, and that's good because guys were serious, guys were focused and on a mission to prove to coaches they belong," Walters said.
There’s motivation in replacing someone like Morgan. Sophomore wide receiver Kade Warner talked about it on Thursday as the Huskers reported for fall camp.
“It’s a great motivating factor because [Morgan is] a great ballplayer,” Warner said. “One thing we don’t talk about enough is how much fun he had playing the game. Coach Walters came out and said we weren’t having as much fun as we did when Stanley was here. That struck me hard because we all love the game but we shy away from that sometimes because Stanley was so good and brought so much energy to the game.
“That’s a big thing we have to step up too, the energy we bring to practice. At the end of the day we love playing this game and we need to show it.”
With big shoes to fill, the wide receivers are excited for the challenge ahead. A lot of players have spent the spring and summer working hard for playing time and to be the reliable wideouts that Nebraska needs. Spielman will play a bigger role in Morgan’s absence, but others—like Warner—can help too.
As for the lack of fun Walters referenced? Warner recognized that the position group and team as a whole need to find a way out of their comfort zones. That will hopefully help keep the energy of the team up when needed.
“I always have fun playing but I’m not going to run around and dance to music,” he said. “Stan was very open about showing he was having fun. A lot of guys are like that. I’m not personally like that but if that’s the next step we have to take to give energy to other people and show the offense is moving, then we have to take that step.
“That’s the difference between Stan and a couple other guys. Stan, you always saw him dancing and screaming and yelling while having fun. That’s the thing we need to work on.”
Having fun in warm-ups is great, but so is having fun on the football field when it counts. That starts with making plays, which will hopefully loosen up the new wide receivers and build confidence.
It’s not easy replacing one of the best receivers in Nebraska history, but it’s a challenge the Huskers are up for.
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.