Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Samori Touré Making Smooth Transition to Slot Receiver at Nebraska

September 07, 2021

Montana transfer Samori Touré had a fairly nondescript Husker debut at Illinois in Week 0: three catches for 37 yards, two carries for 9 yards. That certainly wasn’t the case for his first game at Memorial Stadium, however.

The 6-foot-3 slot receiver caught eight passes for 133 yards and ran the ball three times for 35 yards and a score.

“That is what I was thinking to myself running out of the tunnel, looking at 90,000 plus, ‘This is why I came here,’” Touré said after the game. “To play on the big stage in front of big crowds, that is exactly why I came here.”

Touré is one of five transfers in their first season at Nebraska to make the two-deep for the first two weeks, and offensive coordinator Matt Lubick highlighted the traits that have allowed players like Touré to make an immediate impact.

“They are all football savvy guys and pick things up well,” Lubick said. “They are all very humble, they listen. That’s the whole thing as a coach, you want guys that are coachable, that will listen. We really try to emphasize part of the learning process is making mistakes, and when you’re a new guy we expect them to make mistakes. So you can’t get down on yourself, that’s how you learn. They have really good attitudes towards that. That’s dealing with adversity, which they’ve all had to do.

“I think in football that’s part of the game, things are not always going to go your way, you are not always going to do the right thing. You are not going to be as comfortable if you are learning something new, and so just getting out of your comfort zone, making a mistake, learning from it and moving on. I think they have all done a good job of that.”

For Touré, a prolific pass-catcher who racked up 1,495 receiving yards in his final season at FCS Montana, part of getting out of his comfort zone has been what Nebraska has asked of him as a blocker.

“Samori, we’re asking him to do some things that he didn’t have to do in his previous program and he’s kind of just learning,” Lubick said. “Sometimes it’s not just blocking but knowing who to block, and he’s getting better every day.”

Another new thing for Touré has been his involvement in Nebraska’s triple option wrinkle, which led to his first touchdown as a Husker. Touré has been the one motioning into the backfield to serve as the deep back looping around during Nebraska’s option plays, and he’s found success.

“It’s super fun because again I’ve got all the trust in the world in Adrian [Martinez] to make the right read,” Touré said. “I know if I get the ball for a reason I am just trying to make something happen, and so I think it is something that definitely opens up our offense a little bit.”

Lubick said that role is one he teaches all of his wide receivers to fill and the coaching staff views it as an extension of the short passing game. It’s been in Scott Frost’s playbook dating back to their time together at Oregon; the Huskers have just gone to it more so far through the first two weeks of the 2021 season.

“We were joking around with him, ‘now we are going to have to move you to the running back room, now you’re carrying the ball,’” Lubick said. “But he’s adjusted well. All our receivers can do that, it’s kind of built into our system. So again, it wasn’t that hard or expensive, but that was cool to see. Again, getting a good player in space, and you kind of look at it like the quick passing game. Even though it’s a pitch, it’s the same thing as throwing bubbles, it’s the same thing as throwing a quick pass. It’s just getting a guy in space that can hopefully make somebody miss.”

Touré has five carries though two games and was involved in a few more option plays where he didn’t get the ball, but his greatest value lies in the passing game where he’s drawn 17 targets and has 11 receptions through two games. With Oliver Martin (six receptions on 11 targets for 103 yards and a touchdown against Illinois) on the sideline against Fordham, Touré stepped into that No. 1 wideout role and excelled.

“Obviously every receiver wants to be their quarterback’s go-to,” Touré said. “That is just something that comes with the game, something that comes with the position. So yeah, you know I want to be his go-to target. I want to be someone that he feels comfortable throwing the ball to, so like I said we have a deep receiving corps. A lot of guys that can go out there and make plays, so we’ve all got confidence in all our guys.”

Touré said he logged a ton of reps with Martinez in the spring and that chemistry they built transferred first to fall camp and then into the game on Saturday.

“I have a lot of trust in Samori,” Martinez said after the game. “It’s kind of funny, he’s over there cheesing at me so it’s hard to talk. We built a lot of trust over the offseason and I am glad we got to showcase that today. I knew where he was going to be and he knew where I was going to put the ball and that is a big piece of the passing games just having trust and I trust him.”

Trust is a big deal, not only for receivers and quarterbacks, but for coaches and recruits, particularly those that join the team via the transfer portal. The coaching staff typically doesn’t have the same amount of time to build up relationships with and vet transfers as they do with recruits coming from the high school ranks. However, the staff didn’t have any concerns about bringing Touré into the program.

“We were very fortunate with Samori because of a relationship with his former college coach,” Lubick said. “It was easy to see he was really good on tape, but I felt great about his character and all the intangibles you don’t see on tape after talking with his coaches.”

Frost said when he announced that Touré would be playing in the slot at Nebraska that the ball naturally finds that position within Nebraska’s offense, and that was certainly the case against Fordham. Whether it be through the air or on the ground, Touré figures to be a big part of Nebraska’s attack all season long.

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