Over the last month, we’ve counted down the 10 Huskers with the highest intrigue factor heading into the 2019 season. The list is now complete.
- No. 10: Mike Williams, senior wide receiver
- No. 9: Jack Stoll, junior tight end
- No. 8: Cam Taylor, sophomore defensive back
- No. 7: JoJo Domann, junior linebacker
- No. 6: Dedrick Mills, junior running back
- No. 5: Collin Miller, junior inside linebacker
- No. 4: Cameron Jurgens, redshirt freshman center
- No. 3: Adrian Martinez, sophomore quarterback
- No. 2: Darrion Daniels, senior defensive tackle
Pretty much ever since Wan’Dale Robinson flipped his commitment from Kentucky to Nebraska, I’ve been enamored by what a player with that skillset could look like in this offense.
An absolute perfect fit for the Duck-R spot in the Huskers’ attack, Robinson looks like the next big thing in the Big Ten’s continued offensive evolution. Rondale Moore won the Big Ten Freshman of the Year honor in 2018 as a dynamic offensive engine; he led the league in receiving and added All-American to his house name. You’re going to see teams all over the country trying to recreate that magic this season. Nebraska could try. There are similarities all over the board between the two players.
Unlike Purdue though, Nebraska has a No. 1 option already in JD Spielman and, if it so chooses, could ease Robinson into the fold. Purdue force-fed Moore the football and he finished the year with a third of the overall receiving targets (155). With a slew of options in the passing game, Nebraska doesn’t necessarily need to do that. But it could. Just throw him into the deep end right away and see what happens? I’m game. He looks ready to be an impact player now.
Little guys who can move like this…
Have vision like this…
Or play with the reckless abandon that Robinson does (maybe the most impressive part of that All-American game hit he took from Noa Pola-Gates wasn’t the hit or the fact he got up or the love between both players after, but the thought Robinson was willing to put himself in that position to make a play in the first place and held onto the football) are always going to be exciting football players regardless of what kind of offense they’re playing in.
Robinson has all three. And he’s playing in Frost’s offense. It’s understandable to be a little excited.
Nebraska is. Robinson’s teammates raved about him on Day 1 of spring ball. Offensive coordinator Troy Walters said: “We’re not going to tell everybody he’s going to be an All-American, be the Heisman trophy winner, but he has the capabilities of being special. … He’s going to add a whole other element that we were lacking last year.”
Ultimately, the Kentucky native’s role might be dependent on what happens with Maurice Washington and how he and Spielman work off each other. If the sophomore running back isn’t part of the rotation or starts his season off (whenever that may be) slowly, Robinson could be in line for more designed runs. His and Spielman’s games have a good bit of overlap to them and maybe we’re not talking as much as we should about JD’s ability to just slide from the slot out to Stanley Morgan Jr.’s vacated position without any hiccups.
Nebraska wasn’t in Duck personnel much last season. Was that because it didn’t feel it had the right player at the Duck-R spot? Something else? How often will Robinson be in that position in 2019? I’m not really sure of the answer to that question, but when Walters talks about a “different element,” I’m inclined to think that’s what he’s getting at.
Game-planning will be interesting.
Will Robinson, Spielman, tight end Jack Stoll and someone like Mike Williams all be on the field at the same time? Can that work? These are all things Walters is probably thinking about, too. Or he’s already thought about it and worked up a solution. We’ll find out early, I suspect. The way the schedule sets up, Nebraska could be in experimental mode in Weeks 1, 3 and 4 as it prepares for the season-maker in Week 5.
If Robinson proves ready early on — the game isn’t moving too quickly, he’s got a firm grasp of the playbook and he’s letting things come to him — there might not be any training wheels at all. Turn him loose and see what happens.
Nebraska employs an offense that somewhat follows the “get you some talent and figure the rest out later” school of thought. Put a bunch of dynamic playmakers on the field and a great quarterback and things will sort of take care of themselves.
Needing to replace Morgan’s production won’t be a one-man job. He ended 2018 fourth in the Big Ten in 10-yard receptions (38) and second in 20- and 30-yarders (18 and nine). His 14.3 yards per catch was the best mark of anyone with at least 10 catches on the team and his 9.0 yards per target was the best of anyone with at least 10 targets. He effectively made up half the offense’s home run plays in the passing game.
Expecting the running game to hold its top-10 standing (by S&P+) of last season might be expecting a little too much, so passing improvement is needed to offset any step back. Nebraska was sixth in the league in yards per pass play last season, which isn’t bad but likely isn’t where Frost wants it. Even if Robinson’s depth of target is small, he feels like a guy who can make special things happen any time he has the ball in his hands.
Remember, this is a guy who hasn’t talked about winning a Heisman, he’s talked about winning a Paul Hornung Award. The one that goes to college football’s most versatile player. The true freshman has some lofty goals and even loftier expectations depending on who you talk to. Time will tell if he can earn the right to call himself “most versatile.”
If it’s any consolation in the interim, he’s already “most intriguing.”