When Samori Touré and the rest of the Nebraska offense returned from their bye week break, most of their coaches weren’t waiting for them.
Scott Frost’s decisions to part ways with Matt Lubick, Greg Austin, Ryan Held and Mario Verduzco midseason shook things up, but Touré said the remaining offensive coaches and analysts as well as the veterans on the team have picked up the slack.
“It’s been going good,” Touré said. “We have some great assistant coaches. A lot of coaches that are behind the scenes don’t get a lot of recognition but they’re a big part of our offense and they’ve just stepped up a lot. We have all the confidence in them to get us right for the games. It’s also allowed a lot of the players to come together, the leaders to step up more. It just requires more from the players, so I think that’s an opportunity for us to come together and become a better team.”
This is Touré’s fifth season of college football, so he’s been around and seen a lot of things during his career. However, for many of the young players on the team, the events of the past week were their first introduction to the less glamorous side of college football.
“It’s definitely a reality check for a lot of young guys,” Touré said. “When they get recruited by a certain coaching staff, they probably expect them to be there the whole time, but as we know, it’s a business. So I’m just letting them know the coaches might be the reason they’re here, but they’re here now and it’s on them to keep progressing and keep going and stay with it. I think it’s good for this to happen early in their careers; now they can kind of get a feel for it and realize that it’s a business.”
Touré transferred from Montana to Nebraska to get a chance to test himself against the best of the best during his final season of college football, and now that season is nearly at its end with just two games remaining.
“It’s crazy,” Touré said. “It feels like I just got here. The season went by pretty fast, my time here went by fast. I’m just looking to finish this out strong and hopefully set a foundation for the team next year.”
Touré is Nebraska’s leading receiver by a significant margin this season with 33 receptions for 718 yards and four touchdowns, and he’s leading the Big Ten in yards per reception at 21.8. He was a late addition to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List after catching four passes for 150 yards and a touchdown against Ohio State.
“I would say it’s definitely worked out,” Touré said about his move to Lincoln. “I’m always wanting to accomplish more. I wish I could have done more during that middle stretch of the season for sure. I just came in here to do my best and help the team as much as I can and I feel like I’ve been able to help the team.”
Touré certainly has been up and down this season as he has four games with 100-plus yards and six with less than 50. One of those 100-yard games came against Northwestern midseason, but in the other five games between Buffalo and Ohio State, he caught 14 total passes for 154 yards.
More than half his production (12 catches for 377 yards and three touchdowns) came against Fordham, Buffalo and Northwestern, three of the worst teams on Nebraska’s schedule. Touré turned some heads with his big game against the Buckeyes, though, and now he has two games left against two of the best defenses in the country to show scouts at the next level what he’s capable of, something in which he places a lot of value.
“I want to go out every week and produce,” Touré said. “Every game it’s either making money or losing money. Obviously I’m trying to make money, so I want to do the best I can in these last two games. As far as the team goes, we have a lot to play for as a team. These last two games are going to set the foundation for next year.”
Touré is also trying to set a foundation for himself beyond this year as he looks to carve out a professional career for himself. The next step after the season will be the all-star game circuit, and Touré recently received an invitation to the Shrine Bowl along with teammate JoJo Domann.
“I was definitely grateful to get that opportunity, definitely something that I’m looking forward to,” Touré said. “I just want the opportunity to go against the best of the best, the same reason why I came here. I want to play against the best competition possible and that all-star game is going to give me a chance to do that.”
Before that, though, those two games at Nebraska remain. Next up is a test against a Wisconsin defense that has allowed just 12 touchdowns in 10 games. The Badgers allowed prolific Purdue wideout David Bell, the Big Ten’s leading receiver, to six catches for 33 yards in week eight.