The Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the top receiver in the country, announced its 2018 preseason watch list on Thursday. Nebraska didn’t just have one name pop up. It had two.
Both senior Stanley Morgan Jr. and sophomore JD Spielman saw their names pop up on the 50-man list. The Huskers are one of only seven schools with multiple players on the watch list, joining Oklahoma, West Virginia, Louisville, Cal, Toledo and North Texas. Any player who catches a pass –– receiver, running back, tight end, etc. –– is eligible for the award.
Both Nebraska receivers had record-breaking 2017 seasons for the Big Red.
Morgan joined the Biletnikoff Award midseason watch list last year (players can see their names added as the season goes on) while setting career bests with 61 catches, 986 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. The 986 receiving yards broke the school record held by 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers. Morgan’s five 100-yard receiving games were the most by a Husker in school history.
He was also a second-team All-Big Ten pick by the coaches and the media and a first-team all-conference selection by Phil Steele. Morgan ranked second in the conference in receiving yards and touchdowns and fourth in catches per game as a junior.
Spielman was dynamic in his first year on the field, earning All-Big Ten honors at both wide receiver and kick returner.
Working mostly from the slot on offense, Spielman tallied 55 catches for 830 yards and a pair of scores on a 15.1 yards-per-catch average. He set school records for freshmen in catches, yards, 100-yard receiving games (two) and all-purpose yards (1,572). He ranked first or second among all FBS freshmen in receiving yards, receiving yards per game, catches and all-purpose yards in 2017.
With an 88.1 yards-per-game average in Big Ten, Spielman became just the second Big Ten freshman since 1985 to lead the league in that category during conference play. He also set Nebraska’s single-game receiving yards record with a 200-yard explosion on 11 catches against Ohio State on Oct. 14.
Semifinalists for the 2018 Biletnikoff Award will be announced on Nov. 12, 2018, with three finalists selected on Nov. 20. The award winner will be presented live on Dec. 6, during The Home Depot College Football Awards show on ESPN.
The two Huskers may have a leg up on their competition, too. They have a former Biletnikoff winner coaching them up this season in offensive coordinator and wideout coach Troy Walters.
— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) July 19, 2018
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.