One of the hallmarks of this new offensive system making its way to Lincoln is versatility. Guys line up everywhere on the field, and in turn, the defense has to spend a little bit longer than usual figuring out who’s got who and who’s doing what.
Some of the tight ends will get run at receiver before bulking up their frames. Sometimes running backs will play wideout, sometimes wideouts will play running back. Who lines up where is going to be a legitimate point of conversation when the real games begin.
“Moving somebody from slot to running back or guard to tackle isn’t a big move and those moves are easy,” head coach Scott Frost said when asked about any guys that might have changed positions heading into the start of spring practice on Friday.
Offensive coordinator Troy Walters elaborated.
“We’re teaching the whole system [to everyone],” Walters said. “The running backs are learning the receiver position and the receivers are learning what the running backs have to do, that way we’re interchangeable.”
At Central Florida last season, 15 different players logged a run. Nine of those 15 also caught a pass. UCF’s leading pass-catcher, Tre’Quan Smith, ran it five times. Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska’s leading pass-catcher last season, only carried it once. Nebraska got guys like JD Spielman and Tyjon Lindsey involved in the running game, but not as often as what’s going to happen with this staff.
“We could have three receivers in the game but we could use one of those receivers as a running back,” Walters said. “Or we could have two running backs in the game and use one of those running backs as a receiver. That’s how we were effective at UCF and we plan to do the same thing here.”
Walters was asked about how full the cupboard was at the skill positions, and he answered with an endorsement of the guys on the roster.
“I think we have some depth at the receiver position,” he said, “guys that have played, guys that have made plays.”
Walters dropped Spielman’s name as well as lofting some hype on Jaevon McQuitty, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Frost likes what he’s seen from Lindsey.
“Tyjon’s doing great,” Frost said. "He had that setback and …ever since then, he’s done a great job. He’s gone to work learning. He looks quick and fast, excited for him in spring ball and he seems to really be enjoying what we’re doing.”
Nebraska is also bringing in some perimeter talent later in guys like Miles Jones and Jaron Woodyard that could turn out to be Swiss Army Knife-like players but the top dog in the wide receiver room isn’t a guy Nebraska brought in, it’s a guy Nebraska convinced to stay.
Morgan came back for his senior season, and after breaking the Nebraska single-season receiving yardage record last year, Morgan has some high expectations this season. Walters said he’ll be used the same way Smith was in Orlando last year: as a feature.
“He’s right at the top,” Walters said when asked where Morgan ranks on the list of receivers he’s worked with. “He’s been there and done that, has great size, great ball skills, physical player, plays with an attitude and a chip on his shoulder and he’s a guy that’s come in and really grasped the offense and that’s the biggest thing.”
Smith had 1,171 yards and 13 scores through the air last season. Morgan is the same kind of dynamic receiving threat. It was important for this new staff to keep him in Lincoln, but Walters said he didn’t want to pressure Morgan.
“The biggest thing was just reaching out to him and allowing him to get to know me, allow him to get to know the staff, what type of people we are,” Walters said. “Then I talked a little bit about the offense and how exciting and how his strengths would benefit from this offense, but ultimately there was no pressure. He has to make the decision for himself, but all I wanted to do was allow him to get to know me, get to know the staff, get to know the offense and if he does come back, what type of people he’d be working with and for.
“I think he saw that and he loves Nebraska. He loves Lincoln, he loves football and he wanted to come back and really go out on a high note. We’re excited he’s back.”
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.