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Hot Reads: Waiting for Wan'Dale

March 11, 2019
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Get ready for a lot of Wan'Dale Robinson on Monday.

The Huskers are holding their first spring practice on Monday with a portion of it open to media observation, and you know what that means. Everyone will get their first look at the star wide receiver for the first time in a Nebraska (practice) uniform on a Nebraska (practice) football field. I'm guessing the eye will naturally gravitate towards the Kentucky Player of the Year.

It always does to the new guys––Nick Henrich, Luke McCaffrey and Darrion Daniels are also sure to draw plenty of attention--but Robinson's different. Scoring 45 touchdowns as a high school senior, rocketing from good recruit to blue-chip recruit, earning an invite to a high-school All-American game, shocking most experts by committing to Kentucky, decommitting from Kentucky and then flipping to Nebraska will do that for a guy.

Being a perfect fit for this offense at a position of need for the Huskers this spring only amps up the attention. Fight it if you want, but it's sort of a losing battle.

It also doesn't seem to be part of this staff's approach with players like this. Nebraska offensive coordinator Troy Walters could've tamped things down last week when asked about Robinson and if comparisons to Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore, a freshman All-American and Big Ten Freshman of the Year, were fair. (Robinson and Moore, both from Kentucky, trained together in the past.)

Instead, Walters appeared to answer truthfully saying he did think the comparison was fair. The plainspokenness of it reminded me of the talk around true freshman Maurice Washington last year.

“I’d say to this point he’s better than what I expected,” Scott Frost said of Washington at the first media availability of fall camp last August. “He’s going to be pretty special."

OK, then. No false modesty here, no indoctrinated dues-paying for the new guy. Despite the late arrival and despite looking very much like a true freshman in terms of weight, Washington drew the praise right away. Like Robinson a year later, Washington had been an Under Armour All-American. It came with the expectations you'd expect and the coaches just steered into it.

Seeing it again with Robinson––at least I'm assuming we will––I think is a bit of positive reinforcement for a talented player, yes, but more than that I think its an acknowledgement of his potential impact. At the time the Washington talk started last year, Nebraska's coaches likely knew the Huskers' running back group wasn't what it appeared on paper.

Tre Bryant was still in the mix then, but wouldn't be for long due to a lingering injury. Greg Bell had been on campus for a few months, but would be gone two months later. (And, yes, I'm guessing some of the cracks that would lead to that quick departure were already showing at that point.) Nebraska, as it turned out, needed Washington to be good, so the coaches said he was good right away and then he ended up being good. Nebraska had a need, Washington had talent, so why dance around it simply out of decorum? It's inefficient, at best, if you think the player can handle the attention.

Contrast that with Adrian Martinez, Nebraska's own freshman All-American. Quarterback is a bit of a different beast in terms of responsibility and attention. It's also the biggest long-term investment a team makes every two or three years. Here was Frost on Martinez from that same interview session last August:

“Adrian is great at times and other times it looks like it’s moving a little too fast for him. He’s got to pick up his pace physically and mentally. At times it’s tremendous and other times, when he’s not quite sure, he’s a little tentative.”

There's no doubt, based on what we saw in the fall, that Martinez was ready to handle the attention and had the talent, but there's a different tone there. Perhaps a higher standard. That Martinez was good right away was great for Nebraska, but you can wait on a return for a quarterback. You have to most of the time. (NU was also trying to navigate a tricky backup QB situation then, too.)

Or maybe it's just a tailored approach. When Frost spoke about Martinez last week, dazzling and much-discussed freshman season under his belt, he spoke almost exclusively about leadership.

Robinson, of course, comes with his own unique needs in addition to his one-of-a-kind talents. We'll see how the Husker coaches play this one. If Robinson is good, it probably elevates the offense to a degree few other newcomers on the roster can match.

My guess is that value will be reflected in how Robinson is talked about when the attention gets turned up. And that's probably happening today.

QB Visitor

Media members won't be the only ones getting a look at the Huskers Monday morning. Dematrius Davis‍, a 2021 quarterback from Galena Park, Texas, tweeted that he'll be taking in Nebraska's practice, too.

Davis already holds offers from LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Baylor, Virginia Tech and Florida State. He's one of three quarterbacks Nebraska has offered for 2021. Jake Garcia, son of former Husker Randy Garcia, and Jalen Milroe, another Texan, are the others.

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