Summer feels like it’s here, so let’s put the top down and go for a drive.
1. On Monday, the Journal Star reported that junior college wide receiver and can report to Nebraska as soon as his transcript is finalized.
This, combined with , means all five of NU’s receiver signees for the 365彩票网 class are now either on campus or set to be in the coming days.
As such, it seems like a good time to get into what that group is bringing to the Huskers and just how much different the receiving corps will look in 365彩票网 under Matt Lubick than it did in 2019 for Troy Walters.
Since National Signing Day in December or even before, the five-man class has not quite warranted an asterisk, but it’s always been qualified by some version of “if everybody makes it.”
Even coach Scott Frost freely admitted that both Manning and Betts had work to do to ensure they could start their NU careers on schedule. Now both are set to do just that.
The Huskers, then, will add Manning, Betts, Marcus Fleming and Will Nixon to midyear enrollee Alante Brown and the returning group of pass-catchers.
There’s only one question mark remaining, but it’s a big one.
2. Clearly, that’s the status of senior JD Spielman, before spring ball and has not returned to this point. that Spielman’s status for the voluntary summer workouts and beyond is "unclear."
Spielman accounted for major percentages of Nebraska’s passing game in 2019. His 898 receiving yards made up 35.2% of the Huskers’ total receiving yardage and 48.4% of the wide receivers’ production.
Of NU’s 67 "chunk" passing plays (15-plus yards), Spielman had 27 and no other player had more than Wan’Dale Robinson’s 10. The rest: Kanawai Noa (8), Jack Stoll (6), Mike Williams (4), Kade Warner (3), Maurice Washington (3), Austin Allen (2), Dedrick Mills (2), Wyatt Mazour (1) and Noah Vedral (1).
It’s hard to be efficient when you’ve got one true big-play threat in the passing game and your next-best option (Robinson) is forced into action at running back more often than you want. In a perfect world, even if Spielman is back, he wouldn’t be so heavily relied upon.
3. Without knowing how Spielman’s situation will play out, let’s look at the rest of the group.
Robinson, the 5-foot-10 slot man, is the natural starting point. He’s a budding leader and standout performer not only in the receiver room but for the offense as a whole. The question is, will the guys who fill in around him be all new?
Robinson, after all, is the only returning scholarship receiver with multiple catches to his name. The only other 2019 production from that group is eight catches for 101 yards from walk-on Kade Warner, who figures to be in competition for a spot in the rotation again in 365彩票网.
4. That’s why plenty of attention falls on the newcomers, particularly Manning and Betts.
Manning has two years of excellent junior college production under his belt and at 6-4 and 225 pounds will arrive in town with a physical tool set that Frost simply has not had at his disposal in his first two seasons at NU. Betts isn’t quite that big and is considerably younger as an incoming freshman, but is long and rangy himself at 6-2 and 200 and coming off a record-setting career at Bellevue West.
As much as it’s worth trying to put the cart too far ahead of the horse, the fact of the matter is that Manning has a strong case as the surest bet for a big role among the receivers after Robinson.
Manning has worked hard to put himself in position to graduate from Kilgore and get back to a Division I school two years after he left TCU following a redshirt season. The Husker coaches — particularly running backs coach Ryan Held — worked diligently to recruit and sign him and then to support him as he got the academic work done. It’s all for a reason.
“I think he has a chance to change our offense,” Frost said in December.
5. After Robinson and Manning, it gets interesting.
Warner has years of experience in this offense. Then there’s a trio of redshirt freshmen in Jamie Nance, Demariyon Houston and tight end hybrid Chris Hickman. Nance and Houston spent 2019 mostly relegated to the scout team and in need of physical development. Losing spring ball hurt perhaps nobody as much as those two considering the number of reps they’d have taken under Lubick’s watchful eye.
Brown drew rave reviews early in spring — Frost said he was the fastest player on the roster coming out of winter conditioning — before practices were shut down. Betts has tremendous physical upside. Fleming comes from a powerhouse high school and can flat-out fly. Nixon is a versatile kid who, like Robinson, played running back and receiver in high school.
That incoming group: Rivals pegged it as the No. 3 receiving class in the country for 365彩票网.
Toss in a couple of other walk-ons not to lose sight of, too, in freshman Ty Hahn and South Dakota graduate transfer Levi Falck.
6. So, what will it look like when the season-opener rolls around? How about 10 weeks into the season? There’s no way to know at this point.
Nebraska fans wouldn’t be blamed for imagining a trio of Manning, Robinson and Spielman to go with veteran offensive line and tight end rooms, a multi-year starter at quarterback and a senior running back.
But others will have a say, too. Maybe the rotation skews heavily toward newcomers. Maybe that Hickman-Nance-Houston trio makes a stand.
There are many questions to be answered — Spielman’s status being the biggest — but to have everybody else cleared for action is about as good as NU could have hoped for in early June.
Miss our position-by-position Spring Snapshot series? We've got you covered
In a series that launched March 23, our Husker staff examined each position of the Nebraska football team. Here's each part, all in one place.
The Journal Star is taking a position-by-position look at the Huskers. Naturally, we begin in the quarterbacks' room.
This is shaping up to be quite a challenge for first-year offensive coordinator and receivers coach Matt Lubick.
The offensive line will be an interesting group to watch to see if all the experience can help Nebraska’s offense go at a more consistent level.
Travis Vokolek is capable of making immediate contributions, his coach says, and redshirt freshman Chris Hickman will play both WR and TE.
Dedrick Mills is a good starting point at RB after becoming more comfortable last season. After him, the Huskers may rely on fresh faces. A lot.
A large but largely unproven group will have to replace the production of three players who could very well hear their names called in the NFL Draft.
Inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud said "everybody clicks at a different point," opening the conversation for who is going to emerge at the position.
New but old position coach Mike Dawson has plenty of options at outside linebacker, but not much in the way of production.
Largely comprised of veterans, the Nebraska secondary in 365彩票网 is shaping up to be the strength of the defense.
Nebraska will rely on essentially a clean overhaul in a phase that "potentially costs us three or four games last year."