This should be a much better read than a quarterback preview where everyone knows what will be happening this year! Another year, and a third straight season where our starting QB loses his top pass catcher from the year prior. Stanley Morgan in 2018, JD Spielman in 2019, and Wandale Robinson in 2020. That alone can make things extremely difficult for an offense trying to find an identity. Let alone the QB trying to silence doubters.
What’s also interesting, is our “top 9” that we are looking at for our starting 3 WR positions, every single one of them were on the roster in 2020. Everyone except Toure, who essentially replaced Robinson. Our leading WRs returning are Zavier Betts with 12 (the jet sweeps he did counted as pass receptions) and Levi Falck with 13. I realize that Manning had personal issues, and Nixon had a knee injury… but it is somewhat concerning when you say out loud that 8 of our top 9 WRs we will be relying on this year were on the roster last year. How do we have so much optimism if literally 88.88% of the WRs we will be counting on this year were here last year? If Toure matches Robinson receiving production (big if), we still need people that were here to step up. Can they?
I just use the prior paragraph as a warning that it somewhat smells like every other offseason. When Frost was hired, he was shocked that people were telling him he needed to find a way to keep Keith Williams and Donte Williams on staff due to their recruiting abilities, as DB and WR were the two spots they identified as zero depth and needed instant upgrades. The staff went out and grabbed 7 WRs that class, and the sentiment was that we instantly got better there. Spielman and Morgan end up being the big playmakers, and we go land 4 more big time WRs in the 2019 class with the talk points of Robinson being exactly what Frost needed and guys like Nance, Chase, and Houston challenging right away for playing time. Follow that with 2020 where we bring in 5 more and the “depth is like nothing we’ve seen”. Year 4, we are hearing the same. So anyway… rinse and repeat this from before the 2020 season:
I just set the stage for us to try and not get overly hyped, yet it’s tough to argue that the WR room has a much different feel to it in 2021 than it did in 2020. For example, while Kade Warner slowly shifted away from playing, he was Martinez’s security blanket for many games. We replace him with what I feel is a better all-around WR in Oliver Martin. While I think Levi Falck was a great get from South Dakota, him being 2nd on our team in receptions probably isn’t getting us where we want to be. Enter Omar Manning. Again, I’m going to need to see it first, but that’s a good trade off. While I don’t think Toure for Robinson is a trade up, I at least have a lot of confidence that he can be very good from the slot, and when you have the guys on the outside like we do in 2021 that Robinson didn’t have in 2020… that could be a really good recipe for success.
And what about the guys vying for playing time. Zavier Betts is in year 2 of the program which typically is the biggest jump for players. Will Nixon is recovering from a knee injury and all reports are he’s absolutely ready to play football and flashed in the spring game. What about Alante Brown… I could make an argument this guy is our most explosive WR on the team. Levi Falck will be there for us to call on if Martinez needs to know that someone is going to be in the right spot at the right time. You also have Wyatt Liewer who was put on scholarship and someone that is absolutely trying to insert himself into the conversation.
I mentioned it in the quarterback preview, but it all depends on how well our guys mesh with each other. While WR is one of the easiest places to play early in your college career due to not needing the physical strength required at other positions, you still have to be on the same page with Martinez. How many passes did Manning catch in the spring game that were called back due to penalties? RPOs and choice routes are abundant in our offense, and if you don’t read things like the QB, that can spell disaster. If he doesn’t get to work with you for multiple years, is he used to your speed and route running and knowing where you are going to be out of your break? All of these things are difficult to figure out when you take into account that our starting 3 WRs for 2021 will be transfers in from other schools (Manning JUCO, Toure Montana, Martin Iowa). That’s not all bad (i’m going to do a write-up on how Nebraska should use this to their advantage in the future), but to beat the dead horse, can we mesh well?
Tomorrow we will have the RB preview! See you then!