When looking back on a 6-7 season, it’s likely an exercise in futility to find an entire unit to be proud of. This isn’t the case for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. There were quite a few wide receivers and tight ends running routes and fighting their best to get — and stay — open for their quarterbacks. Fortunately, for the most part, the Big Red’s best bunch is back.
Mike Riley’s offense began utilizing its passing game with the only appropriate candidate as the No. 1 wide receiver: Jordan Westerkamp. He amassed 918 yards and seven touchdowns over the season. However, what he didn’t get enough of is praise about how much he helped his quarterbacks (more often than not Tommy Armstrong) make plays.
Brandon Reilly has stepped up as a reliable receiver that can not only make excellent catches, but can take licks and shrug them off. He only trailed Westerkamp by 164 yards on the year and made perhaps the best catch of the season when he hauled in the 30-yard game-winning score versus then-No. 7 Michigan State.
Alonzo Moore finally burst onto the scene giving the Huskers a big-bodied and agile receiver that added six touchdowns to the cause.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was tight end Cethan Carter. Following a short suspension to open the season, Carter became not only one of the best run blockers on the team, but also one of the most versatile players overall. He found himself beating defenders numerous times in the passing game and was used in an unconventional fashion on the ground.
Key Departures: Jamal Turner
Key Returners for 2016: Alonzo Moore (Sr.), Brandon Reilly (Sr.), Jordan Westerkamp (Sr.), Stanley Morgan Jr. (So.), DeMornay Pierson-El (Jr.)
The upcoming season looks to be more of the same for the Huskers in terms of athletes that can both block and snag the football. The team looks to easily offer a two-deep that could compete with even the best of the Big Ten’s behemoths.
Unfortunately, how much they succeed isn’t in their hands. It can be placed there, but Nebraska’s quarterbacks ultimately have the final say in whether or not these athletes are utilized to their full potential. Westerkamp’s wild ride is finally coming to an end and he’ll be looked to as a safety valve.
When other receivers were having difficulty holding onto Armstrong’s dart-like passes, Stanley Morgan had the sweet spot nearly every time. Look for his role to increase.
Carter’s should as well along with redshirt freshman tight end Matt Snyder. The combinations they bring are two large competitors that offer a punishing aspect in the running game and dangerous options for the opposition to account for through the air.
Nebraska’s opponents had best hope for poor quarterback performance. If connections start being made, the Huskers are going to be able to put up points quickly.