Huskers really need No. 1 wide receiver JD Spielman to return for his senior season
For three days starting Dec. 18, college football recruits can put an end to the madness. No more late-night phone calls or texts, Twitter messages or perhaps worst of all, the pressure. Nebraska head coach Scott Frost has gotten a few defensive commitments lately, but the most important pitch he's going to have to make for 2020 is to a player already on the roster.
With the departure of Stanley Morgan Jr., JD Spielman was going to have to step up in a major way in 2019. You don't simply replace the first 1,000-yard receiver in program history, but damn if the Eden Prairie, Minnesota, native wasn't going to try.
Nebraska's offense was bumbling and stumbling at times during the season, but there were flashes of what could be under Frost. That was in no small part thanks to No. 10.
As Adrian Martinez struggled to find his rhythm, Spielman went up for balls that he knew would result in pain, whether he was able to reel them in or not. While the receiving corps scrambled to find other viable options for the Huskers' signal-callers, he was the one who excelled.
Morgan may be the first Nebraska receiver to notch 1,000 yards in a season. But no one before Spielman has posted 800 receiving yards in three consecutive years. He can easily become the most prolific wideout in school history as a senior, as he needs only 203 yards to surpass Morgan's career total of 2,747.
Frost finds himself in a similar bind heading into this offseason as he did about this time one year ago. For his offense to perform effectively he needs a reliable receiving corps and right now, that's a luxury he doesn't have.
Graduate transfer Kanawai Noa didn't work out well, registering only 17 catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns. To paint a picture of just how dire the situation was for Big Red pass catchers, he ranked third in terms of effectiveness among the wide receivers.
Mike Williams, Kade Warner, and Jaevon McQuitty combined for 224 yards. Tight ends Jack Stoll and Austin Allen attempted to be viable targets but finished the season with a collective 317 yards and one touchdown.
The future of the Nebraska wide receiving corps is intriguing. We haven't even discussed Wan'Dale Robinson, who stepped in as both a running and receiving threat. You can expect that to continue as he's tailor-made for the "Duck-R" position in Frost's offense.
Youth at receiver isn't lacking speed and overall athleticism, a key element of what the Huskers' head coach needs for what he's looking to grow. Both Demariyon Houston and Jamie Nance were track and field standouts in Oklahoma. Darien Chase was tabbed as a top-200 recruit by the 247Sports Composite Index.
Warner remains one of the most physical blockers on the team and true freshman tight end Chris Hickman has shown promise as a big-bodied target. Depending on how Frost wants to utilize him, he could work as a tweener wideout/tight end.
There are other question marks on the roster such as McQuitty and Andre Hunt who've shown promise but simply haven't broken out despite showing all the promise in the world.
This is where the necessity to have Spielman remain for his senior year sticks out like a sore thumb. Nebraska already has two receiver commitments for the 2020 class in home-state phenom Zavier Betts and Texas' William Nixon.
The Huskers are in on some junior college prospects such as four-star Omar Manning, a likely immediate starter. They've also received visits from two four-star prospects in Florida's Marcus Fleming and Bryan Robinson along with another JUCO and current Iowa State commitment Xavier Hutchinson.
But Spielman is a known quantity. The only one. And Frost can't afford to let him get away.