There was a time when Nebraska wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El wasn’t just the best thing since sliced bread. He shoved aside the invention of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Since his serious leg injury (fractured left leg and torn knee ligament) in the Purdue game last season, Pierson-El’s been on the sideline recovering with an estimated return time of “Dunno, man.”
The Cornhuskers have arguably the best corps of wide receivers in the Big Ten. That allows Mike Riley and staff to entertain an option that takes an embarrassment of riches at the position to have – redshirt DPE.
In his current state, he likely wouldn’t start. That honor probably goes to the trio of Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore as of this writing. The kick and punt return spots remains open, but incoming freshman JD Spielman has the ability to pick up where Pierson-El left off as a freshman. Plenty of razzle, a ton of dazzle and enough speed to leave any opponent on the field in the dust.
The aforementioned trifecta all leave after this season. Should No. 15 redshirt, there will be no current senior-to-be Huskers holding a scholarship on the 2017 roster. He’ll be joined by Stanley Morgan and Keyan Williams as juniors. Promising freshmen such as Derrion Grim and Lavon Alston wait in the wings. Naturally, Keyshawn Johnson Jr.’s name has to be mentioned as well.
It’s not an issue of the Big Red not needing Pierson-El’s talent this season, but him being able to get back as close to 100 percent as possible. There’s valid concern that this wouldn’t be the issue if he is cleared to play at all this season. He can run in a straight line right now, but he hasn’t even begun cutting.
No doubt the idea would be agonizing for the Alexandria, Va., native to ponder, but Nebraska’s likely going to bring in two more receivers via this recruiting class. They – along with Johnson and the Huskers’ other current other pass-catching commit Jaevon McQuitty – are going to need leadership and another year in the program gives Pierson-El the ability to impart more valuable lessons for the younglings to take in.
There was a time when DPE was so much of a threat to opposing special teams that he’d be kicked away from. That time has passed for now, though it may come again. In the meantime, it would be wise to consider putting his leadership skills to use on the sideline for 2016.
Waste not, want not.