Senior Nebraska receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. says the Cornhuskers are, “ready to shock the world.”
After a disastrous 4-8 campaign that led to Mike Reilly’s termination, Scott Frost inherits Morgan and other talented Cornhuskers for his reunion year in Lincoln.
The weapons at Frost’s disposal range from the battle-ready to the merely experienced to newcomers. Starting with the offense...
Wide receiver — Stanley Morgan, Jr.
Morgan Jr. appeared on the 2018 preseason honors list released Monday morning in conjunction with Big Ten Media Days. The inclusion was well-earned.
He is the clear-cut No. 1 receiver, setting career bests with 61 catches, 986 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 2017.
He made the second-team All-Big Ten after ranking second in the conference in receiving yards and touchdowns and fourth in catches per game as a junior.
He is arguably the best Nebraska receiver since 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers, as his five 100-yard receiving games last year were the most by a Husker in school history.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior has speed to burn, too, as Wisconsin knows too well.
Slot receiver — JD Spielman
The adopted son of Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman — and nephew of Chris — JD figures to fit well in Frost’s spread scheme.
A freshman All-American, Spielman totaled 830 yards as a receiver and added an impressive 7.3 yards per carry last season. He set the Nebraska single-game school record for receiving yards with 200 against Ohio State.
Frost and offensive coordinator Troy Walters can utilize Spielman like a Swiss-Army knife. During spring practice, Walters provided insight into how he plans to use the Huskers’ receivers.
“We’re teaching the whole system,” Walters said to The Fremont Tribune. “The running backs are learning the receiver position and the receivers are learning what the running backs have to do, that way we’re interchangeable.
“That’s how we were effective at UCF and we plan to do the same thing here.”
Is Spielman due for a sophomore breakout or slump?
Running back — Greg Bell
Nebraska returns some talent in the backfield, including seniors Devin Ozigbo and Mikale Wilbon. The duo combined for 872 yards at about four yards a carry.
However, junior college transfer Greg Bell might surpass them from day one. At Arizona Western last season, Bell rushed for 1,217 yards and 11 touchdowns on 201 carries. The Chula Vista, California product was considered the top JUCO running back, per the 247Sports composite.
Bell appears to be a good balance between the sturdy Ozigbo and the tiny Wilbon. He produced 54 yards on eight carries — compared to Wilbon’s 55 on 10 carries — and busted two receptions for over 40 yards.
While he may split time, he appears to be the bell-cow. He can also throw, people.
Defensive end — Ben Stille
Not to be confused with Ben Stiller, Stille thrived though position changes last year. He switched from defensive end to rush linebacker, and then back to end after the end of the season.
Stille is one of the few players that acquitted themselves well during 2017’s disastrous defensive performance. He led the “blackshirts” with 9.5 tackles for loss, including 3.5 sacks — also a team high.
The sophomore’s work in the offseason caught the attention of Frost, who called him as an emerging leader.
For a defense looking to emerge from a No. 110 finish in S&P defense, they need Stille and others to lead from the front.
Linebacker — Guy Thomas
Thomas, a redshirt freshman, has the pedigree to be an impact defender for defensive coordinator Erik Chinnander. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound linebacker hails from heralded prep program St. Thomas Aquinas, the home of Jason Taylor and the Bosa brothers.
A year in the weight room should determine whether he stays at outside linebacker or slides down to end. Former defensive line coach John Parrella liked Thomas’ speed and tenacity, and the Huskers desperately need pass rushers — they finished No. 119 out of 130 teams in sacks last season.
While the “blackshirts” return eight starters, Chinnander and Frost will be looking for new blood to invigorate a moribund defense.