Nate Swift and Todd Peterson combined for 125 receptions and 1,727 of Nebraska's receiving yards in 2008. Both were dependable, sure-handed playmakers who had an uncanny nack for finding the open spot on the field.
One perspective might say it's imperative that we find adequate replacements for them. Another perspective might be that we're not, and instead the duo's possessions and yardage might be better utilized transferred to the running game where we have another dependable duo waiting. Reality lies somewhere in between. Defensive players have become faster, stronger and more versatile heralding the death of the one-dimensional offense. The Cornhuskers must find a set of receivers that will keep opponents from stacking against the run.
Photo by Dennis Hubbard
Menelik Holt and Niles Paul saw a lot of plays last season, but neither materialized into every-down dependable players. Both must improve their game this coming season and give the Huskers a boost in the passing game. I previously mentioned the word 'dependability' as the key to the receiver position for this coming season. That word applies to Holt and Paul more than any other pair.
Nebraska's top returning receiver coming into spring is tight end Mike McNeill. In 2008, McNeill had 32 receptions for 442 yards. He comes into 2009 with more touchdown receptions than the rest of the receiving corps combined. He proved himself a dependable receiver and in 2009 will be highly valued. Another tight end, Dreu Young, had a good 2008, coming in with nine receptions and 140 yards and one touchdown. Young has the highest reception average of any returning receiver at 15.6 yards per catch.
This is Chris Brooks' final season. Brooks finally had a reception for a touchdown in 2008, but has underachieved during his career at Nebraska. Brooks has size and talent, and he knows the offense, and the players in front of him had graduated, i.e., the excuses are gone. Perhaps the fact that his playing days will be over at the end of the season will awaken some spark.
Curenski Gilleylen had a memorable 2008 spring game when he got behind the secondary and hauled in a 77-yard bomb touchdown reception, but only had two receptions in the 2008 regular season. Gilleylen has speed enough to be a deep threat, potentially a huge asset to the Huskers in 2009, but he must catch the ball. Again, the word dependability comes to mind.
Antonio Bell is a 2008 recruit who struggled to become academically eligible and was delayed until he got his grades in order. He enrolled in January to participate in spring practice. Bell is a speedster - in his senior season at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, Florida, Bell caught 45 passes for 776 yards and nine touchdowns.
Brandon Kinnie and Khiry Cooper may provide additional help in the fall, but neither are available for spring football. Kinnie a JUCO sophomore transfer from Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, where he caught 62 passes for 845 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also returned two kickoffs for 79 yards. Khiry Cooper is currently playing baseball.
Others to watch:
Wes Cammack - Sr
Will Henry - Jr
Ben Lester - So
KC Hyland - RFr
Taylor Dixon - RFr
Steven Osborne - RFr
Tim Marlowe - RFr
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