As Nebraska transitions into the Mike Riley era, you have to expect that the Huskers will have the receivers to implement whatever offensive scheme Riley, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and wide receivers coach Keith Williams want to run. That's not something I'm sure could have been said after the last two coaching changes at Nebraska. (The best receiver in 2008 was Nate Swift, who actually committed to Frank Solich.)
Kenny Bell may be off to the NFL, but that doesn't mean the cupboard is bare in the wide receivers' room at Nebraska. If anything, there is an abundance of depth.
6'0" 195 lbs, Junior, Lombard, IL
2014: 44 catches, 747 yards, 5 touchdowns
He's not known for his speed, but rather for his hands. Sometimes people use the term "possession receiver" to denigrate a player; but you can't be blase about some of these Westerkatches. Oh, like his first touchdown career touchdown catch. Meh.
Or this one.
So ESPN named it the catch of the year in December at the season ending College Football Awards. BFD.
Oh, and whenever you saw a long Ameer Abdullah highlight, chances are you saw Westerkamp doing the dirty work with a key block to clear the field for Abdullah.
5'9" 175 lbs, Sophomore, Alexandria, VA
2014: 23 catches, 321 yards, 4 touchdowns (Receiving)
1-1 passing, 16 yards, 1 touchdown
34 punt returns, 596 yards, 3 touchdowns
The freshman completely transformed Nebraska's punt return game from being game-changing in a bad way ("please don't fumble", "where's Santino Panico?") in 2013 to game-changing in an unbelievable way. Like in Nebraska's fourth quarter comeback against Iowa, for example:
It took time for Pierson-El to familiarize himself with the offensive scheme, but as the season went on, he began to be a weapon in the passing game. Pierson-El was a quarterback in high school, so he gives Riley and Langsdorf a "Wildcat" quarterback, should they wish to mix up their pro-style offense a bit. Even if they don't, his good hands and elusive running style should make him a game-breaking weapon in 2015.
6'1" 190 lbs, Senior*, Arlington, TX
2014: 4 catches, 37 yards
Turner is expected to be given a medical hardship after missing most of the last two years with leg injuries. His 2014 season lasted only two games after tearing his Achilles'. As a sophomore, he began to blossom late in 2012 when he caught 32 passes for 417 yards. This touchdown catch got erased by a horrible call against Kenny Bell for throwing a block on Wisconsin's Devin Smith.
Is Turner finally healthy from all of his injuries? Can he return to 2012 form? He's another former quarterback, so he's also a candidate for taking a snap in a Wildcat formation. Lots of options for some trick plays with these versatile receivers.
6'3" 200 lbs, Senior, Weston, MA
2014: 8 catches, 73 yards, 1 touchdown
In 2012, it looked like he was starting to blossom, but then suffered a devastating knee injury against Michigan, which limited him throughout the 2013 season. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to receivers coach Keith Williams after spending his high school and college career with Rich Fisher.
6'3" 200 lbs, Senior, Murdock, NE
Burtch missed the first three games of the 2014 season with a head injury, then tore his ACL in his second practice of the year. In 2013, he caught 12 passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns, including a couple of clutch catches to help set up the Northwestern Hail Mary.
6'2" 195 lbs, Junior, Winnfield, LA
2014: 10 catches, 136 yards
Moore has tantalizing speed, but struggles to make the catch; Moore dropped a potentially game-winning touchdown against Michigan State last season. If Williams can work with his hands, he could be a dangerous weapon with his size and speed. Recruited as an athlete, the previous staff debated whether he'd could play in the secondary, and that might be something Riley's staff might want to consider.
6'1" 195 lbs, Junior, Lincoln, NE
2014: 6 catches, 85 yards
The former walk-on missed much of the first half of last season with a hamstring injury, but contributed quite a bit in the second half of the season. He might be best remembered for blocking two punts against Purdue.
6'4" 205 lbs, Junior, Adel, iA
2014: 5 catches, 69 yards
Hovey was one of those guys that made you ask "who's that guy" whenever you saw him on the field. A big receiver, the walk-on showed surprising speed in a debut performance on the road at Fresno State.
5'11" 200 lbs, Sophomore, San Clemente, CA
2014: 1 catch, 10 yards, 1 touchdown
Mike Riley should be more familiar with Bailey than any other receiver on the roster, as Bailey considered walking on at Oregon State before choosing Nebraska.
Kevin Gladney, Sophomore, 6'1" 185 lbs
Glenn Irons, Redshirt Freshman, 5'9" 155 lbs.
Jariah Tolbert, Redshirt Freshman, 6'3" 190 lbs.
Gladney saw some spot duty in 2014, while the New Orleans Edna Karr duo of Irons and Tolbert redshirted.
Depth chart predictions
Hard to say where this staff will slot players, but here's what I'd suggest:
WR: Westerkamp, Burtch, Bailey
WR: Pierson-El, Moore, Gladney
WR: Turner, Allen, Reilly, Hovey