BigRedReport.com is going to take a position-by-position look of what we learned about the Huskers from spring practices heading into the bulk of the offseason.
It starts with senior Kenny Bell, who has recorded just over 1,900 yards and 15 touchdowns the past three seasons. If Bell is able to haul in 32 balls and record 578 yards this season, he will become the Huskers all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards. Bell always seemed to have solid chemistry with former quarterback Taylor Martinez and continued to look comfortable running routes for Tommy Armstrong this spring. His junior year wasn't what he hoped for, but after watching practices this spring, BRR expects a bounce back year.
After Bell, the next projected leader when it comes to production at wide receiver will likely vary greatly week-to-week in the fall.
Junior Sam Burtch appeared to be one of Armstrong's favorite receivers in the spring, which makes sense considering their work together on the second-team last year. Burtch looks primed to take over the starting spot left by Enunwa. Fans got a glimpse of what the former Elmwood-Murdock high school (Neb.) star could do at times last season, but this spring was about becoming more consistent – Burtch accomplished the feat.
In the slot, sophomore Jordan Westerkamp and senior Jamal Turner will likely have one of the more interesting battles this fall camp for the starting spot. Both had their moments during the spring, but Westerkamp appeared to be more consistent, while Turner looked like an all-conference caliber player over the last few practices. The two really bring different skills to the position and both getting major game reps in 2014 wouldn't be a surprise
Starters don't make a squad deep. It's the talent behind them that will make the Huskers receiving corps likely one of the best in the Big Ten, if not the best.
Junior Taariq Allen and sophomores Alonzo Moore (out in the spring with injury) and Brandon Reilly all got experience last year, while a player like Kevin Gladney benefited from a redshirt year and should be ready to contribute if called upon in 2014. The three spring contributors mostly played on the second and third team units during the Huskers' 15 practices, but all had moments where they flashed – especially Reilly.
"We are deeper this year. We are deeper, at least by a couple guys. It's not even close. We are deep." Kenny Bell
Bell continued, "You want to write about someone who is going to make plays here and will be big his last two years, talk about Reilly. The kid is a stud. He's talented. He's a walk-on guy, but he will be on scholarship next year. Mark my words."
Joining a very a crowded position group in the fall will be true freshman Demornay Pierson-El, Jariah Tolbert, and Glenn Irons. It's doubtful any of them can crack the two-deep as a receiver in year one, but special teams could be a different story. With their highlight film on, it's easy to see Irons and Pierson-El could factor in as returners.
And what about two-sport star Monte Harrison? Will the Missouri prep decide to continue to be a dual-sport athlete or focus on his professional baseball career once drafted in June? It's BRR's prediction he takes the money and becomes a pro. But, if he doesn't, he's got the skill-set to make big plays right away - even as a true freshman.
PROJECTD BRR FALL DEPTH CHART:
Split End (X):
1.) Kenny Bell – senior
2.) Brandon Reilly – sophomore
3A.) Alonzo Moore – sophomore
3B.) Kevin Gladney – redshirt freshman
1.) Jordan Westerkamp – sophomore
2.) Jamal Turner – senior
1.) Sam Burtch – junior
2.) Taariq Allen – junior
3.) Lane Hovey – sophomore
(M. Harrison was not listed because of our projection, but would likely play flanker or split end.)