Change is in the air

This could be the year that Nebraska fans will point to when it comes to justifying a true freshman wide receiver playing as opposed to not playing. It's already clear that the fans of Nebraska should expect to see Jamal Turner a lot this fall. However, recent comments by Head Coach Bo Pelini on Sports Nightly indicate that Taariq Allen might be in the mix as well. Good idea?

In recent Nebraska football history the success of wide receivers at Nebraska as true freshman hasn't been too good. In fact, it's a question to so many Husker fans why so many have come through, not been redshirted and not had an impact.

That's why the fear reemerges this year when it's a formality that Jamal Turner is going to see the field. However, while Taariq Allen's name has been casually thrown around about possibly being a player that could play hearing Bo Pelini speak on Sports Nightly this week indicate that Allen is more ready than some might think.

So why the fear about pulling these two out of redshirt seasons in Lincoln? Well, the track history of the true freshman receiver over the past seven years or so has not been good.

Let's start with Chris Brooks. Out of high school, Brooks was a late commitment and someone that the Nebraska staff had to steal away from Missouri late in the process. A four-star recruit out of St. Louis (Mo.) Hazelwood East in 2006 there were some high hopes for Brooks so seeing him on the field as a true freshman wasn't a huge surprise.

Brooks finished his senior year in high school with 66 receptions for over 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. As a true freshman at Nebraska, Brooks played in four games and failed to catch a pass.

After Brooks you go to Menelik Holt who was part of the "Josh Freeman package deal" to Nebraska. Of course Husker fans remember how that went when Freeman decided to enroll at Kansas State for the spring semester in 2007. Holt was a three-star receiver out of San Diego (Calif.) St. Augustine.

Holt, like Brooks, was a longer receiver that definitely seemed to fit what Nebraska wanted to do on the field. And while hauled in 62 receptions for 790 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior he failed to record a catch his true freshman year, just like Brooks, after seeing action in eight games.

The next, and the most heralded recruit of recent receivers not to redshirt, was Niles Paul. Paul, a four-star recruit from Omaha (Nebr.) North, was a U.S. Army All-American out of high school after catching 46 passes for 814 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Paul was the first commitment in the class of 2007 and basically attended every home game that season. Talking to him on a weekly basis for the most part he believed that he could come in and make an impact as a true freshman. He did better than both Brooks and Holt, but his impact was limited to one catch for six yards.

Finally you have to look on the current roster to see that latest example of a receiver that bypasses his true freshman year and that is Quincy Enunwa. Enunwa was referred to many as a sleeper in the class of 2010. Enunwa was put together better than most high school wide receivers and ran better than some gave him credit for.

Out of high school, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde, Enunwa caught 40 passes for over 600 yards and 15 touchdowns on a team that wasn't known for throwing the football. And while Enunwa's high school statistics weren't as high as the previous examples he actually fared better than everyone else as a freshman pulling in one catch for 10 yards.

There's not a lot of "feel good" there when it comes to player development. Yes, Niles Paul had a solid career at Nebraska with 103 receptions for 1,532 yards and five touchdowns. Holt had half that with 49 receptions for 627 yards and five scores and Brooks about half of that at 17 receptions for 210 yards and two scores.

While that doesn't look good for a player like Allen, who I would more closely compare most of the previously listed players to more, it might not apply as much to Turner. Turner comes in and while he has more big play ability like Niles Paul it can be argued that the ceiling with Turner is even greater than Paul's was even though Turner played quarterback in high school.

And that brings you to the last comparison. For those that do not see a resemblance between Turner and Bobby Newcombe then you just aren't looking hard enough. As a true freshman Newcombe was brought in to play wingback, learn the offense and then eventually move back to quarterback.

As a true freshman Newcombe's numbers were the best of all of the examples. While he still only hauled in 7 receptions for 173 yards, averaging over 24 yards per catch, and scored a touchdown. Newcombe was also a threat as a punt returner as he averaged 20 yards per return and scored another touchdown.

The results of the recent true freshman receivers at Nebraska are indisputable. In fact, it might be nice to have Paul returning this season for his senior season as opposed to losing him to graduation last year. But, what's done is done.

With Bo Pelini's recent comments about Allen it might indicate he's ready, but is he needed? I also like to think back to Coach Pelini's comments about redshirting all incoming freshman at the Big Ten media days earlier this month.

That being said, you can forget about Turner staying on the shelf this year. After a spring which saw him transition to wide receiver after just a few practices he put his skills on display for the Husker Nation to see at the spring game by hauling in four receptions for 93 yards and a score. He also added 135 return yards from punts and kickoffs

Hindsight is always 20-20 when it comes to players like Brooks, Holt, Paul and Enunwa. The expectations and needs might have immediately been there, but it just never materialized. Still, the focus needs to go back what's best for the team. While it's best to get Turner on the field as much as possible this year that might provide Nebraska with enough numbers and catches to go ahead and let Allen mature a season as a redshirt.

Bryan Munson has worked with Big Red Report for nine years covering recruiting and football and has covered Nebraska recruiting for 11 years. His work can also be seen in's SuperPrep Magazine.
Facebook | Twitter| E-Mail |

Big Red Report Top Stories