In 2014 Nebraska was No. 9 in the Big Ten in passing offense. After one year in Mike Riley’s offensive system, the Huskers jumped to No. 2 in the conference. A large reason for the climb was the growth in the receiving corps – one of the strongest in the Big Ten.
Nebraska recorded 3,777 yards passing in 2015 and 24 percent of them came from Jordan Westerkamp, who logged 918 yards. It was the third highest total in a season in school history. The junior didn’t produce a 1,000 yard effort like some projected, but will likely be chasing the feat again in 2016 – it’s never been done by a Nebraska player. Westerkamp’s 65 receptions in 2015 only trailed Marlon Lucky’s 75 catch effort in 2007 for most all-time. A senior in 2016, Westerkamp will also take a 26-game catch streak into the year.
The big issue with projecting how 2016 might look when it comes to the receivers is the health of De’Mornay Pierson-El. The junior will likely miss the entire spring and his leg/knee injury could linger into the season, even if he’s cleared to play by game one. Pierson-El is obviously a difference maker, especially in Mike Riley’s offense, but will he be fully healthy? We have only really seen glimpses of Pierson-El as a receiver when the lights are on.
The next big issue surrounding the wide receiver group is how will position coach Keith Williams handle the game reps? In 2015 a total of 12 different receivers/tight ends caught a pass from a Nebraska quarterback – up from 10 in 2014. Nebraska loses Jamal Turner and Taariq Allen to graduation (combined 14 catches and 134 receiving yards), but should even be stronger with at least two additions in the 2016 class and the return of freshman Lavon Alston from injury.
Nebraska is also in the mix for Desmond Fitzpatrick, a four-star prospect from Michigan. Fitzpatrick has immediate impact potential if he were to sign in 2016.
While it is always fun to dream what a freshman might bring to the table, it’s more likely Nebraska’s strong group of receivers from 2015 will be the main contributors.
Brandon Reilly caught 754 yards, the fourth most by a Nebraska receiver since joining the Big Ten. The former Lincoln prep became a favorite target for Tommy Armstrong in 2015 and assuming the senior quarterback is back under center in 2016 – Reilly will continue to see plenty of targets come his way.
It is likely Nebraska receiver Stanley Morgan will see a bump in production after a strong freshman campaign. The former three-star prospect only caught three touchdown passes, but did record 304 yards. A spring getting more comfortable with whoever is under center will go a long way in the Louisiana’s targets number.
Another Louisiana wide receiver looking to see a bump in his production will be Alonzo Moore, who managed to catch six touchdowns, but struggled to stay 100 percent healthy.
Taller wide receiver Lane Hovey (6-foot-4, 205-pounds) will return for his senior season. While his production was limited Hovey did snag 12 balls for 158 yards and a score against Purdue. The Iowa native was given a scholarship in the fall and will likely be battling again for one in 2016.