Countdown to Spring: WR/TE

We've already profiled the running back situation on offense, so let's get down to the nitty gritty on the rest. This time it's the wide receivers and tight ends.

There is a host of experience lost, and Nebraska will have to have some players step it up a bit, some step it up  a lot and they will need big contributions from players we haven't seen much of, if at all.

At wide receiver you lose Nathan Swift and Todd Peterson. All that amounts to is the all-time leading receiver in Husker history in Swift, and one of the smartest receivers the Huskers have had in Peterson. Between the two of them you have a total of 46 starts Nebraska will lose as well as over 30 touchdowns.

Senior Menelik Holt headlines this group going into the Spring as one of the best all-around receivers Nebraska has. At 6-4, 220, he offers size that neither Peterson or Swift had, but Holt has a little of the finesse both departing wideouts were known for.  Holt finished last year fourth on the team in receptions with 30, for 355 yards and a touchdown. Holt is a smooth player, not a burner type, but like Peterson, especially, Holt has a penchant for being where he's supposed to be and when. He's going to be a dependable player over Spring, but is expected to be a rock for them this up-coming season.

Junior Niles Paul sits behind Holt just a bit in experience, having started four games, including the 2009 Gator Bowl. Paul is a thick receiver, measuring around 6-1 and weighing close to 220 pounds. His forte' should

Menelik Holt is the man, and most expect
him to prove it this Spring
be everything, meaning that due to his size and the fact that he's reputed to still be one of the fastest players on the team, there should be no end to the situations in which he can be used. Paul finished last season with 23 receptions for 214 yards.

Senior Chris Brooks Sr. is someone we have been waiting on to see what he's going to do. Due to a lack of enough size early on to suit Wide Receiver Coach Ted Gilmore, as he likes his wideouts to block as much as they catch, Brooks had to wait some time to develop. But going into his last year as a Husker this is obviously do-or-die time for him. At 6-2 and around 215 pounds, Brooks has good size, and he possesses serviceable speed.  He should be able to acclimate to the versatile role of possession receiver, and Nebraska will need that from him. This Spring could be where he cements his spot in the rotation or gets lost in the shuffle as younger players try to make their mark.

One player who isn't necessarily seen as an all-around threat, but most definitely has to have a big Spring, is sophomore Curenski Gilleylen. Since the day he's arrived we have heard stories about just how fast this young man is, but up to this point his biggest highlight was a 70-plus yard TD reception in last year's Spring Game. Gilleylen doesn't go quite six-foot, but at 200 pounds, he's a thick-strong receiver. This Spring is big for him, because we know he can fly, but can he consistently catch the ball? That's what he has to prove.

Senior Wes Cammack is similar in size to Gilleylen, but he obviously doesn't have the same speed. That said, Cammack is dependable. That is almost like saying someone has a great personality, but in Cammack's case, it could make for a nice Spring. While you have to have playmaker at every position, you can't understate the value of a receiver who can go inside without fear and catch the ball; a receiver who has enough athleticism to create separation around the mid-field range. And you just need someone who simply knows the offense. Cammack gives them that, and it may not make for a lot of luster, but he's a gamer who doesn't seem to make a lot of mistakes.

Junior Will Henry is another still trying to make inroads on the depth chart, but at 6-6 and 220 pounds, can he be physical enough to get off the line and block like what is needed? He's an obvious mismatch against most anyone, but just how physical he can be is still a looming question, one he'll have to answer starting next week.

With those players coming back trying to fill spots, there are a
Finally at Nebraska, fans still don't expect
to wait until Fall to see what Antonio Bell
can do.
host of other players at the position who will try to take those spots for themselves, or at the very least, get some additional time.

Freshman Antonio Bell is someone everyone is looking at right now to be one of those guys. He's got good size at 6-2 and 180; he's said to have pretty good speed, and from his prep highlights, we know he has good hands and has the capability of going up for the ball. The Spring will be a learning session for him more than it is making a statement about how much he can do. But he can do that, too. You can't teach athleticism and instincts for the position, and we expect that he'll show both over this Spring session.

Redshirt freshman Steven Osborne is one of the more intriguing contenders this Spring. At 6-4, 185 pounds, he's probably still looking to put on another 10 to 15 pounds. But from his prep film he's got great quickness for being as lanky as he is, and he's extremely aggressive at both getting off the line and run blocking. To have those kinds of instincts going into your college career should serve you will as you vie for time on the field. It's going to be interesting to see how he develops over the next three weeks.

Other names you can throw into the mix just to watch to see what they do are redshirt freshmen K.C. Hyland and Tim Marlowe. At 6-6, Hyland is another with great height, but can he be athletic enough to play outside, or should he move to tight end? Marlow is much smaller at 5-10, and when it comes to blocking, getting off the line or creating separation, he'll have a lot to prove very soon.

One player we don't know yet if we will see at all is freshman Khiry Cooper. He's playing baseball right now, and Cooper told us in an interview a couple of weeks ago that it wasn't set in stone whether or not he'd participate at all this Spring. Don't expect that, because he's been a consistent part of the rotation and has performed well, hitting a home run in just his second game as a Husker. We might have to wait until Fall to see what he can do.

At the tight end position the good
The tight end position became relevant
again last season, and people expect that
players like Michael NcNeill (pictured) will
keep the movement heading in the right
direction.
news is that Nebraska's two best playmakers at the position are both back, Dreu  Young and Michael McNeill both going into their junior year. They have 16 starts between them for last season, the duo combining for over 40 receptions, 582 yards and seven touchdowns. McNeill had the majority of those statistics, but both are seen about the same, as each stands a little over 6-4, both weigh around 245 pounds and they have similar strengths in being able to stretch the field with speed and catch the ball in coverage.

Sophomore Ryan Hill goes a little shorter at 6-3, a little lighter at 240 pounds, but has the athleticism to be a solid pass catcher in the short field. He might be the truest form of possession guy at the tight end position, but as Hunter Teafatiller proved over his career as a Husker, that's a combination you need to have on the team. Redshirt Freshman Kyler Reed is a little more athletic than Hill, Reed playing no less than four different positions in high school. And he's even found himself on the defensive side since becoming a Husker. But he's back to tight end, which is where we think he should be, because along with his impressive athleticism, at 6-3, 220, he's not a big tight end, but there's little doubt that he should be very versatile.

One particular player I am sure many want to see over this Spring is redshirt freshman Ben Cotton. The son of Offensive Line Coach Barney Cotton, this young man looks the part, standing around 6-5, while weighing close to 240. But he's very athletic, very quick, and he's got a little bit of a mean streak when it comes to battling for the ball. That's what most of these tight ends for Nebraska have. They aren't scared to go out and get it. Plus, with Cotton, you know he is a good blocker. If he wasn't, dad would probably be giving it to him. He's someone we are very interested to see in the up-coming weeks.

From redshirt freshman Damon Bechtold to sophomore Jay Martin, there isn't a tight end listed under 6-3. All have decent frames, most have reputations for good hands, and all offer some decent versatility at the line, whether as a receiver or a blocker. With as many two tight end sets and sometimes even those where you could see three on the field at the same time, there should be a wide open competition at the position.

Not for the starting spots, mind you. Perhaps Cotton might have a shot, but for right now anyway we think Young and McNeill are safe. It's going to be the most interesting to see how the depth will play out.


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