Friday, January 30, 2009

2009 Nebraska football position outlook: wide receivers

One story in a Wine Country Husker series, looking at position breakdowns for the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the 2009 season. Today, we look at wide receiver:

Looking back: Coming into the season, the Huskers knew they would have two quality possession receivers in Nate Swift and Todd Peterson. Nebraska, however, would lose its big play dimension from 2007 in Maurice Purify. The Huskers also lost Terrence Nunn and Frantz Hardy but those two losses were the least of the team’s worries. Purify, however, would be tough to replace.

Nonetheless, the Nebraska receiving corps survived just fine in 2008 thanks to the system knowledge of both Peterson (62-786-4) and Swift (63-941-10), who were essentially the 1A and 1B targets for quarterback Joe Ganz when the Huskers needed a key third down conversion.
The big play aspect of the Husker wide receiver corps entered 2008 long on potential with the likes of Menelik Holt, Niles Paul, Curenski Gilleylin and Chris Brooks. However, only Holt (30-355-1) and Paul (23-214) made a significant splash. Then again, the success of Swift and Peterson gave Nebraska the luxury of bring the younger receivers along more slowly.

Since the Huskers went to more of a Spread oriented look in the second half of the season, it allowed guys like Holt and Paul to get on the field more often and most importantly for meaningful snaps.

Looking ahead: After the quarterback position, which loses Joe Ganz, this is an area the Huskers will be hit hard by graduation. Swift and Peterson are two starters that won’t be easy to replace. They might not have been the flashiest duo to line up at wide receiver and dropped a few passes but came up with many clutch receptions, were solid route runners and downfield blockers.

Losing those two individuals represents a concern because while Holt and Paul did a pretty solid job as No. 3 and 4 options, the question becomes – can the get it done as No. 1 and 2 guys?
The news isn’t all bad because since Nebraska went to a Spread oriented look that involved three and four receivers, Holt and Paul got a lot of meaningful snaps.

After Holt and Paul, can guys like Gilleylin, Brooks, Will Henry, along with redshirts Khiry Cooper and Tim Marlowe make their mark? Gilleylin had a breakout performance in the 2008 spring season but did not translate that big play capability into the regular season as a redshirt freshman.

Brooks, who enters his senior season, was a prized member of the Huskers 2005 recruiting class. He has the knowledge of the Husker offense but with the exception of a pivotal touchdown catch in the Huskers crucial 45-35 win over Kansas last season, he has been of little factor.

At 6-foot-5, 220-pounds, Henry looks the part of receiver but has yet to make a splash. Cooper was one of Nebraska’s top-rated players from the 2008 recruiting class. Marlowe was a late addition to the Huskers 2008 recruiting class. He is tabbed as one with quickness and explosiveness.

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