After months of uncertainty for the marriage between JD Spielman and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, they have mutually agreed to part ways. Spielman went MIA from the Cornhuskers football team in March in an effort to get his thoughts in order. I don’t quite know what’s going through his mind. I’m sure the coaching staff and his closest friends and family are the only ones who know that. But this week, Spielman made the decision to part ways. The Husker red jersey is hung up and the No. 10 is vacant for a new face to come along.
Spielman’s impact on Nebraska will largely go overlooked. He had the misfortune of having two seasons with Adrian Martinez on and off the field, the Tanner Lee season, competition with Stanley Morgan Jr., and three consecutive bowls seasons. In the meantime, Spielman was excellent in the slot position with 170 receptions, 2,674 total offensive yards, and 15 total touchdowns. He may have been the best receiver the Huskers had in one of the worst stretches in program history.
While the absence of Spielman isn’t ideal for Junior quarterback Adrian Martinez, he isn’t exactly out of options to throw to this season.
Who Steps in for JD Speilman
This wasn’t the first transfer that hindered the depth in Nebraska’s receiver room. Jaevon McQuitty also exited this offseason leaving the veterans in the room depleted.
It’s no secret that Robinson is one of the more versatile players in the nation. He finished up last year with 793 yards of total offense on 88 carries and 40 receptions. Wan’Dale is the easy answer to play in the slot. He’s got excellent hands and his time as a running back makes him dangerous in space. Scott Frost has already established that Robinson will play predominately at receiver this season and I presume that those snaps will largely come from the slot now that Spielman is out of the picture.
Stoll isn’t in line to replace Spielman in any way given that Spielman is a 5-9, 180 pound Tight End and Jack Stoll is a 6-4, 260-pound tight end. Stoll is now, however, the second returning receiver for the team after catching 25 passes for 234 yards and a score. Tight ends aren’t exactly the top guys in Scott Frost’s systems but omitting Stoll from this list would do a great injustice to his impact from last season.
Some guys are there for flash while others are there to get the grunt work done. Warner is the son of NFL HOFer Kurt Warner and walked on to the Nebraska football team. We all have fond memories of a walk-on receiver that has made an impact like Jared Abbrederis or Hunter Renfrow. I can’t say that Warner is either of those guys but he did have over 12 yards per reception last season. He’s also the fourth-most returning receiver from last season.
Scott Frost went hard after the transfer portal and the JuCo ranks this offseason to fill in several voids at several positions.
Manning was a huge get for the Huskers. After beginning his career at TCU, Manning made his exit from TCU prior to the 2018 season and found himself at Kilgore Junior College in Texas. Manning helped the Rangers earn two conference championships, finished as a second-team All-American, and averaged over 20 yards per reception. Manning is 6-4 with lightning feet. Clearly he’s a field stretcher given his yards per reception and his height gives him more of an advantage on those deep balls that some of the smaller fast guys can’t make. Perhaps Frost can bring out the best in Manning who has two more years of eligibility left. The combination of speed and size reminds me of former Pittsburgh Steeler Martavis Bryant.
The New Guys
Nebraska has had quite the haul over the past two seasons at receiver. The 2020 class has a name or two that could contribute right away and there are guys that were kept in waiting from 2019’s class that could step up. Frost really likes speed and athleticism from his receivers and he has done an excellent job of bringing guys like that into his program. Let’s just hope this trend of transfers can be laid to rest after this year.
Although he isn’t the highest ranked receiver in Nebraska’s class, Fleming is one of the more talked about names in Nebraska’s class. He’s small (5-9; 160 Pounds) but when he finds space he makes the most out of it. He was used in high school as a field stretcher, in the screen game, and on jet sweeps because he’s simply a player you want to get the ball to and let him take off. My only concern with his immediate future is his size. 160 pounds is light and could be a problem for him with a lack of Spring to bulk up.
Betts is another guy that fits the Frost mold. Not at slot receiver, but what Frost appears to be looking for. He’s got decent size at 6-2, 200 pounds, and most of his high school highlights were him streaking downfield with a defender nowhere to be seen. He averaged over 18 yards per reception in his senior season and caught 17 touchdown passes en route to an undefeated season. While I think his talent is there, he and Omar Manning are looking at similar roles in the offense. He could take that spot left vacated opposite Manning on the outside given that Jaevon McQuitty and Darien Chase are no longer in the picture.
Houston is another 6-footer who came into campus around 160 pounds, similar to Flemming. He sat last season to bulk up some so that he can get to a competitive size and not get manhandled by some of the more talented cornerbacks of the Big Ten. Houston has plenty of track speed. His senior track numbers were better than any other division of track star in his state in his senior season. But can his speed translate to the football field as Flemming’s does?
The top prep school receiver in the 2020 class. Frost mentioned that he was one of the faster players on the roster in the Spring before everything was shut down. He did play quarterback in high school, however. Brown may need some time to fully transition from one position to another. He does possess the athleticism to play both positions and he’s a good decision-maker in space.
Hahn is a 6-2, 185-pound local kid that brings a lot of speed and a lot of high school dominance to the table. Like seriously, His high school numbers were insane. He had an average stat line of 62-1221-23 over a three year period. He finished with over 100 total touchdowns scored in high school. He’s certainly playing at a higher level of competition at Nebraska and the names in the room with him are more notable but don’t count out the good ole boy from Nebraska.
Where Does Spielman GO?
Electric isn’t how I would describe Spielman but productive is certainly an understatement. He was one season away from the all-time receiving yards record at Nebraska and he has had three consecutive 800-yard seasons. With this kind of production, he should have several phone calls now that he’s officially in the portal and I’m going to give some options as to where he might land.
Do you know what team has an opening at the slot receiver in which they utilized their previous guy a lot last season? Minnesota. Spielman is a lot smaller than Tyler Johnson, but he runs great routes, can make himself open, and the production is certainly there. Minnesota has an excellent quarterback in Tanner Morgan and a complementary receiver in Rashod Bateman that will draw a lot of the defensive backs away from Spielman so that he can surpass the 900 mark for the first time. Oh! And did I mention that Minnesota is his home state?
North Dakota State
A jump to the FCS isn’t ideal for a guy trying to make the jump to the NFL but when it’s North Dakota State there might be some people that ignore the C over the B. NDSU has had excellent success in the past and they have a consensus top-3 NFL quarterback for the 2021 draft in Trey Lance that would be slinging him the ball. Not ideal for us as fantasy owners but that isn’t always what the guys are concerned about when making their decisions.
Georgia is hot on the portal trail this season and the expectation that they are changing their offense has opened many doors for Jamie Newman and JT Daniels to move to Athens. The Red and Black G is getting receivers drafted regardless of college production right now and if Georgia showed interest it would be hard to see Spielman saying no unless Minnesota came knocking.
Fun Schools But Unlikely Ones
Clemson – Clemson lost Justyn Ross for the season and could use a guy with experience. It probably wouldn’t happen due to Amari Rodgers already holding the slot position and Clemson’s lack of activity in the past with players moving from school to school.
Oregon State – Oregon State has gone after every blue-chip receiver in the portal this season and they have landed many of them in the process. The void left open by Isaiah Hodgins is a large one and while Spielman is a different bodied receiver from Hodgins, his production at the P5 level is hard to ignore. Oregon State has brought in two-transfer receivers already this year and they have stud players in Champ Flemings and Trevon Bradford already on the roster. Sometimes there are just too many mouths to feed.
Penn State – The Lions have a good run of recent history with small guys in their offense. We all remember the production we got out of guys like KJ Hamler and Deandre Thompkins over the past four seasons. The downfall here is the competition at that spot on the offense between Jahan Dotson and KeAndre Lambert and the overabundance of turnover at offensive coordinator. Plus, he prefers the other team in the Battle for the Governers Victory Bell.
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