Why Nebraska receivers could easily shatter a bunch of records in Year 1 of the Scott Frost era
I’m not getting carried away. I promise.
I’ve already laid out a realistic set of expectations for Year 1 of the Scott Frost era. I stand by them. In case you didn’t feel like clicking that link and you’d rather me explain them here, I’ll do that just for you.
I outlined the following expectations for Frost in 2018:
- 2019 recruiting class ranked No. 20-30
- Balanced offense
- Quarterback completing 65 percent of passes for 8.5 yards per attempt (I got suuuuuper specific)
- Top 40 in scoring offense
- At least 6 regular season wins
You’ll notice those are offensive-heavy expectations for Frost in Year 1. After all, he’s the offensive guru. That’s where the transformation should be most drastic.
There’s another expectation that I’d like to add to that list now that I’ve had a chance to see the dust settle on the beginning of the Frost era.
I think it could easily be a record-setting year for the Husker receivers. I’m talking single-game records, season records and career records. All three could occur in bunches in 2018, and it really wouldn’t be that surprising.
Stanley Morgan Jr. and J.D. Spielman are obviously expected to be the centerpieces of this revamped passing game. It’s those two who already find themselves in the Husker record books. Technically, 2017 was already a record-setting year for the Nebraska duo:
- Most receiving yards in a game — 200, Spielman vs. Ohio State (2017)
- Most receptions in a game for a freshman — 11, Spielman vs. Ohio State (2017)
- Most receiving yards in a season — 986, Morgan (2017)
- Most 100-yard receiving games in a season — 5, Morgan (2017)
Spielman and Morgan are in very different places in their careers. It’s Spielman who finds himself as the undersized, under-recruited sophomore who’s trying to impress a new coaching staff by doubling down on his breakout freshman season.
Really, though, Frost’s arrival couldn’t have come at a better time for Spielman. He’s going to have opportunities galore in the slot, which is a pretty good thing last time I checked.
JD Spielman returns having hauled in the fourth-most slot receiving yards a season ago pic.twitter.com/U8dvB2q4i9
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 18, 2018
Frost also plans on using Spielman to line up out of the backfield, which could present even more opportunities for him as a pass-catcher.
That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if he chased down the program’s single-season record for receptions in a season. The mark to beat is 75 from Marlon Lucky in 2007, which means that Spielman would have to average 6 catches per game in a 13-game season. That’s totally realistic considering he averaged exactly 5 receptions per game last year as a freshman with Tanner Lee at quarterback. That in itself implies that Spielman is due for an uptick.
One would have to think that Morgan is also due for an increase in production.
No, he won’t have the Cajun connection with Lee anymore, but Morgan is going to get more one-on-one matchups than he did in Riley’s offense. For the guy I consider to be the best returning receiver in the B1G, that’s a very good thing.
He had teammates talking about his G.O.A.T. status last year.
“That kid, you could argue he’s the greatest receiver to ever come through here,” former Nebraska fullback Luke McNitt told the Omaha World-Herald after Morgan broke Johnny Rodgers’ single-season receiving record. “His stats prove that.”
Morgan’s own single-season mark of 986 yards can certainly be topped. If he plays a full season, he’d have two more games than he did in 2017. He also figures to be part of an offense that runs more plays and is more efficient in the passing game.
As great as he was in 2017, Morgan struggled with drops in the early going. If he limits those occurrences — that’s not a guarantee with a new quarterback in a new offense — there’s no reason why he can’t best his own single-season receiving record and set a bunch of new marks in the process.
These are all of the Nebraska records that I think Morgan can own by the time he finishes his senior season:
- Single-season receiving yards — 986 (needs to best his own mark)
- Single-season touchdown catches — 12 (had 10 in 11 games in 2017)
- Career receiving yards — 2,689 (needs 946)
- Career receiving touchdown catches — 25 (needs 10 to tie)
- Career 100-yard receiving games — 10 (needs to match his single-season record of 5 from 2017)
That would be quite the career-ending résumé if he could even just get a few of those records. Now obviously there are a lot of people who would suggest that Rodgers, because of the era that he played in, can’t be compared to Morgan statistically. That’s a fair point.
There’s another fair point to make for those skeptical about guys like Morgan and Spielman putting up monster numbers. Nebraska spent a whooooooole lot of time trailing last year. Four-win teams usually do. I don’t think game flow will help them rack up stats quite like it did last year (Spielman’s 200-yard game against Ohio State was impressive, but it was 56-14).
There’s also a belief that Frost is going to have more balance all around. That is, balance in the run-pass and balance with receivers getting involved in the offense. With the Huskers spreading teams out now, we should see more of second-year guys like Tyjon Lindsey and Jaevon McQuitty.
But there’s the other side of the coin that suggests if those 2 former blue-chip recruits develop as many think they will, Nebraska could produce one of its more prolific passing seasons in program history. That’s a huge “if.”Another huge “if” is if a freshman quarterback can be at the center of that kind of production.
I tend to think that it could happen. The Huskers could be in great position to make more noise on the outside than they have in recent memory.
There’s a reason that Morgan and Spielman chose to stay in Lincoln after Frost came on board. They know the potential of what they can do in this offense.
And pretty soon, they could dominate the Husker record books.