Scott Frost on Monday jokingly prefaced something he thought to be obvious by saying, with a forced gusto, “News flash.”
Here’s another: Stanley Morgan and JD Spielman are good.
While that’s not exactly new — Morgan’s been putting up productive numbers since his sophomore season and Spielman’s been his partner in offensive damage since his first career game last fall — the rate at which they are tormenting defenses and piling up numbers has maybe gone a little bit under the radar.
They’re not just threatening to be the first 1,000-yard receivers in Husker history. They’re positioning themselves to be two of the most productive all-around pass-catchers the program has seen, period.
“I think by the time JD leaves here, if he stays healthy, he’ll be the all-time leading receiver in Nebraska history,” Frost said Thursday. “He deserves it. He makes plays. It’s great to see the success Stanley’s made lately. He’s a dynamic player for us, too. We just need more guys like that. We’re doing everything we can to get those two the ball and then take advantage of it.”
Through eight games, Spielman checks in among the top four in the Big Ten in both catches per game and receiving yards per game. His totals of 53 grabs and 686 yards put him on pace to break the single-season marks in both categories held by Marlon Lucky (75, 2007) and Morgan (986, 2017), respectively.
Morgan is on pace to come up just shy of 1,000 yards again this fall, but given the way the Huskers have designed ways to get him the ball since a quiet outing against Northwestern last month, it would not be surprising to see him gain ground in both departments.
They are among just eight receiving duos in the nation that each have at least 600 yards this fall. Coincidentally, Nebraska faces another such pair against Ohio State this weekend in K.J. Hill and Paris Campbell.
“They’re important,” offensive coordinator Troy Walters said of his guys. “You look at the percentage of our targets, they’re getting the majority of them because they’re special football players. So we’re going to continue to find ways to get them open, create mismatches that favor us.”
Indeed, the duo has been targeted on nearly 54 percent of Nebraska’s total pass attempts this fall. Perhaps the most striking numbers are within the receivers group itself. Spielman leads the way with 73 targets and Morgan follows close behind at 68. Next in line? Junior college transfer Mike Williams with 11. That means that when a Nebraska quarterback has thrown to a receiver this fall, 76 percent of the time it’s gone to either Spielman or Morgan.
“At some point other guys are going to have to step up and make a play,” admitted Walters, who coaches receivers in addition to his coordinating duties. “I challenged the offense early in the week that there’s going to be a couple plays made by guys that right now people might not know of.”
For now, though Spielman and Morgan are making plays at a historic rate.
Spielman recently reached 100 career receptions faster than any player in school history and is already tied for ninth in career catches at 108. Morgan is currently fourth, but needs just 18 catches to tie Kenny Bell’s program-record 181.
With a healthy finishing stretch, Spielman should rise from 10th in career receiving yards (1,516) to sixth, while Morgan needs 308 over the final four games to tie Bell’s program-best 2,689.
If the Huskers are going to make a late-season push, those two will continue to see the ball go their way. Frost always preaches that one of the best qualities of his offensive system is that the ball goes wherever the defense can’t cover. But they’ve also made a point of getting Morgan, in particular, involved. After he had just two catches for 31 yards against Northwestern, NU targeted him 13 times against Minnesota. He caught a career-best 10 for 163 yards and a pair of scores.
“We definitely try to scheme and try to get JD and Stan open and try to find matchups so that they can utilize their ability,” Walters said.
The Huskers at this point have four reliable skill players to go to in Spielman, Morgan and running backs Devine Ozigbo and Maurice Washington. That’s not ideal for this offense, but they’re making do with what they’ve got.
“We’ve got two real weapons on the outside in those two,” Frost said. “Those two are good enough to win games in college football and make a ton of plays.”
Steven M. Sipple, Parker Gabriel and Chris Basnett break down Nebraska football's current recruiting hot streak and talk about whether it will continue later in the week. Also, a full breakdown of Saturday's game against Ohio State, what it would take for the Huskers to pull an upset and game predictions. Oh, and basketball season is here, so we've got a full rundown of what to watch in the coming days.