Spring preview: Wide receiver room will look much different after spring
With spring practice beginning next week, HuskerOnline.com begins our in-depth look at each position with our 2020 spring position previews.
Today we breakdown the wide receiver and tight end positions for Nebraska heading into the spring. Obviously a lot has changed here since Monday.
What we know right now: This room has never been smaller
As Nebraska gets ready to open up spring practice on Monday there are technically as many scholarship quarterbacks right now as there are running backs on campus.
The keyword is "technically," as the situation is not good by any means, but it's not as bad as you might think if you keep a glass-half-full approach.
Redshirt freshman Chris Hickman is expected to play receiver this spring vs. tight end. He's more of a hybrid and doesn't fit the traditional mold of a "hand in the ground" Big Ten blocking tight end.
There's obviously always the possibility that JD Spielman returns to Lincoln in May. Lots of "ifs" and "unknowns" here right now.
Then there's the word "scholarship" vs. "walk-on." Junior Kade Warner is technically a walk-on, but he'll go into the spring as one of NU's leading receivers. He played nearly all of last season nowhere near 100 percent.
Your featured guy this spring will be sophomore Wan'Dale Robinson. He will have a more concentrated role this season as a wide-out, but continue to see limited carries in the backfield as well. There's no question NU needs to get over 1,000 scrimmage yards for Robinson this season.
However, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow remains the five additional newcomers the Huskers will add this summer - Omar Manning, Zavier Betts, Marcus Flemming, Will Nixon and Ty Hahn. I put Hahn in this group because he turned down multiple FBS scholarships to walk-on for two seasons before going on scholarship for his final three years. This group of five players will completely change the look of the room when they get to campus even if Spielman does not return.
This spring we'll get a good look at newcomer Alante Brown as well, who's been very impressive from all reports in winter conditioning. Redshirt freshmen Jamie Nance and Demaryion Houston will also get maybe the best looks of their career this spring to show if they can play. Even though both are going into just their second season, they could easily be passed up by the newcomers that arrive this summer if they don't show potential this spring.
Lastly, walk-ons Bennett Folkers and Christian Banker are two others expected to get a good look this spring because of the situation.
Meanwhile, at tight end, all of the Huskers top contributors return along with the addition of Rutgers transfer Travis Vokolek. The story here is if Vokolek is good enough to win a starting job going into the 2020 season. After two seasons of Jack Stoll and Austin Allen, we know what those players are at this point. Can Vokolek shake-up that position room?
Biggest question to answer: Will Spielman be back in by spring's end?
Nebraska dropped a bombshell this past Monday with the news surrounding Spielman. He had been with the team in workouts all winter before he decided to go back home to address a personal issue.
It will be interesting to hear what head coach Scott Frost has to say on Monday about this situation if anything at all.
The biggest thing most people will want to know is if there's a timeline when he would have to return in order to play in 2020? Also, he remains in classes, but how will he be able to complete all of his necessary coursework not in Lincoln.
Spring darkhorse: Which walk-on take advantage of the situation?
The one thing to watch this spring is which walk-on or unknown player will rise up this spring? I fully expected Robinson, Warner and Brown for that matter to be NU's best guys at wide-out. We know what the Huskers have at tight end.
This spring is more about can an unknown like Houston, Folkers, Nance or Banker make a name for himself. They will get more reps with the top offensive units than ever before. Who's going to rise up and be the surprise guy before the other five receivers get here this summer?
Projected Spring WR/TE depth chart
1 - Kade Warner
2 - Chris Hickman
3 - Bennet Folkers
OR Wyatt Liewer
1 - Demaryion Houston
OR Alante Brown
2 - Jamie Nance
3 - Christian Banker
1 - Wan'Dale Robinson
2 - Alante Brown
1 - Jack Stoll
OR Travis Vokolek
OR Austin Allen
2 - Kurt Rafdal