Walters sets high bar for new go-to guy Morgan
Just before 11 p.m. on Jan. 3, Stanley Morgan Jr. posted an animated GIF on Twitter of a scene from the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”, when Leonardo DiCaprio - playing the infamous stockbroker Jordan Belfort - confidently shouts “I’m not leaving!” despite the FBI trying to shut down him.
There was no other context provided with the tweet, but it said everything Nebraska fans needed to know regarding the standout wide receiver’s future in Lincoln.
In the days following the end of NU’s disastrous 2017 season and the firing of head coach Mike Riley and his staff, rumors were starting to swirl regarding Morgan potentially forgoing his senior season and jumping to the NFL.
After catching 61 passes for a school-record 986 yards and 10 touchdowns, the New Orleans, La., native certainly had an opportunity to enter the NFL Draft discussion, giving some legs to the grumblings.
But Morgan quickly shot that talk down, and all it took to solidify that decision were a few talks with his new Husker coaches, particularly head coach Scott Frost and offensive coordinator/receivers coach Troy Walters.
“The biggest thing was just reaching out to him and allowing him to get to know me, allow him to get to know the staff, what type of people we are,” Walters said. “Then I talked a little bit about the offense and how exciting and how his strengths would benefit from this offense. But ultimately there was no pressure.
“He has to make the decision for himself, but all I wanted to do was allow him to get to know me and get to know the staff and get to know the offense, and let him know that if he did come back, what type of people he’d be working with and for. I think he saw that and - he loves Nebraska, and he loves Lincoln, and he loves football. He wanted to come back and really go out on a high note. We’re excited that he’s back.”
Morgan had already established himself as Nebraska’s most productive returning offensive player, as he currently ranks sixth in NU history with more than 1,700 career receiving yards. With 946 more yards, he would pass Kenny Bell as the school’s all-time career leader.
But Walters thinks Morgan’s ceiling could rise even higher in the Huskers’ new high-powered system, which Frost and Walters had as the No. 1 offense in the country last year during Central Florida’s 13-0 campaign.
Walters’ coaching resume boasts one top-flight wide receiver after another over the course of his career, and in nearly each of his stops, he helped produce record-breaking seasons for his wideouts.
Jeff Fuller twice set the Texas A&M single-season record under Walters with 72 catches in 2010 and then 89 in 2011. In three years at Colorado, Walters helped Nelson Spruce break 41 school records and become a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award in 2014.
Most recently at Central Florida, Walters coached Tre’Quan Smith to one of the best seasons by a receiver in program history in 2017. Smith hauled in 54 catches for 1,082 yards (19.8 yards per catch) and ranked fourth nationally with 13 receiving touchdowns.
Walters has yet to hold a single practice with Morgan, but that’s not stopping the ninth-year coach from setting a lofty bar for his newest protege.
“He’s right at the top,” Walters said when asked where Morgan ranks among other receivers he’d coached. “He’s been there and done that. He has great size, great ball skills; a physical player who plays with attitude and a chip on his shoulder. He’s a guy who’s come in and really grasped the offense, and that’s the biggest thing.
“Anytime you have a new scheme, it’s all about making sure you know what to do. When you know what to do, then you can play fast and your natural athletic abilities can take over. That’s the biggest thing for him, we’re just making sure he knows what to do, and once he really has a firm grasp on the offense, he’s just going to go out and make plays.
"We’re going to count on him to be the guy. At UCF we had Tre’Quan Smith and he was our guy, and Stanley will be that guy.”