Husker spring roster analysis: Wide receivers, tight ends

Stanley Morgan has stood out through six spring practices after accumulating 58 catches and five touchdowns over his first two seasons.

The Nebraska football team will return to work on Tuesday after taking a week off from spring drills. With the Red-White Game looming on April 15, Mike Riley and his staff have only 20 more days before the curtain lifts on one of the country’s best-attended spring games.

Below is a breakdown of the wide receivers and tight ends that Keith Williams and Tavita Thompson have been working with this spring. You can also check out analysis on the quarterbacksrunning backsoffensive linedefensive linelinebackersdefensive backs, and special teams.

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THE VETS

The roles and responsibilities immediately expand for Stanley Morgan, De’Mornay Pierson-El and even former walk-on Bryan Reimers as Nebraska must replace a trio of senior receivers who accounted for 297 career receptions and 32 touchdowns. Morgan appears ready for whatever comes next, standing out through a half-dozen spring practices after accumulating 58 catches and five TDs over his first two seasons. Pierson-El is trying to get back to his 2014 level, before injuries limited his effectiveness and game-changing threat. The situation is very similar at tight end, where Tyler Hoppes might have to lead an unproven bunch, even though Hoppes will go into his senior season with zero career receptions.

CALL FOR BACKUP

Much was made of the trio of signees in the 2017 recruiting class — and Jaevon McQuitty and Keyshawn Johnson Jr. have been on campus since January — but the here and now is returnees such as Gabe Rahn, JD Spielman, Keyan Williams, Zack Darlington and Conor Young. NU had thoughts of playing Spielman last season, and the 5-foot-9, 180-pounder has been showing well in spring drills. Rahn saw some snaps last season, and Williams and Young have been pushing to make their breakthroughs. Both McQuitty (shoulder) and Johnson (illness) have been limited this spring, but will be joined by highly touted Tyjon Lindsey as the freshmen see how they can help out. Matt Snyder is joining Hoppes as the top options at tight end, where NU is waiting to get Connor Ketter (back) healthy and has Jack Stoll and David Engelhaupt coming off redshirt years.

WHO’S OUT, WHO’S IN

Gone at receiver are Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore. Gone at tight end are Cethan Carter, Sam Cotton and Trey Foster. Thus the voids needing to be filled. NU is understandably excited about its trio of receiver signees — given their recruiting rankings — and the Huskers also will add tight ends Austin Allen and Kurt Rafdal before next season.

PROVE-IT PLAYER

It’s a lot to put on Hoppes, but Nebraska needs at least one good option at tight end and Hoppes currently offers the skill set probably closest to that of Carter. Hoppes’ focus has been on improving his blocking, but the Husker staff does like his speed and route-running, so the Lincoln Southwest graduate now just has to show he can perform in game settings.

SPRING THINGS

» Keyan Williams is the son of NU receivers coach Keith Williams, and started his career at Fresno State before sitting last fall as a transfer. Williams caught seven passes during the 2015 season for the Bulldogs.

» Pierson-El, Morgan and Reimers combined for 10 receptions in the Music City Bowl. The five by Pierson-El marked his season-high total.

» Darlington most likely reprises his role as the holder for Drew Brown on field goals and extra points. He moved from quarterback to receiver last spring.

» Hoppes wasn’t pursued as a preferred walk-on out of high school and played his freshman season at Wayne State.

» Also coming next season is walk-on receiver Kade Warner, the son of former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Kurt Warner.

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