Many assumed that Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. would declare for the NFL draft following his junior season. Instead, he made the decision to stay for his senior season under the direction of coach Scott Frost.
Morgan’s decision was important for a number of reasons. For the Huskers, his impact is significant. On a personal level, there’s a fair amount of unfinished business.
Morgan fell just 14 receiving yards short of a 1,000-yard season in 2017. He finished his junior season with 61 receptions for a school-record 986 yards, moving him into sixth place in Nebraska history with more than 1,700 career receiving yards.
Morgan was on pace to break 1,000 yards last season. If he had, he would have become Nebraska’s first 1,000-yard receiver. Instead, a soft-tissue injury forced him to miss one game — the only game he has missed in his Nebraska career. That game could have provided the 14 yards he needed.
There also were a number of dropped balls last season. Morgan knows that, so it’s not necessarily about one game. It is about that unfinished business, though.
“He loves the University of Nebraska,” former wide receivers coach Keith Williams told Hail Varsity about Morgan’s decision to stay. “He feels like he has unfinished business as a team and as an individual. … It was never really a hard decision.”
People such as Williams, and former wide receivers coach Rich Fisher, who preceded Williams at Nebraska, always have seen the potential in Morgan. His teammates have, too. While former Nebraska wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp was older than Morgan, he said they were on equal ground when they played together at Nebraska.
There was a time when Westerkamp was rewriting Nebraska’s record books. Now it’s Morgan, who in 2017 broke Johnny Rodgers’ 45-year-old record of 942 receiving yards in a season.
That didn’t surprise Westerkamp.
“He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met,” Westerkamp told Land of 10. ” He’s a great kid, always wanting to learn. Everything he’s been doing on the field is definitely a reflection of everything he’s done off the field.”
Westerkamp was happy that Morgan made the decision to return for his senior season. Having been in a similar situation after his junior year, Westerkamp knows how difficult the decision to stay versus entering the NFL draft can be. Westerkamp also decided to return for his senior season, a decision he’s never regretted.
“It’s tough and it’s a much tougher decision for Stanley. It can go both ways,” Westerkamp said. “I kind of had an inclination to declare my junior year after having the 900-yard season. It was a thought that I had: ‘Is this the right time to do this? Should I do it?’ But I wanted to come back and have another year and get more experience. It was what it was.
“It was a tough decision for Stanley, but he came back and I’m glad he came back.”
That doesn’t mean the NFL isn’t keeping an eye on Morgan. NFL.com’s Chad Reuter recently released his top-150 draft-eligible players to watch for this season. Morgan came in at No. 30.
Reuter notes in his evaluation of Morgan that the receiver needs Frost to develop a quarterback quickly to maximize his potential. But there’s a lot to like about Morgan regardless.
“No, Morgan is not the son of the former NFL receiver of the same name,” Reuter wrote. “But he has an NFL future, to be sure, as he possesses the speed, size and physicality to win inside and outside at the next level.”
Morgan is expected to be utilized in Frost’s offense in similar fashion to Central Florida’s Tre’Quan Smith. Smith caught 59 passes for 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2017. If that happens, records will fall quickly.
Westerkamp loves it, too. When talking about Nebraska’s record book, he has a goal for his old teammate.
“Records are meant to be broken, so I hope he breaks all the records,” Westerkamp said. “He deserves it.”