Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. officially put the speculation to rest about his future plans last week. It was a simple — yet effective — announcement. Using a GIF from the movie The Wolf of Wall Street, Morgan made it clear that he plans to return to the Huskers for his senior season.
Morgan could have declared for the NFL draft. There were such discussions, but they never got all that serious.
“I could’ve gone to the NFL but, personally, I wanted to go back and play for another season,” Morgan told the Omaha World-Herald after his tweet.
Morgan’s decision is an exciting one at face value alone. He was an impact player — alongside wide receiver JD Spielman — for the Huskers in 2017 during an otherwise forgettable season. His return puts coach Scott Frost and his staff in a much better position for 2018 than it would have been without him.
Exactly how impactful will Morgan be on Frost’s first Nebraska team? Let’s take a look at the biggest impacts of Morgan’s return:
Let’s start with some statistics. Morgan caught 61 passes for a school-record 986 yards last season. He is sixth in Nebraska history with more than 1,700 career receiving yards.
To really understand Morgan’s impact, consider Nebraska’s 3,330 total receiving yards in 2017. Morgan’s 986 yards accounted for just less than 30 percent of the Huskers’ total receiving yardage. Another 25 percent belonged to Spielman, making the two quite the dynamic duo.
Two seniors are departing— De’Mornay Pierson-El and Tyler Hoppes — who combined for 1,000 receiving yards. If you remove their yardage, Morgan and Spielman accounted for a whopping 78 percent of the receiving yards from players still with the Huskers.
Morgan alone? He accounted for an impressive 42 percent.
Morgan was extremely close to becoming Nebraska’s first 1,000-yard receiver in school history last season. He fell just 14 yards short of the mark, but there’s reason to believe he could easily reach it next season with the type of offense Frost plans to run.
Morgan is on pace to set even more records at Nebraska as a senior. Former wide receiver Kenny Bell holds two of the records on Morgan’s radar, including the school record for career receiving yards. Bell set that record from 2011-14 with 2,689 yards. If Morgan has a 1,000-yard season in 2018, he’d easily take that record, too.
There’s also the school record for career receptions, which is held by Bell with 181. Johnny Rodgers’ school record for career touchdown receptions — 25 — also is within Morgan’s reach.
The numbers — and records — put Morgan on pace with some of the best wide receivers in Huskers history.
State of the wide receivers
After former coach Mike Riley was fired in late November, Morgan tweeted that he might need to make a business decision about his future. There was plenty of reason to believe that tweet might mean Morgan was all but gone when Frost walked in the door.
That had to be concerning for Frost. Without Morgan, here’s a list of wide receivers Nebraska would have had on scholarship:
- Seniors Keyan Williams and Zack Darlington
- Sophomores Tyjon Lindsey and JD Spielman
- Redshirt freshman Jaevon McQuitty
Senior Bryan Reimers, a former walk-on, was placed on scholarship last January. Junior Conor Young is also on the roster as a walk-on.
Of that list, Spielman obviously was the standout last season. Lindsey had 12 catches for 76 yards and is expected to excel in Frost’s offense. Beyond that? There isn’t much more to go on.
Williams battled injuries in 2017. McQuitty’s season ended early when a knee injury sidelined him and he redshirted. Reimers and Young have a little game experience, but not many receptions to their names.
Long story short, it makes sense that Frost and his staff went to the junior college ranks to pad the wide receivers group. Junior college receiver Jaron Woodyard signed early and hopefully will make an immediate impact for Nebraska. The staff also went after high school prospects, adding Justin McGriff and Katerian Legrone during the early signing period.
That won’t be it for Nebraska, but Morgan staying lessens the pressure a bit. There’s a reason Frost pinpointed the wideouts as a position of concern on Dec. 20. He felt the scholarship numbers were low, and the position would need to be a recruiting priority.
“There’s a couple of positions where the number of scholarship players that we would normally want to carry, the University of Nebraska is way down on those numbers. Receiver, defensive back are two of the most glaring ones,” Frost said. “There’s just not enough guys at those positions, and there are some places we need to go to work and get some kids in just to make sure we have enough kids at those positions.”
Had Morgan opted to leave, Frost would have had to find someone quickly to fill his shoes. Easier said than done.
Leadership and experience
Aside from the production and roster management, Morgan is a much-needed leader for this Nebraska team. His experience and knowledge will be invaluable for Frost and his staff, especially as they navigate their first season with the Huskers.
Just ask Morgan’s teammates and former coaches. They’ll tell you exactly what he means to Nebraska.
“He’s an energy ball,” Pierson-El said, per the Lincoln Journal Star. “That’s just him. He’s a kind-hearted person. You know what you’re getting from him every day. He’s a workhorse. He puts in the work, he puts in the time.”
Former wide receivers coach Keith Williams felt the same way. He saw a player who worked hard every day and provided no excuses.
“He’s aggressive and he wants to get better. He has no ego,” Williams said. “He’s what you want in a football player.”
As for Riley, he saw a “physical” and “fearless” player, who “remained the same person” regardless of circumstances.
Those traits will prove to be beneficial for Frost as he works to build the wide receivers room he wants for his offense. Morgan’s return will also allow younger players time to develop while lessening the pressure to find someone to fill his shoes immediately. And those would have been pretty large shoes to fill.
All in all, Morgan staying is a big win for Frost and his staff on a multitude of levels. While it’s easy to quantify his production on the field and his place in the wide receivers room, it’s the intangibles that will make this decision a major victory for Nebraska in 2018.
That alone makes Morgan’s return an exciting one for the Huskers’ future.