Highest on the priority list for Nebraska is finding a way to finish the season with three wins. Actually, one to start would do just fine.
But the Huskers also have a trio of skill position players within striking distance of major plateaus.
Sophomore receiver JD Spielman (747 receiving yards), senior receiver Stanley Morgan (725) and senior running back Devine Ozigbo (796 rushing yards) could all conceivably hit 1,000 yards in their respective disciplines for the season.
Spielman and Morgan, of course, would be the first players in NU history to crack 1,000 receiving yards. Ozigbo would be the first running back to hit the mark since Ameer Abdullah in 2014.
“It’s exciting as a staff because the guys, Stanley and JD and Devine, they’re such good people,” offensive coordinator Troy Walters said Wednesday. “They’re role models, they really reflect the culture and what we want players to be. They come to work every day, work their tails off, they’re unselfish, team-first.
“So when you’re team-first and you’re unselfish, we want all the awards that those guys can get, and they deserve it.”
The emphasis will be on winning, naturally. But to date, the Huskers have won when that trio along with freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez have put up big numbers.
That’s why coach Scott Frost on Monday, like Walters, didn’t feel the need to pour cold water on the idea that individual goals can mean something for a team.
“Our first goal is obviously to win games and we’ll do whatever we have to on offense to win games, but I’d love to see Devine get to 1,000, I’d love to see Stanley and JD get to 1,000,” he said. “I was just kind of made aware of their numbers today because I don’t really look at that.
“I think it’s possible for all of them to do if we play well on defense and if those guys hit those benchmarks it probably means we put ourselves in the position to win some games.”
Both Spielman and Ozigbo are on pace to get it based on their per-game averages through nine contests, while Morgan would have to just slightly best his 80.6 per game rate over the final three games.
After Saturday against Illinois, Ozigbo will face two of the stoutest run defenses in the country in Michigan State and Iowa.
Martinez, not surprisingly, is closing in on several NU freshman records as well. His 1,922 passing yards already eclipse Taylor Martinez’s freshman mark of 1,631. Adrian Martinez is also in the top 10 for rushing yards as a freshman (480, eighth) and Maurice Washington (360) will likely join him on that list.
Martinez has 2,402 total offensive yards on the season and needs just 194 to eclipse Taylor Martinez’s freshman record. That mark is 11th all time for all players in school history and, on Martinez’s 300.7-per-game rate, he’ll ascend comfortably into the top four.
“I think out on the recruiting trail kids see what our offense is about and, man, if I was a young player in high school looking at our core of young players and especially our freshman quarterback, I’d want to come catch balls from him,” Frost said. “I think a lot of those things speak for themselves, but it always helps to have to proof on paper and Stan and JD and Devine are all close to hitting a milestone.”