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Nebraska’s thin WR corps loses promising freshman Jaevon McQuitty

Nebraska wide receivers Keyshawn Johnson Jr. (3) and Jaevon McQuitty (4) arrive at the first day of spring NCAA college football practice in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, March 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Nati Harnik/AP photo

If the knee injury that might cost senior cornerback Chris Jones this season wasn’t enough negative foreshadowing, Nebraska received more bad news on the injury front Thursday – and at a position that is already paper thin.

Huskers coach Mike Riley confirmed that freshman receiver Jaevon McQuitty suffered a season-ending knee injury that will require surgery. McQuitty was injured during a blocking drill.

Nebraska must replace three of its top four pass catchers from last season and has just two proven wide receivers on the roster: senior De’Mornay Pierson-El and junior Stanley Morgan Jr.

A 5-foot-11, 190-pounder, McQuitty — like fellow freshman Tyjon Lindsey — was expected to see action as a rookie. Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said that McQuitty was showing that he deserved a place in the rotation.

“For a true freshman who has been here for a short time, I was really pleased with how he was progressing,” Langsdorf said. “I don’t think he was going to go in there and start, but he was definitely in the conversation of playing, so that was unfortunate.”

In addition to McQuitty, junior slot receiver Keyan Williams is out with a pulled hamstring and might need two weeks to recover.

After 10 practices, Riley admits the injuries have put the offense in a “bit of a bind” as it tries to find reliable receivers and build continuity.

“You can’t predict injuries,” Nebraska receivers coach Keith Williams said. “You don’t know when guys are going to get nicked up or whatever, you just move on. That’s why everybody’s responsible for knowing the plays and knowing their job in case of those types of situations.”

Quick slants

  • Riley has spent most of his career on the West Coast, so maybe his preseason practices have been a body clock adjustment. In his third season at Nebraska, Riley has the Cornhuskers practicing in the mornings this year. In his first year in Lincoln, they practiced at 7 p.m. and last year at 3:30 p.m. Thus far, Nebraska’s practices have been at 9:15 a.m.
  • Fox college football analyst Joel Klatt played quarterback at Colorado, one of Nebraska’s former rivals from the Big Eight and the Big 12, but he’s pulling for the Cornhuskers to recapture their glory days. “I desperately want Nebraska to be back on that stage,” he said. “I think it’s better for the sport, it would be better for this conference, the Big Ten Conference. It would provide more balance between divisions. And I think college football is better when there is a real power in the middle of the country to go along with teams like Oklahoma.”
  • Last year Nebraska posted a 35-32 victory over Oregon thanks in large part to the Ducks failing on four of five 2-point tries following touchdowns. The go-for-two strategy, especially early in games, was started by former UO coach Chip Kelly and carried on by Mark Helfrich, his successor. Nebraska plays at Oregon in Week 2 and new coach Willie Taggart is going old school. “Go for it when you have to,” he said. “I’m not going to go for it for the hell of it. I’m kicking the extra point.”
  • Developing the starters and backups on the defensive line for the 3-4 defense is a continuing work in progress. Khalil Davis, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound sophomore, is working at all three line positions. The coaching staff also shifted Peyton Newell, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound junior from defensive end to nose tackle. Freshmen Damion Daniels and Deontre Thomas are also being tested for spots along the front line. Both could gain playing time this season.

That’s what he said

Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee on how the players are reacting to predictions the Huskers will win six or seven games this season:

“Guys see it and they use it. We have a list of goals in our locker room that we want to achieve and we use things as, ‘This is what everyone is expecting of us. Are we going to let that happen? Are we going to do something about it?’ “

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