The bar has been set somewhere close to those clouds and Nebraska's wide receivers haven't been shy themselves in helping place it there.

Go back to the day after last Thanksgiving, when in a quiet postgame news conference after defeat wide receiver Alonzo Moore pointed to 2016, saying, "I think that, not to sound like I'm cocky or anything, but we will be the best receivers in the country.

He repeated that's not being cocky. "I'm saying that because we're going to put the work in," Moore added.

Fast forward a few months, when, during the spring, sophomore wide receiver Stanley Morgan mentioned how cool it would be to have four 1,000-yard receivers this season at a school that has never had one.

"Maybe," Morgan said. "We've got high hopes."

Whatever you think of that bold thought, a receiving group of Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly, Moore, Morgan and De'Mornay Pierson-El, if his recovery stays on its current track, looks quite formidable on paper.

But there are no guarantees in this game that what jumps out on paper in July does so between those lines in October.

Big expectations are one thing, but Nebraska wide receivers coach Keith Williams assured that his receivers won't have big heads when they step on the field this fall.

"Nah, that won't happen," Williams said. "No, nope. Because they know they're not good enough yet. They don't think that. That won't happen."

It goes back, as Moore said last November, to putting in the work to make sure promise is met.

In that regard, it probably did not hurt current Huskers to see a collection of NFL players visiting Lincoln last week and grinding with Williams.

Current Huskers such as Reilly, Moore, Morgan and Pierson-El watched the drills closely last Thursday.

In an ideal world, Williams would love to build a pipeline of receivers from Nebraska who make it to the next level and then come back to train and put in work in front of the next group of Huskers.

"If you think about it, some of the great programs during certain eras, that's how it was," Williams said. "I remember my mentor, and my wideout position coach at San Diego State, Curtis Johnson, who is now the wideout coach at the Chicago Bears, when he was at the University of Miami, that's how those guys were.

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"Guys from Miami would come back from whatever team they were on and it would look like a freaking Pro Bowl at their deal in the summer. That part of it is not new. It might be new here ... but it's awesome to have these guys come back and the current players see that."

In Williams' eyes, it shows you've never arrived.

"What it allows is the current guys to see that these guys have to work still," Williams said. "It's not just reputation. It's not just a name. You don't just come in and smile and you're good. These guys are doing the same drills that they do. They're working hard, they're sweating, they drop balls in a drill just like they do. They see where it comes from and the foundation that it's actually work."

In 2016, Husker receivers will also have to show some selflessness as one football gets shared.

A year ago, Westerkamp has 65 catches for 918 yards and Reilly had 40 for 754. After that, 25 catches for Morgan and 24 for Moore. That doesn't even count that tight end Cethan Carter and running back Terrell Newby each had 24 and that another major weapon, Pierson-El, only played in five games because of injury.

Also take into account that senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong has recognized the need to get the balls to the running backs more in the passing game and not force the issue as much to covered receivers.

Not to mention Nebraska is coming off the bowl game runathon, when the Huskers realized UCLA simply couldn't stop their ground game and ran the ball 62 of 81 plays.

On the whole of the season, though, Nebraska threw 48 percent of the time. Heading into the bowl game, NU had basically a 50-50 run-pass split, with even a few more throws.

That certainly can't hurt Williams when talking to big-time receiver prospects, as the Huskers remain in the hunt for touted recruits such as Tyjon Lindsey, Joseph Lewis and Jamire Calvin to add to current commitments Jaevon McQuitty and Keyshawn Johnson Jr.

"The way I explain it to guys is that we're able to do either one in our offense," Williams said. "It's not a running offense, it's not a passing offense. It's a balanced offense. It's a pro-style offense and that gives you both phases that you can use. It's been good. We've had some success passing the ball last year and recruits seem to understand it."

Nebraska fans, so accustomed to more run-heavy offenses for so many years, are still adjusting perhaps to wide receiver being viewed as a team strength.

And Williams himself is admittedly enjoying the adjustment of being able to have a shot at top-level receiver recruits that he didn't have a chance with at previous coaching stops such as Tulane, Fresno State and San Jose State.

Having lived on the West Coast for all but about five years of his life, Williams said he is enjoying the Midwest flavor and trying to recruit more receiver talent to Lincoln to build on what's here.

"It has been fun, because you're around a lot of great players from the country that I've never been around in recruiting in that way," he said. "And the fact that it's Nebraska. Nebraska is in the upper echelon in universities in general, so not only are you able to recruit at a high level, but who you're recruiting for is special."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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