The talent is real.

As is the arrest on marijuana-related charges.

So let's get right to it: Stanley Morgan Jr. says he's learned from the experience in early May at a Florida gas station. And he's ready to move on.

He said so in a tweet tweet a few days ago, shortly after having the charges against him dropped. And he reiterated it again Thursday, the first time he's met with the media since the incident.

"You live and you learn. It was a learning experience for me," Morgan said. "Now it's just putting that in the past, and growing off that, and building as a young man."

The young man from New Orleans is the big man in Nebraska's offense, coming off a sophomore season in which he had 33 catches fro 453 yards while playing alongside veterans such as Jordan Westerkamp, Alonzo Moore and Brandon Reilly.

Now, in an offense somewhat lacking in headliners outside of Tanner Lee at quarterback, Morgan seems poised for a breakout season as the Huskers trot out their first true pro-style signal caller in the Mike Riley regime.

"He can be great," Nebraska wide receivers coach Keith Williams said. "It's on him. But he has the potential. He has the physical ability. Now he has to put it on film. You've got to be ready to do it when the time comes."

The physical has never been an issue for the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Morgan, who on the field stands out among a receiver group that is long on hype, if short on experience. He twice beat young defensive backs on deep balls during practice, and was businesslike in his approach to running drills.

The skills were obvious last season too, when Morgan became the go-to player in Nebraska's overtime loss at Wisconsin, and caught a 72-yard touchdown pass at Indiana, among other highlights.

Nearly from the moment of Nebraska's loss to Tennessee in the Music City Bowl, talk of Morgan having a breakthrough junior season commenced. 

Then came the traffic stop in Port Orange, Florida, shortly after the end of Nebraska's spring semester. The original charge against Morgan is classified as a felony in Florida. It was later reduced to a misdemeanor before being dropped.

While saying at Big Ten Media Days that disciplinary action for Morgan (and Antonio Reed, who also faced charges in the incident) is not yet complete, Nebraska coach Mike Riley acknowledged that significant progress has been made by both players.

"We have taken some great, gigantic steps with those two kids who got in trouble in Florida since that time," Riley said. "I’ve been really proud of the work that’s been done behind the scenes in that way. And what we do as far as games or anything else going forward has not been decided."

Morgan described his time since then as trying to "do right" in all aspects of his life, whether it was going to class, going to practice or just going through everyday life.

"Just being there with my teammates even though I had to go through some things this summer. Just being the same person I was before," Morgan said. "Just working extra hard to not let my team down — the people who believe in me the most."

Williams said Morgan has been a leader both on the field and in meetings.

"We talk about that stuff in our room. We talk about everything. Not only his experience — we've all shared experiences in our room," Williams said after Thursday's practice. "That helps everybody when we talk that in our room in terms of nonfootball issues. So his issue just adds to that education."

When it comes to work on the field, Morgan has become a mentor to freshmen such as Tyjon Lindsey and Jaevon McQuitty while continuing to critique his own performance. He said among the film he watches from last season is the last play at Wisconsin, when Tommy Armstrong's pass to a leaping Morgan in the end zone on fourth down in overtime fell incomplete.

Morgan refers to it as a "missed opportunity."

Facing a new opportunity after a turbulent offseason, Morgan says he's better prepared for whatever 2017 may hold.

"I want those opportunities now," Morgan said. "Every day I'm fired up, ready to work. You don't really have to lead by just talking every day. You can lead by example."

If the Nebraska offense is to take the step forward that many expect this season, Morgan's growth, both on the field and off, will be a critical piece to the puzzle.

"It's all maturation, to some degree. He's not the same Stan as he was last year. He's grown, he's gotten better, his understanding of the game has gotten better," Williams said. "And then his expectation level, and the experience of not making that play.

"It's like life. You learn from experience, bad or good. So I believe those experiences from last year, not making those plays, will inspire him. And I know it will motivate him to make that play when it comes again."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or cbasnett@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.


Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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