Nebraska receiver Andre Hunt doesn't exactly lack for confidence.
"Everybody wants to be better than the next man," the redshirt freshman said Monday. "I want to be way better than Stanley (Morgan). That's just my goal coming in."
That's right, the 6-foot, 190-pound Hunt ultimately wants to top Morgan's production at Nebraska, an enormous challenge for anyone. After all, Morgan completed his collegiate eligibility last season as the school's all-time leader in receptions (189) and receiving yards (2,747). Morgan in 2018 became the first receiver in school history to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in a season, catching 70 passes for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns.
"Just watching him practice every day, it made me want to be better," Hunt said. "It made me want to fill his shoes in a different type of way."
He means a better type of way. Don't misinterpret his comments as a lack of respect for Morgan. A native of Palm Dale, California, Hunt said he admires Morgan for "having that 'dog' in him." Morgan was indeed intense in both practices and games. He prided himself on his daily approach. In short, he was relentless.
Hunt thinks he also has that "dog" in him.
"I don't think I'd be here if I didn't," he said.
That said, Hunt acknowledges he wasn't necessarily a strong practice player last season.
"I wasn't going to get to play, so I wasn't really trying my hardest sometimes," he said. "But this year, I think it's my time. I think it's time for me to step it up, so that's really what I'm trying to do."
Nebraska receivers coach Troy Walters said Hunt has matured as a player. He better understands the offense and knows he has to work hard every day in practice against veteran Husker corners Dicaprio Bootle and Lamar Jackson.
"Last year, (Hunt) didn’t really know the playbook as well as we’d like, so it slowed him down," Walters said. "Now he knows the playbook, so he can just play, he can use his speed. He’s going against Lamar and D-Cap every day and Cam Taylor, so he’s getting better."
Hunt is showing more mental toughness, the coach said.
"Last year he was lackadaisical at times, not focused at times, but now because he’s working with the ones, he’s going against D-Cap and Lamar, he’s got to be on it every rep and you’ve seen that," Walters said. "He's making a bunch of plays this spring, and so he’s just got to continue to get better and he’s a guy that we’re going (to) definitely depend on and count on this fall."
Hunt arrived on campus last year with an impressive background. To wit: His biography in the 2018 Nebraska football media guide begins with a line that grabs your attention.
"One of the top receivers in California. …"
He was rated in 2017-18 among the nation's top 100 high school receivers by Rivals and 247Sports and had more than a dozen scholarship offers from major college programs, including USC, Colorado, Washington State and Utah.
As a senior at Paraclete High School in Palm Dale, Hunt caught 67 passes for 1,185 yards and 18 touchdowns for a team that finished 13-2.
What stands out about Hunt's game?
"He knows how to run and is a good route runner," Walters said. "He was a good route runner in high school. That's what really drew us to him — the fact he kind of knows the details of route running and how to get open.
"He has some speed that allows him to create separation from the corners. Those things allow him to be successful."
Hunt this spring is among a long line of Nebraska receivers trying to help fill the void left by Morgan. JD Spielman (66 receptions in 2018) obviously is going to be targeted often, on that you can count, but there are a lot of other receivers on the roster who need to raise their game.
Hunt feels good about his progress — perimeter blocking included.
"I think I can block like Stanley," he said. "I'm not scared to go head-up against anybody. I think that's a big part of it, just not being scared."
But he knows he has room for improvement in all areas.
"I didn't see Stanley Morgan drop any balls in practice," Hunt said. "I don't want to drop any balls in practice. It might happen sometimes, but I want to limit that and just come into practice ready to work every day."
"To fill (Morgan's) shoes, it's going to be a big-time thing to do," he added. "I'm ready to do it, but I have a long way to go."