Stanley Morgan has had a strong season to this point as his team's second-leading receiver.
But you can bet he's hungry to turn up his game a notch.
I'm guessing the Nebraska senior receiver will finish the season with a flourish. I'm guessing his numbers will improve. In fact, he could be the impetus to the Huskers (1-6) finishing strong as a team. He's that valuable.
"He's always got that look in his eyes," said Nebraska corner Dicaprio Bootle, who squared off against Morgan frequently during the offseason.
"Going against a guy like that, he makes you want to work," Bootle added. "He's going to put his hands on you when it's time for him to block and try to run you off (the field). He's going to give you good routes. He's just going to give you his best every day.”
So, now you know about Morgan's eyes. His intensity is evident.
You also should know about his hands.
“He has really strong hands," Bootle said. "Going against him, I might be in position where I’m contesting the ball. But he might catch it with really strong hands.”
Bootle had no choice but to improve facing the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Morgan, who possesses that wonderful combination of ample talent mixed with unyielding desire. Put it this way: You can bet Morgan will treat Nebraska's 11 a.m. game Saturday against Bethune-Cookman as if the Huskers were playing Ohio State. He attacks the ball. He attacks his work. He's been doing it consistently since arriving on campus in August of 2015.
"A lot of guys see overthrown passes and they kind of throttle it down," Bootle said. "But Stanley, he’s going to run after that ball regardless. He don’t care if he’s double-covered, triple-covered, it doesn’t matter. He’s going to try to get the ball. That’s my guy right there. Going against him in the spring and fall, it really helped get me ready for the season.
“I can’t do anything but thank him for that.”
A native of New Orleans, Morgan enters Nebraska's final five regular-season games with 37 receptions for 563 yards (15.2 ypc) and three touchdowns. Through seven games last season, his production was slightly better: 39 receptions for 652 yards (16.7) and seven TDs. But he comes off a sterling performance last week against Minnesota, when he made a career-high 10 catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns.
"It was awesome," Husker offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Troy Walters said. "Proud of him. He hasn't had the year that he wanted, that we would like him to have, but he's never hung his head, he's never strayed from the process, and it’s good to see his hard work and his commitment being rewarded."
With more rewards to come.
"Every game here on out, I expect a big game from him," Walters said.
Morgan, as one would expect, gets plenty of attention from defenses, especially safeties mindful of his ability to stretch the field. But with Nebraska freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez playing at such a high level, Morgan will get plenty of chances along with JD Spielman. Morgan will be targeted frequently in part because of his ability to run after the catch. That's often where you see his dogged determination, not to mention strength and speed befitting an NFL receiver.
The Husker offense has been good but can get better. A bit more production from Morgan might be an obvious conduit to overall improvement.
Nebraska first-year secondary coach Travis Fisher covered talented receivers for a living during an eight-year NFL career (2002-09). His initial impression of Morgan?
"I saw the dog in him first of all," Fisher said. "Just the way he practiced."
When Fisher says he saw the “dog” in Morgan, he means, “With some receivers, they’ll catch a football, but when the ball’s not coming to them, they don’t run a full-speed route. With some receivers, if it’s a run play, they don’t want to block. Well, a dog blocks. A dog is someone who locks onto you and won’t let you go. A dog is someone who, when it’s a one-on-one battle, he’s winning.
“A dog is someone who’ll practice the way they play. Stanley Morgan practices the way he plays.”
Five regular-season games to go. Last week may have been just a start to his big finish.