Warner strives this spring to remain prominent in Nebraska wide receiver mix

March 10, 2019 GMT

Kade Warner is third oldest among seven children in his family, so he’s used to maybe getting lost in the shuffle at times.

“I’m kind of in the middle,” he says with a smile.

He certainly wasn’t lost in Nebraska’s receiver shuffle last season. A redshirt freshman in 2018, Warner was in the middle of the action, starting seven of the final nine games and making at least one catch in six of those starts. In his own quiet and steady way, he enhanced the school’s walk-on tradition, finishing with 17 receptions for 95 yards.

He wasn’t necessarily surprised by his ascension on the depth chart.

“It was just a matter of getting an opportunity,” he said. “Whenever my opportunity came in practice, I tried to do the best I could. I tried to make impact plays. I didn’t really surprise myself with how I did, but I was surprised a little bit that I got the opportunity in the middle of the season.”

A graduate of Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Arizona, Warner rocketed up the depth chart last September, getting his first start Sept. 29 against Purdue. He immediately made his presence known as a blocker on the perimeter. Then, on Nebraska’s final drive of the first half, quarterback Adrian Martinez targeted him three straight times.

Warner definitely isn’t lost in the shuffle statistically among the team’s returning receivers. In fact, he’s the second-leading receiver from last season behind only junior standout JD Spielman, who made 66 receptions for 818 yards and eight touchdowns.

As Nebraska on Monday enters its second week of spring drills, the receiver group is mindful of the loss of Stanley Morgan, who last season led the team in both receptions (70) and receiving yards (1,004) while scoring seven TDs.

“We know what Stan did for us last year,” Warner said. “We know how good he is and how good he was here. We know the rest of the receivers have to pick it up this year if we want to be where we want to be. We have players around us, but we have a couple of receiver spots we need to fill and will fill, and there are guys who are confident in their abilities to do that.”

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Warner is among them. His confidence is evident. But he’s right when he says Nebraska’s receiver group has to pick it up this year to help make up for Morgan’s loss. Among the returning receivers being counted on to produce at a high level:

-- Mike Williams, senior. A transfer from East Mississippi Community College, the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder last season caught 12 passes for 122 yards while making two starts.

-- Jaron Woodyard, senior. A transfer from Arizona Western Community College, the 5-11, 190-pounder last season appeared in eight games and had one catch. He returned four kickoffs for 50 yards.

-- Jaevon McQuitty, sophomore. He missed all of 2017 with an injury before appearing in six games last season as a redshirt freshman. He hasn’t recorded a catch in college, but with his size (6-0, 205 pounds) and strength, McQuitty seems bound to be a factor.

-- Andre Hunt, redshirt freshman. He flashed in preseason camp last August. As a senior at Paraclete High School in Palm Dale, California, Hunt caught 67 passes for 1,185 yards and 18 touchdowns for a team that finished 13-2.

-- Miles Jones, redshirt freshman. A hybrid receiver/running back, Jones played in one game last season, recording a 21-yard reception against Bethune-Cookman.

Of course, incoming freshman Wan’Dale Robinson, also a hybrid receiver/running back, already is turning heads this spring. He could help matters along with fellow incoming freshmen Darien Chase and Jamie Nance.

As for Warner, he concentrates on building on last season. He thinks Nebraska could have a powerful offense.

“We’ve seen what JD can do and what Adrian can do and what Maurice (Washington) can do,” Warner said. “There are a lot of guys in the wide receiver room that feel they have something to prove.”

Warner speaks with a keen understanding of the big picture -- perhaps no surprise considering he’s a son of Pro Football Hall of Fame member Kurt Warner.

“He knows my practice schedule so he’ll text me after every practice,” Warner said. “He asks me how it went and what I can improve on, and what I did well. He’s very involved. I go to him a lot with questions, and he really does a good job explaining things to me. I really trust him.”