Jamal Turner is relatively unknown to the college football world. Nebraska fans know him as an electrifying playmaker that moved from quarterback to receiver during the spring and had a huge impact on the Spring Game and practices. He led the Huskers in receiving yards the first half of the season, but didn't have a single catch in the next half, finishing with just 15 receptions for 243 yards.
This left Husker fans questioning why Turner wasn't played? Why wasn't he used more? What happened?
Turner said that he did not know the offense last year and wasn't putting enough effort into practice. Well, he now understands the offense, and is putting as much effort into practice as he is into games. Which brings up the question: Can Jamal Turner have a breakout year?
Being a breakout receiver at Nebraska is hard. The Husker have never really been a passing team, except under Callahan which failed miserably. The Huskers also have never had a 1,000 yard receiver in its long history. The closest Nebraska has ever come is Johnny Rodgers, gaining 942 receiving yards.
Irving Fryar was one of Nebraska's two No.1 overall draft picks, and was the first receiver ever taken as the first pick. So Nebraska has had some success in receiving, but not too many.
Turner is part of a young group of Nebraska receivers that include Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa, Tariq Allen and Jordan Westerkamp. Bell has a lock on one of the starting spots, which leaves Turner and Enunwa as the likely candidates to compete for the other.
But this means nothing unless starting quarterback Taylor Martinez improves his passing, which according to the QB coach that Martinez is working with, Taylor is improving.
Turner is a very skilled player, and he is fast and elusive. You know you are a good player when Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick says he will see you in three years. Turner can make plays happen.
In the game against Chatanogga, he turned a one yard reception into a 20-yard one, and almost more. He knows how to make plays and has great awareness to see plays develop and react to them.
Turner could also be used in more ways that just receiving. The Wildcat formation has been a popular mainstay of the Nebraska offense with Rex Burkhead. Well how about using Turner? He is a star quarterback out of Texas that can still throw the ball. Put him in the Wildcat and you have a guy that can run and pass well.
Turner will face an uphill battle to breakthrough. He let the coaches down by not putting effort into practice, but he has rectified that. But he will also have to battle Bell, Enunwa, Allen, Marlowe, and tight ends Cotton and Reed for catches.
Turner will have to make the most of every opportunity given to him on the field and at practice. If Turner shows the coaches what he can do consistently then he may very well become Nebraska's top receiving threat. With the talent Turner has, if he manages to make some plays and get some catches, Turner could become one of the best receivers Nebraska has ever had.