Scott Frost’s arrival in Lincoln made many believe that the Cornhuskers would be instant Big Ten contenders. They’re still waiting for that to happen, and now they’ll need to do it without one of their top playmakers. JD Spielman announced earlier in the offseason that he was taking personal time off from the team, and put his name into the transfer portal yesterday.
Rumors started swirling about his destination, and one became increasingly popular: Minnesota. He’s from Minnesota and his dad, Rick Spielman, is the General Manager of the Minnesota Vikings. While we don’t know what the personal time was for, it hasn’t stopped people from thinking he’s coming home. Would that work? Minnesota’s on the hunt for a Big Ten West title (maybe even a conference title), and it seems adding a playmaker with his talent could push them over the edge.
JD Spielman returns home
Assuming he’s granted a waiver, Spielman adds to a group of receivers that lost a key player. Tyler Johnson’s off to the NFL, which leaves room for Rashod Bateman (20.3 yards per catch) and Chris Autman-Bell (371 yards) to step up. Outside of those two, the Gophers need some help. If JD Spielman decides to come home, he rounds out the group which would make them one of the best in the country.
Bateman broke out last year as a deep threat for Minnesota’s offense, and returns as Tanner Morgan’s favorite target for the 2020 season. With Johnson off to the NFL, defense’s will turn their attention towards the 6’2″ junior to limit his explosiveness downfield. In order to open things up and keep the pressure off Bateman, a short to intermediate threat is necessary. Autman-Bell could take over that role, but Spielman’s already proven that he can thrive in that position.
With 170 career catches, 2,546 yards, and 15 touchdowns, Spielman is the perfect complement to the Gophers current receivers. The combination of Johnson and Bateman gave Minnesota two deep threats to spread out a defense without allowing a defense to focus too much attention on one or the other. While Spielman can’t provide the same threat that Johnson did, he gives teams a different looks with the potential for similar results.
His quickness in the slot makes him tough to cover, and he’s great at identifying holes in zone coverage for his quarterback to find. His success in short to intermediate routes resulted in his 18.3 yards per catch last year. His experience in the slot could be an instant impact in the offense, and he’ll also benefit from playing with more consistent teammates.
Spielman’s production at Nebraska was solid, but it’s even more impressive considering the inconsistent play around him. While quarterback Adrian Martinez came to Nebraska with plenty of buzz, he hasn’t quite met the hype. Spielman joining Minnesota benefits him because he’d join forces with Tanner Morgan, one of the best quarterbacks in the country this year. At times, Spielman did most of the work to haul in a pass, and that becomes less frequent with Morgan. Morgan’s focus on his mechanics help him throw an accurate football, which reduces the time Spielman needs to catch the ball and turn-up field.
JD Spielman remains one of the most dangerous slot receivers in the country, and Minnesota would benefit from his arrival. Will he come back home? We’re not sure, but the potential is intriguing. The Gophers offense already returns some of the top players at every position, and adding a hometown talent elevates them to a new level. The Gophers offense will already look different, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They might have missed out on Spielman out of high school, but bringing him home could bring everything full circle.