It’s not time to post The Office’s ‘It’s Happening’ gif just yet.
On Monday it was revealed that Minnesota-native and standout wide receiver for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, J.D. Spielman, entered the NCAA’s transfer portal ahead of his final year of eligibility. As expected, his hometown college’s fanbase had its curiosity piqued.
Many thought right away how Spielman could add to the Golden Gophers’ already dominant offensive corps. Rashod Bateman emerged as an explosive wide receiver in his sophomore season, tallying identical numbers to the elder statesman in the receiving group, Tyler Johnson, who was since drafted by the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2020 Draft. Fellow receiver Chris Autman-Bell saw fewer targets and catches but was still a key member of the group with 371 yards and five touchdowns.
A receiving trio of Spielman, Bateman and Autman-Bell? Well, that has some Minnesota football fans practically salivating. So if Spielman did end up on the Gophers, what would he bring to the table?
Spielman has had a fairly consistent three-year career for the Cornhuskers. He notched at least 818 yards receiving in each of those three seasons and averaged at least 12 yards per catch in the same span. His best season was in 2018 where he had 66 receptions and brought down eight touchdowns — both single-season career highs.
In total, he has 15 receiving touchdowns in his career. In addition, he’s recorded three return touchdowns, two off punt returns and one from a kickoff return back in 2017, his freshman year.
Although Spielman’s overall numbers from last season don’t match Bateman’s of 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns, they would add nicely to the now experienced duo of Autman-Bell and Bateman and make a revamped trio, replacing Johnson’s 2019 production.
Overall, Spielman has the deception factor in his playmaking history. At Nebraska, he had many successful plays like this swing pass. His ability in motion on a swing route is a new weapon the Gophers could add if he transferred to Minnesota.
Though he is adept in hauling in swing passes, he has downfield speed for deep receptions, too, making him a complete receiver.
The Eden Prairie grad has significant experience as a punt returner from the past two seasons. He had more than 100 yards on punt returns in each of 2018 and 2019. Minnesota has had some struggles in that area of the game in 2019, as only Demetrius Douglas returned punts. He had 37 yards on 11 returns.
Spielman could add another threat on special teams to set up Minnesota’s offense in better position before the Gophers’ center even has a chance to line up for the snap.
In addition to his singularly impressive punt return ability, his presence would merely allow for the Gophers to confuse opposing defenses. While the defensive units of other teams are on the field, the known threat of Bateman, Spielman and Autman-Bell out at once can only draw the best corner or best safety to one of them, leaving one of the trio exposed to generate space and make a reception.
The speculation doesn’t end there as Spielman hasn’t had a top quarterback nearly as accurate as Tanner Morgan was in 2019, when he completed 66% of his passes. An offense committed to the pass and a quarterback still on the rise has the potential to result in a career senior year for Spielman.
Overall, Spielman could add a new layer of options for Minnesota if he transferred there. His versatility and success in multiple areas of the field, including his route running and punt return ability, combined with the added headache he would bring to the opposing defenses’ preparation would continue Minnesota’s recent rise in passing dominance.