Consistency, drive have Warner as new leader of NU receivers
Having already garnered plenty of attention from his coaches and teammates with his impressive offseason, Kade Warner didn’t even need to answer a single question to steal the show during Nebraska’s Zoom press conference on Thursday.
Sporting an impressive mustache that his teammates were already begging him to keep, the Huskers’ junior wide receiver sounded every bit of the new leader of the receiving corps he’d been built up to be since NU opened its fall camp.
While it still hasn’t officially been announced, junior tight end Austin Allen said on Tuesday that Warner had been awarded a scholarship for this season after spending his first two years in Lincoln as a walk-on.
His consistency in practice, games, and pretty much everything else makes it little surprise that the junior wideout has vaulted himself up NU’s receiver ranks along with standout sophomore Wan’Dale Robinson.
"They lead by example,” offensive coordinator Matt Lubick said. “I always tell those guys, 'Hey, they are going to respond more to you than they do to me.' So they are the first out in every drill. When a young guy like Zavier Betts sees Kade Warner going 100 miles an hour … that's contagious.”
Along with breaking the news of Warner’s likely scholarship, Allen told of how his roommate Warner had been hosting get-togethers with teammates at their place to watch NFL games.
The gatherings were more than just sitting on the couch and watching football. Allen said Warner would lead whiteboard sessions during the games to go over different offensive concepts and defensive coverages to help everyone better understand what was happening on the field.
“We'll have a whiteboard in the living room, and he'll say, ‘Let me talk you through this defense. Let me talk you through this offense,'" Allen said. "Kade Warner's leadership has been unmatched in the receiving corps, and that's helped all his receivers.”
Head coach Scott Frost said that along with Warner’s leadership, it was his ability to stay healthy and on the practice field this fall that had separated him as much as anything. Warner has been a mainstay every day in a receiving corps that has already been beaten up by injuries.
After being plagued by a torn hamstring and a stress fracture all last season, Warner said he now felt healthier than ever, allowing him to take advantage of every opportunity he’s gotten.
“Kade has been a leader for us,” Frost said. “The best thing he's done is he's been out there the entire time. I don't think he's missed any time. If you're going to play, you got to be on the field, and he's been out there the entire time. He’s done a good job leading at that position.”
After breaking onto the scene with a solid redshirt freshman campaign in 2018, Kade Warner was sidelined by injury for the first four games of last season. However, he soon picked up right where he left off to end the year.
Warner ended up starting five of the final seven games of 2019 and caught eight passes for a career-high 101 yards, with an average of 12.6 yards per reception.
Following the transfer of top receiver JD Spielman over the offseason, that left Warner as the second-most productive returning wideout on the roster behind Robinson.
Beginning with next week’s Week 1 opener at Ohio State, however, Warner is determined to make his impact just as significant on the field as it’s been off of it thus far.
“Going back to last season, it was really tough because you have expectations that you want to meet,” Warner said. “My expectation for last season was to increase my production and increase my impact on the team to be able to help us win football games. To put in all that work in the offseason and then have my season cut short and have to play through a torn hamstring, it’s tough.
“It really hurt me, and I was in a tough spot for a year trying to get back at it. But I’ve worked hard this offseason to recover from that. Hamstrings feel great right now, and I’m looking forward to helping our team win some games this year. I think I’ll be able to do that.”