The BYU Cougars are going to have a tall order with the stout defense of the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln, Nebraska this Saturday. The running game will have to contend with a front seven that Phil Steele describes as "very good" in his 2015 college football preview. The Nebraska secondary is also supposed to be very good, but only returns two starters. We know BYU can run the football very well, but in order to come out of Nebraska with a win, they will have to be able to move the ball through the air in order to pick up chunks of yardage and sustain drives. Given that Mitch Matthews will likely draw double coverage, I expect Devon Blackmon to have a good day working primarily against single defenders in man coverage.
Blackmon is a receiver with track speed, shifty elusiveness, good hands, and a good eye for setting up blocks on returns and on receptions downfield. A tantalizing skill set, but in his first year with the Cougars he had trouble cracking the depth chart and finished with only 130 yards on 10 receptions with zero touchdowns. To be fair, he did have a great catch and run for a touchdown called back due to a penalty in the Cougars' September 11th matchup with the Cougars of Houston—a play in which his speed and elusiveness was on full display. He had an explosive 56 yard catch, coupled with a 25 yard punt return against Virginia the following week. Blackmon then disappeared until the final regular season game against the University of California-Berkeley, getting most of his touches on special teams. In the Cal game, he had six receptions for 60 yards, averaging an even 10 yards per reception.
(Video Credit: Youtube)
On Saturday, Blackmon has a great chance to show that he has arrived, and that he can be a fixture on the offense and special teams of this year's BYU football squad. He should have multiple opportunities to provide the flash that he showed occasionally on special teams last season, where despite an underwhelming 5.7 yard per return average, he did manage to pop a couple of decent punt returns to put the Cougars in great position. He also has the advantage of only having one fumble on returns to Mitchell Juergens' three. If he makes the most of his opportunities when he gets them, the punt return job could very well be his to take.
Nebraska's defense will likely focus primarily on the run, and on taking away Taysom Hill's favorite target in Matthews. Consequently, Blackmon should find himself in single coverage with an opportunity to prove that he can provide a significant threat that will keep defenses off balance. He definitely has the speed and footwork to create separation. I expect him to have a big day on Saturday while the Cornhuskers have their hands full stopping Matthews and Hill. Blackmon has shown that he has the talent and elusiveness that can make a difference in a game, but now it's time for him to show that he can produce.
For those interested in learning a little more about Blackmon, I've included a couple videos of interviews as well as a link to a Salt Lake Tribune profile on Blackmon and Jamaal Williams' relationship.
(Video Credit: YouTube)
Vanquish The Foe's Derek Kirkhoefer has a great preview of the wide receiver group for the Cougars here.