It took Curenski Gilleylen just one play in the first 6 minutes of his first Nebraska Red-White Spring Game to have his stock shoot through the roof heading into last season.
When the season actually got underway, however, he didn't take long before he was an all but forgotten commodity.
After hauling in a 77-yard touchdown from quarterback Joe Ganz early in the first quarter of last year's spring game, Gilleylen looked to be the homerun threat the Huskers had been lacking in the passing game.
But because of solid depth ahead of him and inconsistent play in practice, the then-freshman receiver from Lender, Texas, ended the season with just two catches for 11 yards.
Now nearly a year removed from his breakout play in the spring scrimmage, Gilleylen comes into his second Red-White game more determined than ever to prove that he is no one-hit spring game wonder.
"I thought that big catch in the spring game would kind of springboard me into the season, and that really didn't happen," Gilleylen said. "It was more about my consistency. Not necessarily just catching the ball, but blocking and all types of things like that. I just really needed to be more consistent and show that I know everything whenever I get into the game and play at 110 mph. That's what I've been working on more than anything this spring."
Though he may have been inconsistent at times last year, there was never a question about Gilleylen's speed and ability to stretch the field on long passes. Following the departures of Nate Swift and Todd Peterson, Gilleylen has been one of several NU wide outs to have an opportunity to increase his role over the course of the spring.
Now add in the suspension of junior Niles Paul earlier this week, and the window of opportunity just opened a little wider.
According to his coaches, Gilleylen still has the same explosiveness he showed last spring, but this time around has displayed better maturity and attention to detail in terms of blocking and running better routes.
"He's flashed at times," offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "He's a more mature player. We've seen his speed on the field a couple of times. We've got to get more consistent play probably out of all of us in the passing game, but Curenski has really done a nice job and flashed with his speed. He's a factor with his speed. We've just got to get him more consistent with his hands."
Gilleylen knows he still has a long way to go this offseason before he sees his reps with the first-team offense in practice match those of some of Nebraska's more experienced receivers, but entering just his second year with the program, he knows he still has plenty of time to reach his ultimate goal of becoming a starter.
However, that doesn't mean that he's taking his time in getting there.
"It's not just about having that one big play," Gilleylen said. "You've got to do it every play and try to be an every-down receiver. I want to be an every-down receiver, so I'm trying to work on that this spring and I'm going to take that into the summer.
"I've been working my butt off trying to get where I want to be and be in a position I want to be in. I thought last year, I had a big catch, but it doesn't really mean anything in the spring game. You want to come out in the season and prove what you can do."
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