Indiana University football wide receiver Nick Westbrook had a huge 2016 season. Despite missing virtually the entire 2017 season, his performance has not been lost on the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation, which released this year’s preseason watch list for the Biletnikoff Award.
Westbrook was one of three Big Ten Conference receivers that were included on the 2018 Biletnikoff Award preseason watch list that was released on Thursday. The other two Big Ten receivers are both from Nebraska — Stanley Morgan, Jr. and JD Spielman.
The Florida native caught 54 passes for 995 yards and six touchdowns in 2016. He led the team in yardage, TDs and yards per reception. Westbrook was the Big Ten’s top returning receiver in terms of prior year total receiving yards coming in to the 2017 season. He was also named to the 2017 Biletnikoff Award watch list.
And then the unthinkable happened.
Westbrook suffered a season-ending ACL injury on the opening kickoff of the 2017 season against No. 2 Ohio State. The decision to have Westbrook on the field for special teams brought on understandable questions for the IU coaching staff.
Indiana head coach Tom Allen said at the time that “if you say it’s a third of the game, and then you don’t put your best players (on special teams), that doesn’t make sense.” Tough logic to argue with, but still a difficult pill to swallow.
Westbrook, a Big Ten Academic All-American as a business marketing major, received a medical redshirt and thus comes into 2018 as a redshirt junior. At 6-foot-3, he has both the size and the speed to impact the game.
You can see the speed on full display here:
The Biletnikoff Award annually recognizes the outstanding receiver in college football. Any player, regardless of position (wide receiver, tight end, split end, inside receiver, slot back or running back) who catches a pass is eligible for the award. As such, the Biletnikoff Award recognizes the outstanding receiver, not merely the outstanding wide receiver.
The award recipient is selected by the highly distinguished Biletnikoff Award National Selection Committee, a group of prominent college football journalists, commentators, and former receivers.
Four students from current Big Ten schools have received the Biletnikoff Award since its inception in 1994, with Michigan’s Braylon Edwards the most recent conference recipient in 2004. The late James Hardy was a semifinalist for the award in 2007.
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier
Find us on Facebook: thedailyhoosier