KEARNEY — Cody Summers joined the University of Nebraska at Kearney football team in January 2018 after playing at Highland Community College for his redshirt sophomore year.
His intangibles intrigued the Lopers. He played receiver at Highland and spent two years at Washburn as a quarterback. When he arrived at UNK, the idea was for him to play quarterback. But after the spring season, coach Josh Lynn approached Summers about moving to receiver.
Summers was against the idea at the time, but about a year later, he agreed to make the position switch. The redshirt senior informed Lynn this summer that he wanted to move to receiver, which is where he will line up for the Lopers this season.
"At first I wanted to stick at quarterback because I love competition and that is my natural position," Summers said. "This is my last year, and I decided to make the switch. He put the idea out there, and I kind of took it and ran with it."
Summers would’ve started the season as the Lopers’ backup quarterback. With redshirt senior Alex McGinnis back as the starting quarterback, after holding that role all 11 games last season, Summers’ chances to play would’ve been dictated on how McGinnis performed.
With his playing time unknown this season, Summers opted to move to receiver, which is a position the Lopers lack experience. His 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame also will be an added bonus for the Lopers at the outside receiver spot after the graduation of No. 1 receiver Trey Lansman, who presented mismatch problems for opposing defenses with his 6-6 height last season.
Summers "is big, fast and smart," Lynn said. "He’s a football player. You can only play with one quarterback, and we need to get him on the field. And that is a good opportunity to get him on the field."
Summers played sparingly last season at quarterback and even lined up occasionally as a punt returner. He was a run-first quarterback who completed all four of his pass attempts for 40 yards and one touchdown while carrying the ball 27 times for 129 yards and one score.
Transitioning from the backfield to an outside receiver spot isn’t a monumental change. Summers has a strong understanding of the playbook and the athleticism to thrive at the position. He spent the offseason working on his route running and catching the football with his hands.
"At the end of the day it’s football," Summers said. "I love playing football regardless of what position it is. It gets me on the field, so I’m happy with it."
This season, the Lopers are focused on improving the passing game. Although they led the MIAA in rushing last season, they ranked second-to-last with 128.6 passing yards per game.
The Lopers passed for just seven touchdowns and only three players eclipsed 100 receiving yards last season. Lansman caught a team-high 19 passes for 351 yards and two touchdowns. Montrez Jackson recorded 18 catches for 397 yards and one touchdown, which came on a 91-yard reception. Trey Richards added 10 catches for 104 yards.
Jackson and Richards are back this season and should play prominent roles in the offense.
Jackson is a dynamic option in the running and passing games, presenting game-changing speed and athleticism.
Sedarius Young, who was one of the Lopers’ top receivers in 2017, is back for his final season after redshirting last year. The Lopers added junior college transfer Xavier Jackson in the offseason, who possesses similar skills to Jackson. They also hope young receivers, like sophomore D’angelo Shepherd and redshirt freshman Malik Fofana, can take the next steps in their development this season.
The Lopers didn’t utilize the tight end position in the passing game last season, as starter Alex Harms caught just five passes. This year’s tight end group features five players, all who have little game experience at the collegiate level.
"Our weakness last year was throwing the ball," Lynn said. "Most notably (the biggest weakness) was the explosion plays. Play action has to take over those explosion plays."
RETURNERS — Sedarius Young, R-Sr., Orlando, Fla.; Cody Summers, R-Sr., Denver; Mitch Carlson, R-Jr., Central City; Trey Richards, R-Jr., Hutchinson, Kan.; Payton Kinne, R-So.; Grand Island; Montrez Jackson, R-So., Trenton, Fla.; D’angelo Shepherd, So., Colorado Springs, Colo.; Aubrey Marschel-Parker, R-Fr., Aurora, Colo.; Hunter Bergstrom, R-Fr., Strasburg, Colo.; Malik Fofana, R-Fr., Denver; Xavier Delk, R-Fr., Aurora, Colo.; Michael Koch, R-Fr., Columbus.
NEWCOMERS — Xavier Jackson, Jr., Chesterfield, Mo.; Howard Brookins, Fr., Chicago; Lane Edis, Fr., Mullen; McKinney Edwards, Fr., Superior; Dru Sovereign, Fr., Lincoln;
UNK Tight Ends
RETURNERS — Kyler Van Housen, R-Jr., Polk; Thomas Tews, R-So., Omaha; Zack Blaschko, R-So., Kearney; Kevin Linn, R-Fr., Broken Bow.
NEWCOMERS — Carter Henry, Fr., Albion.