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  • Pernell: Nebraska Recruiting Update

    Today marks the beginning of a monthlong recruiting dead period with the Huskers currently sitting at 15 known commitments. The exact number of players Nebraska will take in their 2016 class is pretty fluid at this point. Mike Riley spoke a few days following the Iowa game of private discussions he has had with some players who plan to transfer. On Friday, Riley confirmed there is already one unnamed player who is no longer with the team. It's possible that other departures could be forthcoming as well.

    We also learned that Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine have both submitted their names to the NFL Draft Advisory Board. I think there's a good chance Collins leaves early. He has long been a staple among NFL Draft boards dating back to the start of the season. I expect him to receive a 2nd round grade. Conversely, I would be surprised if Valentine receives a grade that convinces him to leave. He has battled an ankle injury this season, totaling just eight tackles and three sacks in nine games - with six starts. The deadline for underclassmen to declare their intentions is January 18, so Riley will know a few weeks before National Signing Day - which is February 3.

    With defensive tackle Kevin Williams gaining a sixth year of eligibility, the Huskers have 15 scholarship seniors. The staff will also have two scholarships freed up from the 2015 class thanks to Jordan Stevenson and Adrienne Talan. That brings us to 18 - depending on Collins and Valentine. Big Ten teams are allowed to sign three more players than they have open scholarships so long as the roster is refined to 85 scholarships by the start of next fall camp. So, for now, 21 would appear to be the number. But trust me, Riley will sign more than 21 players come February. Additional attrition is bound to push that number up. Expect more players to decide to move on this winter, and then another few to leave following spring practice.

    So with at least 10-12 spots left to be filled in this class, at what positions does Nebraska look to add talent?

    Offensive Tackle. The staff is half done with their offensive line haul. They have commitments from an impressive trio of interior linemen but will need to add two or three tackles. With only Nick Gates, David Knevel and Christian Gaylord as scholarship players heading into next season, offensive tackle is arguably the most important position in this class. The top target is Matt Farniok, who attends the same Sioux Falls (SD) Washington High School that produced Nate Gerry. Most Husker fans will recognize his name. Nebraska began recruiting him with the previous staff back in late 2013. The U.S. Army All-American has visited Lincoln eight times over the past few years and was on campus last weekend for his official visit. Farniok has a final four of Nebraska, Iowa, Florida State and Michigan State and will take visits to his other finalists in January. The consensus seems to be that Farniok will ultimately choose between the Huskers and Hawkeyes. Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh had an in-home visit with Farniok and his family on Thursday. The staff has put more resources into recruiting Farniok than any other recruit in this class.

    The other priority at tackle is current Missouri commit Royce Newman. Nebraska is trying to take advantage of Gary Pinkel's resignation. The Nashville (IL) lineman has been committed to the Tigers since June but is open to new suitors, including the Huskers and the hometown Illini. Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh went out to see Newman at his home on December 1 and then returned with Mike Riley for another in-home visit on December 6. Missouri promoted defensive coordinator Barry Odom to head coach and he decided not to retain offensive coordinator Josh Henson and offensive line coach A.J. Ricker. The Husker staff has jumped all over this development and have positioned themselves nicely for Newman, who was on campus this weekend for an official visit. Nebraska has made it clear just how important he is to the class.

    Depending on how the numbers shake out, Nebraska might settle for just two tackles but I maintain they need a third body to add to this class. The offseason coaching carousel has placed Nebraska on the radar for another top lineman out of Illinois. Sean Foster of Carmel Catholic in Mundelein had been committed to Minnesota since April. But when Jerry Kill retired for health reasons, Foster immediately reopened his recruitment and was contacted within a day by Nebraska. The previous staff was the first to offer Foster a scholarship back in November of 2013. The new regime has yet to offer Foster, but I would expect one to come and a visit in January.

    Perhaps the reason the staff hasn't offered Foster quite yet is because they feel good about their chances with some of the guys they have been after for most of the recruiting cycle. Someone to keep an eye on for a possible visit in January is Detroit (MI) Renaissance lineman Alaric Jackson. The Huskers have been recruiting Jackson since April and are considered to be among his finalists. Another intriguing name is Fort Pierce (FL) Central lineman Stewart Reese, who plays for the same high school as Husker linebacker commit Greg Simmons. Nebraska has been among Reese's favorites since summer and I think they are a good bet to get a visit in January. Simmons has been peer recruiting Reese hard for quite sometime.

    Jauan Williams of Archbishop Carroll in Washington D.C. is another guy who coaches have been recruiting for a while. Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh had an in-home visit with Williams this past Tuesday and it reportedly went very well. Williams visited Florida State this weekend, but he plans to take an official visit to Nebraska after the dead period is over. The visit is tentatively planned for January 22.

    There are a couple longshots who have had the Huskers among their top groups since summer. While interest has seemed to fade, Nebraska is holding out hope for a few of them. While he seems SEC-bound, the staff would love to get one of the five official visits from River Ridge (LA) John Curtis standout Willie Allen. You can put Scott Lashley out of West Point (MS) in that same category.

    Defensive Line. The lone commit along the defensive line so far Ashland (NE) Greenwood's Ben Stille. Defensive line recruiting has been lacking this season and it's going to be interesting to watch how the staff closes out. Every other position group has brought tremendous optimism throughout the cycle. Frankly, the hype around the defensive line has been underwhelming and worrisome. Mark Banker would love to add a junior college defensive end who can rush the passer and compete for immediate playing time. The staff has spent most of the past two months scouring the country for someone who can hopefully come in and make an impact.

    In late October the staff offered the No.1 junior college player in the country, defensive end Jonathan Kongbo, who plays for the same Arizona Western C.C. as former linebacker commit William Johnson. Despite currently being committed to Tennessee, Kongbo is being heavily recruited by several schools and still plans to take visits in January. The Huskers are hoping to be one of those teams. At this point a flip by Kongbo in favor of the Huskers is a long shot, but that hasn't stopped the coaches from trying. Defensive line coach Hank Hughes went out to see Kongbo on December 1 and then returned with defensive coordinator Mark Banker for another in-home visit on Thursday night.

    One of Nebraska's biggest junior college targets was Northeastern Oklahoma A&M edge rusher Jordan Bonner. At 6-foot-6 and 230-pounds, Bonner has drawn comparisons to Randy Gregory because of his frame and ability to get after the quarterback. Like Gregory, Bonner is capable of playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 or with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end in a 4-3. Bonner has been a hot commodity because he will have three years of eligibility remaining. Unfortunately, Bonner committed to Kentucky while on his official visit to Lexington Saturday night. Bonner, who also visited Tennessee on November 27, was expected to take his remaining three official visits in January - including one to Nebraska. Whether or not the coaches can convince him to still take a trip to Lincoln is unknown.

    With Nebraska determined to find help in the junior college ranks, expect the staff to go down their board to bring in someone. You have to appreciate the coaches swinging for the fences with Kongbo and Bonner, but if they lose out on them you will see others targeted. The staff has touched bases with several others despite some of them already being committed. Josh Allen out of Long Beach C.C. is another guy who has three years of eligibility remaining. The Huskers have yet to offer, but that could change now that Bonner is apparently off the board. The Huskers are also keeping in contact with Butler County C.C. defensive end Tramal Ivy, who is committed to Oklahoma State, as well as Arizona State commit Koron Crump out of Fort Scott C.C.

    Nebraska has their sights set on one of the most heavily recruited defensive ends in the Southeast. Loganville (GA) Grayson star Mykelle McDaniel is a former teammate and very close friend of redshirting freshman linebacker Mohamed Barry. McDaniel has had Nebraska among his top 3 for the majority of his recruiting process. Defensive backs coach Brian Stewart had an in-home visit with McDaniel this past Monday and Nebraska could get a January visit. South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia are the main competition at this point and it may just be a matter of getting his mothers approval to leave the south. Immediate playing time is a major factor for McDaniel and Nebraska can certainly offer him that.

    An additional high school target at defensive end,Terrell Lucas out of Miramar (FL), committed to Duke yesterday while on his official visit. Lucas had originally planned to visit Nebraska last weekend, but altered his plans after receiving an in-home visit from Minnesota coaches and spent the weekend in Minneapolis instead. He had planned to check out Tennessee (Jan.16) and Nebraska (Ja.23) after the dead period. Those plans are probably shelved now.

    Defensive backs coach Brian Stewart went down to Stone Mountain (GA) last Monday to pay a visit to current Cincinnati defensive end commit, Michael Pitts. It seems the staff is making contingency plans at the position. Pitts doesn't have a Husker offer yet, but perhaps that changes if higher priorities go elsewhere. Also keep an eye on Norfolk (NE) Catholic's David Engelhaupt, who is currently committed to Craig Bohl and Wyoming. Despite being committed to the Cowboys since July, Engelhaupt visited Nebraska for their game against Southern Mississippi. Engelhaupt could project to either defensive end or tight end. Depending on how things shake out down the line, I wouldn't be surprised to see a late offer from the hometown Huskers.

    Nebraska is currently without a commitment at defensive tackle. Depending on the numbers, the Huskers would like to take one or two. Rising to the top of that list is late-surging Chicago (IL) Phillips defensive lineman Amir Watts. Defensive line coach Hank Hughes took a trip to see Watts on December 4 and extended an offer. Watts visited Minnesota this weekend and plans to make January trips to see Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Nebraska. The other prominent target at tackle is D'Andre Christmas-Giles, who decommitted from Tennessee yesterday. Giles attends the same New Orleans (LA) St. Augustine High School that produced Stanley Morgan. D'Andre has been one of the most sought after defensive tackles in the south as of late. He visited TCU last weekend and spent this weekend in Texas. Giles has expressed interest in visiting Lincoln and Husker coaches are working to get him on campus in January. They may not get a chance, though, as he received an offer from LSU over the weekend and is likely to commit with the hometown Tigers.

    If the staff misses out on some of these national guys, I could see them turning their focus back locally to make sure they bring in someone to develop. Council Bluffs (IA) Lewis Central product Ja'Chai Baker is another Wyoming commit who visited Nebraska for their game against Wisconsin. At 6-foot-8 and 260-pounds, Baker could be a force down the road. I would also expect the staff to keep close tabs on Omaha (NE) Central's Elijah Wilson. Wilson has a few FCS offers and is currently committed to South Dakota State. He has been on the sidelines for games against Northwestern and Iowa. Coaches are keeping an eye on him after a good senior season.

    Defensive Back. I mentioned defensive end already, but cornerback and safety are two more positions this staff would really like to bring in talent from the junior college ranks. Last Monday, Nebraska missed out on Northeastern Oklahoma A&M corner Maurice Chandler after he chose Arizona State over the Huskers. Chandler appealed to the staff because he would have been able to enroll in January and participate in spring ball. The next guy on their board could be Merced C.C. standout Devron Davis, who is every bit the talent Chandler is. The only difference is Davis wouldn't be on campus until June. With a class expected to number north of 25, Nebraska would benefit from signing a few junior college players to help balance out a smaller 2018 recruiting class. Davis was scheduled to visit Nebraska last weekend but the trip was postponed in anticipation of Chandler's decision. If his academics are in order, the Huskers would be smart to turn their attention toward Davis to fill their need for a junior college cornerback. Jordan Noil of Hutchinson C.C. is a former high school teammate of A.J. Bush. He is another junior college defensive back the staff has looked into.

    At safety, the staff is hoping to land Markell Simmons out of Pima C.C. Simmons has three years of eligibility remaining and would be able to enroll early and participate in spring ball. Simmons has the range and physical skills coaches would love to add to the secondary. Simmons visited Nebraska for the Michigan State game and came away impressed. He has since visited TCU and Utah and a decision between the three schools is expected soon. As a December graduate, Simmons can sign with his new school on Wednesday. Mike Riley, Mark Banker, Trent Bray and Brian Stewart all visited Simmons in-home on November 30. On Thursday, Banker took his last shot at selling the Husker program to Simmons. The two spent the afternoon together. Simmons really likes the Husker staff but TCU has reportedly been trying to convince him Riley and the coaches won't be at Nebraska for long. We'll see if this negative recruiting effort ends up working. The Huskers are considered his leader at this point.

    Nebraska has commitments from two safeties thus far with Colorado Springs (CO) Pine Creek defensive athlete JoJo Domann slated to begin his career in the secondary. The other being Calabasas (CA) star Marquel Dismuke. Even if the Huskers are able to add Simmons, the staff is still looking to add a few more versatile defensive backs. Brandon Drayton, a safety out of Largo (FL) committed to Nebraska following his official visit for the Iowa game. His commitment lasted less than a week, though, as he reopened his recruitment and subsequently took an official visit to Indiana. Drayton claimed he rushed into the commitment and wants to make sure he makes the right decision. He mentioned that Nebraska was still among his top schools, but it seems the Huskers may have moved on to other targets.

    That next target seems to be Lakewood (OH) St. Edward defensive back Tony Butler. The Huskers are recruiting him as a boundary safety, but he is also capable of playing corner or nickel. Tony is good friends with Husker wide receiver target Desmond Fitzpatrick after the two attended various camps together since the beginning of 2015. Fitzpatrick had told Butler how much there was to like about Nebraska and Tony found out first hand. After spending this weekend in Lincoln, the Huskers now lead for his commitment. It seems to be a three-way battle for Butler between Nebraska, Arizona State and West Virginia. The plan for now is to visit Arizona State after the dead period and announce in late January.

    The biggest defensive target on Nebraska's board is Elk Grove (CA) Franklin defensive back Lamar Jackson. Considered one of the best safeties in the country, Nebraska wants to try the 6-foot-3 Jackson at corner - which is something that appeals to him. The Huskers have made up a lot of ground with Jackson since he visited for the Michigan State game. Following that visit, defensive backs coach Brian Stewart made Jackson a priority visit during the first week of the recruiting contact period. On Tuesday, Mike Riley made an in-home visit with Jackson and brought along Stewart and wide receivers coach Keith Williams. Jackson and Williams really hit it off during the official visit and the fact Williams is good friends with Jackson's 7-on-7 coach is a big selling point. USC has long been considered the favorite to land Jackson, but new Trojan coach Clay Helton decided to fire three defensive coaches - including the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Keith Heyward, whom Jackson had a great relationship with. At this point four teams are standing out for Jackson; Nebraska, USC, UCLA and Arizona State.

    Right now, only Miami (FL) Southridge's DiCaprio Bootle is committed to this class as a cornerback. Safety is a bigger concern, but getting Jackson would be a home run for Nebraska. Jackson is talented enough to play any position in the secondary and would likely compete for immediate playing time. The staff is keeping tabs on a couple other defensive back prospects heading down the stretch. Early this week, Brian Stewart stopped by to see Norcross (GA) safety Jarett Cole, who has been committed to Georgia Tech since July. Nebraska has maintained a relationship with Spring (TX) Klein Oak cornerback Nygel King. The 6-foot-2 King has been committed to Houston since June, but has talked about taking a visit to Nebraska.

    Nebraska is also in the mix for one of the best athletes in the Midwest. George Hill of Hubbard (OH) could be a standout running back or safety in college and he is open to playing either. The one-time Ohio State commit has visited Michigan State and Wisconsin since reopening his recruitment in October. Hill is very good friends with Spartan freshman running back L.J. Scott and Michigan State is considered the favorite to land him at this point. Hill has said he would like to visit Nebraska in January.

    A name that has jumped on the Huskers' radar in the last week or so is current Rutgers commit Patrice Rene. The Alexandria (VA) Episcopal defensive back has received a lot of attention since Kyle Flood was fired. He has visited Wisconsin and Boston College and has plans to see North Carolina and Rutgers after the dead period. Pittsburgh, California, Duke and Nebraska are battling to receive his fifth and final official visit. Husker coaches are definitely throwing their hat into the ring, but they have some ground to make up. Right now it's a battle between Wisconsin, North Carolina and Rutgers. Luckily, Rene is planning on taking all five visits and has not ruled out another team jumping into consideration. Rene, who plans on making a decision near national signing day, could play anywhere in the secondary.

    Wide Receiver. Nebraska wants to add two more receivers to a class that already includes two highly productive players. The staff is hoping to add a big-body 'X' receiver and the primary target is Waterford (MI) Mott standout Desmond Fitzpatrick. After being committed to Louisville since October of 2014, Fitzpatrick decommitted from the Cardinals two weeks after his official visit to Nebraska for the Michigan State game. Nebraska made Fitzpatrick a priority during the start of the recruiting contact period. On December 2, Mike Riley had an in-home visit with Fitzpatrick and brought along Keith Williams and offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh. The visit reportedly went very well. Fitzpatrick is visiting Indiana this weekend and plans to visit Arizona and Louisville in January. He is also planning a return trip to Nebraska with his mom in January as well. I like Nebraska's chances but can't discount Louisville regaining his commitment by February.

    One name that most people probably expected to see with the defensive backs is Olathe (KS) North athlete Isaiah Simmons. In the last week or so it has come out that Simmons might be leaning towards playing wide receiver after most assumed he would play safety or even linebacker in college. The Huskers are willing to let Simmons choose his spot and then let the cards fall where they may as he develops. Nebraska has recruited him very hard. He took an unofficial visit to Lincoln for the Wisconsin game and visited Illinois last weekend. On Monday, Mike Riley had an in-home visit with Simmons and he locked in his official visit to Nebraska for January 22. Simmons also plans to be in Louisville on January 30 - ironically, the same weekend as Fitzpatrick. Isaiah likes to keep his recruitment pretty close to the vest, so it's hard to know what way he might be leaning. Most believe that it will be between Nebraska and Louisville.

    Prior to the news Isaiah Simmons was leaning towards playing receiver, Zach Farrar out of Southlake (TX) Carroll appeared to be an important target for Nebraska heading into the visitation period. Keith Williams never made it out to see Farrar, although the two sides have kept in contact. Nebraska's interest might be waning with the expectation of closing the deal with Fitzpatrick and Simmons. Farrar visited Texas Tech this weekend and still plans to see Nebraska in January. Zach is a dual sport athlete with offers to play both football and baseball. He would like to play both in college. With Nebraska taking their foot off the pedal, it has allowed for Oklahoma State, Washington and Texas Tech to take the lead for his services.

    Linebacker. Nebraska is still trying to increase their numbers at the linebacker position. Banker wants about 12 scholarship guys on the roster and the Huskers are looking at eight in 2016 - and that's assuming Chris Weber is put on scholarship this summer. With Domann starting out at safety, the Huskers currently have two linebackers committed in this class; Greg Simmons of Fort Pierce (FL) Central and Quayshon Alexander of Wayne (NJ) De Paul Catholic. Alexander has continued to look around and take visits elsewhere, so Nebraska needs to have options in case they lose him. The staff wants to add another couple guys regardless.

    The Huskers have been recruiting David Reese extremely hard for the past couple months. The Farmington (MI) linebacker had been committed to Michigan since April, but began listening to other schools when he learned the Wolverines would not allow him to enroll early. Reese, who is very good friends with wide receiver target Desmond Fitzpatrick, visited for the Michigan State game and loved the experience. The staff has taken the momentum of that visit and carried it over into several in-home visits with him. On December 1, Mike Riley was accompanied by Mark Banker and Trent Bray on an in-home visit with Reese. The get together went extremely well. The Huskers let Reese and his family know just how important he is to this class. To punctuate that point, Nebraska sent Bray back out for an additional in-home visit this past Tuesday. Bray showed why he has gained such a strong recruiting reputation. The linebackers coach made three separate stops to visit with the people important to David. Bray stopped by Reese's high school to visit with his coaches and to another school to visit with his mother. He then went to meet with David's father. Wanting to make sure this last visit left an impression, Bray returned to the Reese household after the family hosted Texas head coach Charlie Strong. The following day, Wednesday, Reese officially decommitted from Michigan. Along with Nebraska, David has taken official visits to Florida and TCU. He took his final visit this weekend to Texas. How important is Reese to his finalists? Florida head coach Jim McElwain and linebackers coach Randy Shannon made an in-home visit with Reese yesterday when David returned from Austin.

    This weekend the Husker staff hosted Houston (TX) Klein Collins linebacker Cameron Goode, who is currently a California commit. Goode is a long, rangy, athletic underrated outside linebacker. Nebraska has done a good job recruiting Goode and have positioned themselves for a potential flip. The real hope of this staff is to convince Jaleel Laguins to leave the south. The Watkinsville (GA) Oconee County star is currently committed to Georgia but with the removal of Mark Richt, Nebraska could make a move here. Laguins first visited Lincoln back in March and had the Huskers in his final group when he committed to the Bulldogs in August. Despite his commitment, his relationship with Trent Bray has kept the Huskers in the picture. He took an official visit to Nebraska for the Wisconsin game and hit it off with Husker quarterback commit Patrick O'Brien - who has been peer recruiting Jaleel pretty hard ever since. Laguins reportedly had a great time on the visit and called the Husker game day experience among the best he's ever seen or heard. He has taken a visit to Kentucky and was at LSU this weekend. Depending on how he meshes with the new staff at Georgia and his willingness to leave the area, Nebraska could have a decent shot.

    Tight End. The staff wants to add another tight end to team with current commit Jack Stoll. They would love to keep local standout Noah Fant from leaving the state. Coaches originally recruited Fant with defensive end in mind before he eventually committed to Iowa back in August. They have reversed course and are now offering him the chance to play offense. Fant took an unofficial visit to see the Huskers play Wisconsin and plans to take more visits before settling on a final decision. The Huskers could get back in this race.

    It seems the backup plan to flipping Fant is Lansing (MI) Catholic Central athlete Tony Poljan, who had been committed to Minnesota since May. The Gophers recruited Poljan to play quarterback, but at 6-foot-7 and 235-pounds, the Huskers are offering him as a tight end. Poljan reopened his recruitment following Jerry Kill's retirement and the subsequent dismissal of offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover and quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski by new head coach Tracy Claeys. The Michigan Gatorade State Player of the Year has been gaining interest in several other schools, including Michigan State and Iowa State. Poljan spent this weekend in Lincoln on an official visit.

    The Huskers were in the top six for Charlotte (NC) Mallard Creek tight end Thaddeus Moss prior to the start of the season, but interest from Moss has seemed to dissipate. The Huskers continue to work on him but he is a long shot at this point. A couple kids who have made unofficial visits could be candidates for a late offer. Chase Allen of Nixa (MO) visited for the BYU game and holds offers from Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa State and others. He has a similar frame to Poljan and could be a nice red zone target. Brett Shepherd is an athlete out of Buford (GA) who could potentially play tight end, outside linebacker or defensive end in college. He was in Lincoln for Nebraska's game against South Alabama. He currently holds offers from Mississippi State, Missouri, Virginia Tech, NC State, North Carolina, Virginia, Kansas State and others.

    Running Back. The Huskers already have a commitment from St. Louis (MO) Christian Brothers College star Tre Bryant. But coaches are looking to add a power back to the class and have their eyes on two prospects out of Alabama. Kingston Davis out of Prattville visited for the Michigan State game. The current Michigan commit was visited by running backs coach Reggie Davis during the first week of the recruiting contact period. Kingston considers himself "70% committed" to the Wolverines at this point. He has also visited Louisville and plans to take trips to see LSU and Florida. Davis might be able to enroll early and participate in spring for the school he chooses. Some schools want Davis as a fullback - and he could be the nations top prospect at the position, but his mind is set on playing running back.

    The Huskers have been talking with Pleasant Grove running back Brandon Simmons since the summer and he took an unofficial visit to see the Huskers play Wisconsin. He too was visited by Reggie Davis during the beginning of the recruiting contact period. Simmons has offers from Wake Forest and Purdue, along with a few FCS schools. The staff has told Simmons that if they lose out on Davis, they will give him an offer. He could also play some fullback for the Huskers.

    Prior to contributing to HuskerMax, Jeremy Pernell co-founded the all football website He served as the editor in chief of the college football portion of the website which focused heavily on recruitment and talent analysis, including the NFL Draft. You can email him at
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Huskerdenton's Avatar
      Huskerdenton -
      Why recruit offensive linemen if you only play five? Let's get some extra punters. We will need them.
    1. ShortSideOption's Avatar
      ShortSideOption -
      What a great first comment...

      Well done N2FL!
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