NFL scouts who attend Nebraska's practices and evaluate the Husker tight ends apparently are reacting the same way graduate assistant Vince Marrow once did.
Seniors Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed are the top prospects, but few leave Lincoln without asking about junior Jake Long.
“When the scouts come in, they always say, who is No. 41?” Marrow said Wednesday.
Marrow said in past interviews that he asked a similar question when he arrived in 2011. Marrow spoke Wednesday to about 250 Husker fans at the Big Red Breakfast, which was held inside the Ramada Plaza Omaha Hotel and Convention Center.
Marrow told the crowd he came to NU to help Cotton and Reed improve, while also trying to expand their skill-sets to better prepare them for the NFL.
But Long has proven to be a valuable backup — Marrow likes his speed and his hands. He has one reception in Nebraska's past seven games after catching five in the first three, but Marrow indicated that he trusts Long in any situation. And next year, when Cotton and Reed are no longer on the roster, Long projects to be the top candidate to start.
“Make no mistake about it, he's going to hold his own,” Marrow said.
There will be other potential contributors, too. True freshman Sam Cotton, the youngest brother of Ben, was probably a bit underrated during the recruiting process because schools assumed Nebraska was his eventual landing spot, according to Marrow.
But Marrow said Sam Cotton and redshirt freshman David Sutton have bright futures. Same goes for true freshman walk-on Trey Foster, a 6-foot 235-pounder who Marrow said played well during Monday's scout team scrimmage.
“The guys we've got, starting with Jake Long, I feel very confident about,” Marrow said.
Nebraska already holds a nonbinding commitment from tight end Greg Hart out of Dayton, Ohio. Another 2013 target, junior college tight end Beau Sandland, remains a top priority.
And Marrow is again playing an active role in Nebraska's recruiting strategy.
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He took over Barney Cotton's recruiting duties for a short time last spring when the veteran assistant had surgery. Graduate assistants typically can take phone calls from prospects, but they're not allowed to leave campus to evaluate or initiate contact. But NCAA rules, specifically bylaw 126.96.36.199.1.2, allow for temporary replacements on the full-time staff when there are “extenuating circumstances.”
Marrow said he's been recruiting for a few weeks now.
Other noteworthy tidbits:
Ľ Marrow played in the NFL for nine years and has a scout's mind-set, so when he evaluates Huskers, he's often quick to make comparisons to guys he played with or against. Senior I-back Rex Burkhead reminds Marrow of Emmitt Smith. And Marrow said Ameer Abdullah runs like Thurman Thomas because the sophomore I-back is a “big-play guy who doesn't go down easy.”
Ľ Marrow went out of his way to compliment cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior who Marrow said would probably be timed around 4.4 seconds in a 40-yard sprint. Marrow thinks Jean-Baptiste will be an intriguing NFL prospect. “You don't see too many corners looking like a tight end out there playing coverage man-to-man,” he said.
Ľ Marrow said he doesn't see much difference between this year's Iowa defense and the one Nebraska schemed against last season. Said Marrow: “They've got some good athletes. They're big. Their front is physical. Linebackers are very experienced.”
Ľ Junior fullback Mike Marrow, Vince's son, was injured during the Michigan game and hasn't practiced since. Mike should return next week.
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