LINCOLN — In a small-but-important victory Tuesday morning over college football's dominant program, Nebraska beat out Alabama for a high-profile 2013 recruit at a position of need.
A two-part question swiftly arises: Just how good could Canada's top prospect — 6-foot-9, 305-pound offensive tackle commit David Knevel — be, and how quickly can he help an NU team that graduates its top three tackles after the 2013 season?
Ken Chisholm — Knevel's coach at Pauline Johnson Collegiate High School in Brantford, Ont. — tells a quick anecdote that may point to an answer.
Knevel attended a football camp when he was 14 years old and found himself in a 1-on-1 Oklahoma drill run by then-Buffalo Bills offensive line coach Jim McNally. Knevel initially struggled, and McNally “ripped him good,” Chisholm said. No wonder: Knevel had joined a group of 18 and 19-year-olds. You're in the wrong bunch, Chisholm told him. Let me stay, Knevel said.
“After that, he held his own,” Chisholm said.
Knevel later held his own at camps in Florida, at Wisconsin, and other schools. Missouri was one of the first teams to offer and tried to press Knevel — a three or four-star prospect, depending on the service — into a commit with a hard sell. Chisholm, suspecting more offers would follow, told his best player to wait. Knevel did. The offers came.
He took two visits to Nebraska and had the Huskers in a top group with Wisconsin and West Virginia. He dropped the Badgers when coach Bret Bielema left. And he found the Crimson Tide — which just placed two linemen on the Associated Press 2012 All-American team — making a late push. Knevel picked NU.
“It was just their people,” Knevel told Canadian TV station CTV. “They had great facilities. Everything was awesome — second to none, I believe — and yet the most amazing thing after I left was how nice everyone was. How devoted everyone was. The fans. The fellow players. The coaches. The teachers.”
“Holy mackerel, that was big,” Chisholm said of the Alabama offer. The “romantic” idea of playing for the Tide was apparently attractive to Knevel, who did not return phone calls made by The World-Herald.
“But he kept coming back to Nebraska,” Chisholm said. “And he saw the way the fans feel about the program.”
Knevel became the Huskers' first Canadian high school commit since 1999, when defensive lineman Patrick Kabongo pledged to NU. Kicker and 2000 signee Sandro DeAngelis lived on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, but he played high school football in Buffalo, N.Y. Knevel's ranked anywhere between 18th (247Sports) and 95th (Scout) as an offensive tackle prospect, but Chisholm said Knevel's upside is high; he could add another 40 pounds because of his lean body mass.
“This kid moves so well, so fluid,” Chisholm said.
Ľ NOTES: Nebraska junior-college tight end target Beau Sandland is expected to choose among Nebraska, Miami and Arizona State on Wednesday morning at Los Angeles Pierce College. Two more junior-college targets — defensive tackles Lavon Hooks and Quincy Russell — still have NU in the running for their services, as well. One day after eliminating the Huskers, Hooks confirmed to the World-Herald by text that he still has Nebraska in the running. Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn and Washington are also in his top five. Russell has narrowed his list to NU and Oklahoma.
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