LINCOLN — Maliek Collins chose to become the 19th and latest commit to Nebraska's 2013 recruiting class for several reasons. He liked the Huskers' tradition. He liked that coach Bo Pelini paid him a lot of personal attention on his official visit over the weekend.
But Collins — a 6-foot-2, 295-pound defensive lineman from Kansas City (Mo.) Center High School — also didn't beat around the bush about another of the top draws to NU.
“They don't have a lot of depth at the defensive tackle position,” Collins said. “I feel like I'd have to be a dummy to pass that up.”
The Huskers exited the Capital One Bowl in search of defensive tackle prospects. They picked up two commits in five days — Collins and Kevin Maurice of Orlando, Fla.
Collins, a three-star prospect according to 247Sports, Rivals and Scout, finished with 15 sacks and 46 tackles for loss this year, winning the Bobby Bell Award for the best small-school lineman or linebacker in the Kansas City area.
“He was a dominant force on about 90 percent of our plays,” said Center coach Bryan DeLong. “Good motor. Good leader.”
Good wrestler. Collins is 16-0 and ranked No. 1 in Missouri's Class 3A. He finished 49-3 last year. DeLong said he wants football players to wrestle so they learn leverage and footwork.
Collins didn't get an offer until last summer, when he attended a one-day camp in the Kansas City area. Missouri offered him on the spot, DeLong said, and possibly hoped he'd stay under the radar. But DeLong made calls to other area college coaches, telling them he had a prospect worth recruiting.
“I'm not sure they believed me,” DeLong said. Kansas, Iowa and Iowa State offered along with the Tigers.
Nebraska sent offensive line coach John Garrison to scout Collins. After that, defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski made the trip to Center.
“Real honest dude,” DeLong said. “Maliek liked that. I liked that.”
The official visit over the weekend sealed it. Collins said Pelini handled much of the recruiting trip himself.
“He was around the whole time,” said Collins, who added that he could play either tackle spot or a defensive end in a 3-4 look.
If Collins was under the radar, Maurice was practically off it. Even though he was an all-state player in Florida's highest class, the 6-foot-3, 280-pounder has just a two-star rating, and no offer from hometown Central Florida.
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Maurice said it's because he had to play offensive line as a junior because Freedom High School — where NU happened to practice before each of the last two Capital One Bowl games — was lacking at that position. When he switched back to defensive line this year, he finished with 9.5 sacks and 24 tackles for loss.
How'd NU find him? While offensive coordinator Tim Beck was scouting another Freedom prospect, wide receiver Jeff Badet, Beck saw Maurice's film, and said he'd have defensive coordinator John Papuchis evaluate it. Nebraska was interested.
“They see me as a guy who can pass rush,” Maurice said.
But, Maurice said, coaches somehow got the wrong phone number, so they couldn't contact him. Nor did he attend any of NU's practices at Freedom. Last week, NU and Maurice finally connected. The Huskers offered and Maurice accepted without waiting to see if Boston College, Kentucky or Wake Forest — three other interested schools — had more to offer.
“Nebraska's the place where I can take the next step,” Maurice said.
It won't be the place for Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College tackle Ben Bradley, a four-star prospect who told AL.com Sunday that he'd pick between Auburn and Kentucky.
“Everything was leaning toward coming back closer to home,” said Bradley, originally from the Atlanta area. “I was really looking to play SEC football.”
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