LINCOLN — One of the defining images from last year’s Nebraska spring game washout was former Husker running back Rex Burkhead, in pads, darting from the locker room to NU’s Student Life Complex underneath Memorial Stadium.
Nebraska coaches, unable to show visiting prospects the game itself, ostensibly wanted Burkhead to meet and chat with a few recruits. Perhaps it worked; among the players who visited for the thunderstorms, linebacker Courtney Love and defensive end A.J. Natter eventually committed for the 2013 class.
Naturally, NU recruiting coordinator Ross Els won’t mind showing the whole Red-White game package on Saturday. And the Huskers will have a sparkling day — baseball-cap-and-cargo-shorts weather! — in which to do it.
“Instead of ‘The Experience Room’ video, we’ll get to show them what it’s really like,” Els said. “There aren’t very many venues that will have that kind of crowd.”
If you’re at the game Saturday — or watching on the Big Ten Network — you’ll see a good crowd of kids in a corner of the east sideline. Those are the unofficial visitors — a melange of walk-on prospects, recruits on the verge of an offer and highly coveted targets. Els expects 10 of those guys, the composition of which is fluid until, well, roughly the hour you’re reading this.
But here’s an expected list of 10 notables, as compiled by local recruiting services representing Rivals, 247Sports and Scout:
>> Lincoln Southeast guard D.J. Foster: The biggest prospect — literally, figuratively — lives right down the road. You probably know the story here: Foster’s older brother, Trey, is a walk-on at NU, several of Foster’s high school teammates are on the team, and yet the 6-foot-3, 330-pound D.J. Foster has offers from Florida and Georgia to mull, too.
>> Lee’s Summit (Mo.) linebacker Jimmie Swain: A legitimate 6-3, 215 pounds, Swain tracks well, sheds blocks and stays low on tackles. He could be a hybrid guy in 3-4 looks. He told Rivals Thursday that his top three are TCU, Michigan State and Kansas State. Saturday could change that.
>> Victoria (Minn.) offensive tackle Frank Ragnow: The 6-6, 285-pounder doesn’t have a Husker offer yet, but he’s bound for one. He’s impressively indelicate in the way he leeches on to a defensive end and drives him into the dirt. Needs polish, but he’s good clay.
>> Hartland (Wis.) defensive end Billy Hirschfeld: At 6-6, 270 pounds, he could play a 3-4 end — as he does in high school — or slide in to tackle. Not a speed guy, but a power pocket pusher. Wisconsin and Michigan State have offered.
>> Phoenix Mountain Pointe cornerback Dominique Fenstermacher: At 5-10, 175 pounds, he doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of NU corners under Bo Pelini. But neither did Alfonzo Dennard, and he was the best Pelini’s coached. So, presumably, Fenstermacher can jump out of the gym. Nebraska knows this kid’s game; he played at Marcos De Niza High School with Priest Willis, an NU target who ended up signing with UCLA.
>> Lee’s Summit (Mo.) West wide receiver Monte Harrison: The 6-3, 190-pound football/baseball prospect already visited Lincoln for junior day.
>> Lee’s Summit (Mo.) West offensive tackle Kevin Pendleton: Harrison’s teammate. No NU offer yet for this 6-5, 310-pounder.
>> Lee’s Summit (Mo.) West cornerback Logan Cheadle: Another of Harrison’s teammates. The 5-10, 165-pounder has offers from Iowa State and Missouri. NU evaluates this week.
>> Papillion-La Vista athlete Kenzo Cotton: The fastest kid in the state has a Kansas State offer. He hasn’t quite proven on a high school football field that he can make the transition to college. And as fast as Cotton is, a college track scholarship inevitably awaits.
>> Stilwell, Kan., linebacker Henry McGrew: Fiery and instinctive at 6-3, 215 pounds. Probably takes too many chances as a linebacker, but when he guesses right ... it’s probably why he has an offer from Illinois. No offer from Nebraska. Junior day visitor.
Hitting the road
After today’s game, Nebraska will have one week to review spring practice and prep itself to hit the road for the spring evaluation period that starts April 15 and runs through May 31. Many teams hold their spring game one day before the evaluation period starts. Els prefers having the week.
“It’s hard to scrimmage on Saturday and be on the road Sunday night,” Els said. “That’s a quick transition.”
Look for Nebraska coaches to evaluate for three weeks and then meet to regroup and review what they’ve seen. Els said it’s the first year NU will try the approach.
“You go out for three weeks, and you learn things,” Els said. “‘This kid, I don’t like him, this kid I really like.’”
In recent years, offensive coordinator Tim Beck has used some of that evaluation period to hunt down additional quarterback prospects. He found 2012 signee Tommy Armstrong that way.
Beck’s already been active in offering quarterbacks — even guys off the radar. Middletown (Del.) signal-caller Darius Wade made an unofficial visit to Lincoln March 29 and liked it. A few days later, the 6-2, 190-pounder trekked to Ohio State, and told Rivals he may camp there.
Recruitniks are fired up most by an offer to Bossier City (La.) quarterback Brandon Harris. The 6-3, 190-pounder threw for 2,673 yards and 26 touchdowns last year. Highlights on Hudl clearly show Harris has the arm — even if the delivery varies from sidearm sling to a shortstop’s motion on quick out throws. He’s a long-striding runner, too.
Along with Nebraska, Arkansas, Arizona State, Houston, Indiana and North Carolina have offered Harris. Spread offenses. Look for Texas A&M to take a long look, too. And, of course, LSU’s right there, waiting.
My perfectly amateur opinion? Nico Pierre is still the best prospect NU’s offered at quarterback. Apopka, Fla., quarterback Zack Darlington — who visited the Huskers during the Capital One Bowl practice — is probably the most seamless fit. Harris has height on his side — which reduces some of the concerns about his motion. Wade could end up being the guy, though.
Contact the writer:
402-202-9766, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/swmckewonOWH