LINCOLN — By Tuesday, Ross Els' voice had found that familiar rasp, produced by hours of coaching football.
Nebraska's recruiting coordinator called for a group of ninth- and 10th-graders — dozens of different-colored helmets with every manner of decal, including Millard North's plain gray and Ralston's take on a Ram logo — to line up on the sideline for a drill. One wave of players, then another.
“Let's go!” Els said, weaving through the drill, watching. Most of the players who attended NU's Big Red Football School on Tuesday aren't fielding Husker offers, but the hands-on approach at the camp typically means the assistant coaches don't take the pedal off the gas in their styles — unless it was a scheduled water break, during which most players and coaches caught a breather near midfield of the Hawks Center.
Amid the crowd of high school hopefuls — who will work out through Wednesday as a new batch of players arrives that day — coach Bo Pelini and staff look for players who could earn a scholarship or walk-on offer. Size, speed and athleticism are the right place to start. They search for more, too.
“Competitiveness,” Els said in an interview last week. “Does he work hard? Does he win every rep? Or is it drudgery for him? Because it's a long day that you go through.”
Millard West defensive end Harrison Phillips had a competitive, head-spinning day. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound line prospect with offers from Duke and Kansas State, among others, worked out at five positions Tuesday: defensive end, defensive tackle, tight end, center and guard.
Phillips went from lining up against newest Husker commit Tanner Farmer to working against cornerbacks in one-on-one passing drills. Phillips said he got 30 repetitions at each station.
“Wow — it was a great camp,” Phillips said in a phone interview after his one day in Lincoln. “Nebraska did a great job of running it.”
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NU didn't offer, but Phillips said that Pelini was “impressed” by what he saw. Phillips and Farmer squared off 15 times, both players said, with several close battles.
“A lot of them were draws,” said Farmer, who was coming off a long series of camps and the travel that comes with it.
Said Phillips: “We were about dead even.”
Phillips will head to Kansas State's football camp this weekend before spending a week at Stanford, where he also hopes to earn an offer. Phillips said he's had conversations with UCLA, a 2013 NU opponent, as well.
Phillips said he was “excited” by the feedback Pelini and other coaches gave him. Talking generally about prospects, Els said NU coaches usually don't extend scholarship offers in camp, instead waiting until after to discuss specific players. That fit with the perspective of Phillips, who said Nebraska would get back to him in two weeks with an update.
“It's a lot better than being asked just to walk on or wait until after my senior season,” Phillips said. “So it's good news.”
>> NOTES: Other FCS- or FBS-level prospects at camp Tuesday were 6-0, 196-pound Lincoln Northeast corner Makiah Slade and three-star, Chicago-area corner Julian Hylton. Three-star Omaha Burke cornerback Trey Carr and three-star Gretna defensive end Mick Stoltenberg will head to Lincoln later this week.
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