Kaden Johnson has become a priority for Nebraska — at possibly the Huskers' biggest position of need

Four-star outside linebacker Kaden Johnson saw enough on a brief unofficial visit to Lincoln to put Nebraska among his top five schools.

LINCOLN — Kaden Johnson isn’t sure what the record is for shortest unofficial visit. But his trip to Nebraska might be near the top.

The outside linebacker and top-rated overall prospect from Minnesota in the 2020 class has had workouts longer than the time he spent on campus last spring. Passing through with his 7-on-7 team, he squeezed in a conversation with coach Scott Frost and a few assistants while watching part of practice inside the Hawks Center.

But the four-star recruit saw enough in Lincoln to put the Huskers among his top five schools. And that hasn’t changed, he told The World-Herald, with recruiting season set to resume in earnest next month.

“The 30 minutes I was there, I got a great vibe with all the coaches and players,” he said.

Johnson, the oldest child of two accountants, is taking a calculated approach to his recruiting process. He took his first official visit to Wisconsin over the summer, playing Jenga and pingpong at coach Paul Chryst’s house. He’s taken unofficial visits to Minnesota, which is only a couple of miles from his high school at Minnehaha Academy. Official trips to Nebraska, Oregon State, Michigan State and maybe Vanderbilt are in the works.

NU is prioritizing the 6-foot-4, 220-pound pass rusher enough that Frost himself has been his main contact. The Huskers already have commitments from the top-rated recruits in Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota, according to the 247Sports composite. And linebacker Blaise Gunnerson, from Carroll, Iowa, is No. 3 in his state.

“They just have always been in contact with me, showing crazy amounts of love,” Johnson said of the Huskers. “It’s just gone real well. They see me at strong outside linebacker. And I can see myself there, too, for sure.”

Johnson was a force off the edge last season, making 76 tackles, including 22 for loss (8.5 sacks). He served as a go-to receiver when necessary, catching 14 passes for 356 yards (25.4 per catch) and five touchdowns to help his team win a state championship. He’s also won three state basketball titles alongside five-star combo guard Jalen Suggs.

Football coach Chris Goodwin said Johnson can thrive dropping into coverage or rushing the passer. He had a sack on a key third-and-5 play in the title game last year and added more moves in the offseason. A quick first step keeps most blockers off balance.

“He can bend his body,” Goodwin said. “He bends around the edges, bends inside. He has good flexibility to make those kind of plays, and with his long arms he can make tackles other guys can’t.”

Johnson said he’s aware of the Minnesota prep talent that has migrated to Nebraska. Husker receiver JD Spielman (2016 class), linebacker David Alston (2018) and offensive lineman Bryce Benhart (2019) are all Minnesotans. The 2020 target could follow suit — and at perhaps the Huskers’ biggest position of need.

“Everything is kind of open for every school that’s in contact with me,” Johnson said. “I don’t plan on committing anytime soon, but if that school with that right vibe (comes) I’ll probably make that decision.”

Other recruiting notes

  • Nebraska’s allotment of official visits reset to 56 on Aug. 1 as it looks to build on an eight-player recruiting class ranked 62nd nationally according to 247Sports. The Huskers didn’t have any leftover official visits from the previous cycle after using their final 11 on 2020 targets during the summer.

Of those 11 official visitors, three were current NU verbal pledges in defensive lineman Nash Hutmacher (Chamberlain, S.D.), Gunnerson (Carroll Kuemper) and cornerback Tamon Lynum (Orlando, Fla.).

  • Uncommitted Husker targets who already officially visited are running back Marvin Scott (Port Orange, Fla.), running back Sevion Morrison (Tulsa, Okla.), linebacker Choe Bryant-Strother (Norcross, Ga.) and junior college wideout Omar Manning from Kilgore College in Texas.

Morrison has set a commitment date of Aug. 21, which could be good news for Nebraska. The speedy three-star prospect — with offers from the likes of Washington, Baylor and Arkansas — hasn’t made any other official visits.

  • August is a dead period on the NCAA recruiting calendar, but official visits are still being scheduled. Nebraska has roughly a dozen locked in, according to recruiting reports and World-Herald confirmations.

The Ohio State game Sept. 28 is clearly the top draw. Three-star cornerback Kendrick Simpkins (Montgomery, Ala.) will be there after recently naming NU in his top three along with Colorado and Florida Atlantic. Other targets include three-star safety Javar Strong (Cherokee, Alabama) and unrated O-lineman Chandler Durham (McDonough, Ga.).

One headliner will be four-star cornerback Darion Green-Warren (Harbor City, Calif.), who has Nebraska among his top six. At least two current Husker commits will be on their official visits that day in quarterback Logan Smothers (Athens, Ala.) and offensive lineman Turner Corcoran (Lawrence, Kansas).

At least three targets are on track to visit for the Northern Illinois game Sept. 14: four-star linebacker Devyn Curtis (Nashville, Tennessee), three-star athlete Jaquan Randolph (Lakeland, Florida) and three-star defensive end Tuli Tuipulotu (Lawndale, Calif.). Three-star tight end Donavon Johnson (Garland, Tex.) told The World-Herald he’s looking at coming the same weekend or for the Aug. 31 opener against South Alabama.

  • Others to watch for early official visits include three linebacker prospects: Caleb McCullough (Oxnard, Calif.), Mister Williams (Westlake Village, Calif.) and Chris Jones (Coconut Creek, Fla).
  • Cornerback Brian George put Nebraska among his top 10 last week, keeping the Huskers in the running for one of the top uncommitted junior college prospects in the cycle. George is a former teammate of NU line pledge Jahkeem Green at Highland (Kan.) C.C. and told The World-Herald last spring he would “likely” be in Lincoln for an official visit this fall. He plans to make a decision after the season amid fierce competition.

Evan Bland covers Nebraska football, baseball and other sports for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @EvanBlandOWH.

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