LINCOLN — Nebraska’s latest running back commit is “built like a Ninja Turtle.” Small waist. Big thighs. Lots of power and speed. And Garden City (Kan.) Community College running back Dedrick Mills also “oozes a love for football,” said his coach, Jeff Sims.
Pretty good combination. Sims has seen it before in the 49 players he’s sent to the NFL. He’s seen it, too, in the four players he sent to Nebraska during the Bo Pelini era — Brandon Kinnie, Jermarcus Hardrick, Lavonte David and Stanley Jean-Baptiste. David and Jean-Baptiste have had fruitful NFL careers. Sims thinks the 5-foot-10, 227-pound Mills can as well.
“The thing Dedrick has in common with Lavonte David is their love of football,” said Sims, citing perhaps Nebraska’s best player in the Big Ten era.
Those 267 rushing yards Mills had in the first game of Garden City’s season on Saturday didn’t hurt, either. That performance had schools nationwide calling Sims to inquire and offer scholarships.
Nebraska was ahead of the curve. Sims has had a long relationship with NU and even accompanied several Garden City players, including Mills, to the 2018 Husker spring game. He also has a friendship with Husker outside linebackers coach Jovan Dewitt, with whom Sims worked at Florida Atlantic under then-coach Carl Pelini. Whereas Sims has to talk to several layers of staff at other schools, he has a direct line to Dewitt. Mutual trust, too. That’s why Dewitt was able to land Mike Hughes, now in the NFL, for Central Florida in 2017.
That’s why Nebraska was close to the top for Mills, a three-star running back out of Waycross, Georgia, who ran for 771 yards at Georgia Tech as a freshman in 2016. Mills was dismissed in 2017 for violating the Yellow Jackets’ substance abuse policy. Georgia Tech has since adjusted its policy.
Sims said Mills, who missed almost all of Garden City’s 2017 season with a broken collarbone, deserves a “second chance.” Nebraska’s giving it and, in return, getting a running back with NFL potential.
“He’s going to be an impact football player,” Sims said.
Mills is a three-star recruit for the 2019 class according to 247Sports. He joins a crowded Husker backfield for 2019 with two years of eligibility. He becomes the 16th commit in the 2019 class and the third running back, joining high school runners Ronald Thompkins of Loganville, Georgia, and Rahmir Johnson of Oradell, New Jersey.
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Wandale Robinson, a four-star prospect, flipped his commitment from Kentucky to the Huskers. The 5-foot-9, 179-pound running back put up staggering stats as a high school senior. He rushed for 1,973 yards (9.6 per carry) and 30 touchdowns while making 31 catches for 725 and 11 scores. He accounted for 45 total touchdowns in 11 games and was his team's best defender with 119 tackles (12 for loss), three interceptions and six forced fumbles.
Adrian Martinez, Scott Frost's first quarterback recruit, amassed 3,869 total yards and 41 total touchdowns as a junior at Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West. “He’ll really excel in it, because he processes information very quickly. In that offense, it’s a lot of decisions, knowing when to pull the ball or keep it, and Adrian is really good with that,” Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West coach George Petrissans said of Rivals' 98th ranked player nationally.
Tyjon Lindsey, a unanimous four-star prospect, appeared at Nebraska’s Friday Night Lights camp and wowed onlooking fans with his speed. In three years at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) High School, Lindsey, Rivals' 62nd ranked player nationally and No. 9 wide receiver prospect, caught 84 passes for 2,126 yards — a 25.3-yard average — and 31 touchdowns.
Mike Riley’s California roots came in handy with Lamar Jackson, right, as the Huskers secured a commitment from the state’s No. 13 player the day before national signing day. Jackson was a consensus four-star prospect and Rivals' 76th-ranked player nationally. He was also the highest-rated prospect from California that NU has signed since at least 2002, as far back as the recruiting rankings go.
Eric Lee, a consensus four-star cornerback, committed to the Huskers from Highlands Ranch (Colorado) Valor Christian as Rivals' 119th-ranked player nationally and the No. 1 prospect from Colorado.
Highland (Ill.) High School offensive lineman Tanner Farmer was Rivals' 82nd-ranked player and a four-star by most recruiting services. Farmer developed into a key cog on NU's offensive line.
Terrell Newby was a consensus four-star running back out of Los Angeles Chaminade High School and Rivals' 75th-ranked player nationally. Newby rushed for 2,239 yards in his career, finishing 23rd on Nebraska's career rushing list.
Paul Thurston came to the Huskers as a consensus four-star recruit and Rivals' 147th-ranked player nationally, but played a limited role on the offensive line. Thurston stepped in for Ryne Reeves in the Foster Farms Bowl and helped NU rush for 326 yards against UCLA. He transferred to Colorado State for his senior season.
Aaron Green picked NU over Texas, Florida State and California and was Rivals' No. 61 player overall. Green had 105 rushing yards while backing up Rex Burkhead as a true freshman, but transferred to TCU before his sophomore season.
Andrew Rodriguez, from Aurora, was a four-star recruit and the 183rd-ranked player, according to Rivals. Rodriguez was a mainstay on the offensive line throughout his NU career, consistently showing the versatility to play multiple positions. He received All-Big Ten honorable mention for his play in 2013, when Ameer Abdullah rushed for 1,690 yards, the most by a Husker since 1997. I-Back Braylon Heard was Rivals' No. 57 player overall, but didn't qualify academically.
Cody Green, a four-star recruit, was Rivals' No. 173 ranked player and became NU's first true freshman quarterback to start since Tommie Frazier in 1992. Green threw for 340 yards and three scores while backing up Taylor Martinez as a sophomore, but transferred to Tulsa after the season.
Baker Steinkuhler, a five-star offensive lineman from Lincoln Southwest, was Rivals’ No. 8 player. His father, Dean, won the 1983 Outland Trophy. However, Baker Steinkuhler moved to the defensive line and became a Blackshirt, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior.
Niles Paul was Rivals’ 73rd-ranked player nationally and a four-star wide receiver out of Omaha North. When he finished his career, Paul’s career total of 4,122 all-purpose yards ranked fifth at Nebraska.
Rickey Thenarse, a four-star recruit, was Rivals' No. 239 player and picked NU over USC, UCLA, California, Colorado, Fresno State, Oregon and Washington. Thenarse ended his Husker career with 106 total tackles and three interceptions. He had a blocked punt in the Gator Bowl win over Clemson.
Marlon Lucky, a five-star running back from California, was Rivals' No. 13th-ranked player nationally. Lucky finished his Husker career as one of the most productive all-purpose players in NU history and his 75 receptions in 2007 is a Nebraska single-season record. After his senior season, Lucky's 4,214 career all-purpose yards ranked fourth in school history.
Rivals' 42nd-ranked player nationally, Lydon Murtha — a four-star offensive lineman — was a fixture for the Huskers' line despite being hampered by injuries. He earned All-Big 12 honorable mention for his role in 2008, helping Nebraska average more than 210 rushing yards per game over the second half of the season and score 30 or more points 10 times.
A four-star recruit, Bo Ruud was Rivals' No. 10 ranked linebacker in 2003. Ruud earned first team All-Big 12 honors in 2006 and finished his career 22nd among Nebraska's career tackle leaders with 216. He finished with six career fumbles forced, four fumble recoveries and five interceptions. Ruud returned three of his picks for a touchdown and his 93-yard return against Iowa State is a record for Husker linebackers.
David Horne, a four-star running back from Omaha Central, was Rivals 78th-ranked player nationally and earned first-team All-Nebraska honors from The World-Herald. Horne picked NU over Colorado, Michigan, Notre Dame, Iowa and Iowa State and flashed potential as a true freshman, rushing for 651 yards, the fourth-best total ever by a Husker freshman. However, he was dismissed from the team after his junior year for a violation of team rules.