AT A GRUBBY TRUCK STOP THAT TIME FORGOT, CENTRAL MISSOURI — And I’m doing what the usual American man a few months shy of 40 would do when waiting for the restroom.
I’m checking my Twitter feed.
Really, I don’t think enough history books have been written about the men and women who built cellphone towers all over America.
How else would I know 2018 receiver Cameron Brown announced his decommitment from Nebraska on Twitter 20 seconds after he did so?
And how would you, on a random Saturday evening, argue on my Twitter feed about why he did?
It was that same Internet magic that informed fans that Brown — a speedster from St. Louis Christian Brothers College High School — visited Ohio State on Friday. He got a scholarship offer from the Buckeyes.
Brown camped at OSU right as NU went to the St. Louis area for its satellite camp. There weren’t any 2018 prospects of note at the Lindenwood University event, but Nebraska wouldn’t have minded if Brown made an appearance.
In his absence, the three-star receiver — he’s underrated, as the OSU, Alabama and Georgia offers would suggest — did make an appearance, so to speak.
He dulled, just a tad, what coach Mike Riley deemed a successful week of satellite camps. NU’s staff was in full force at seven stops, five of which were camps sponsored by Adidas in Texas, Georgia and Florida. Those camps in Florida — held at Florida Atlantic and Florida International — caught Riley’s attention for their abundance of talent.
“Probably Florida — more than anywhere else — is where we found some new names,” Riley said. “As much as it’s recruited — and some say over-recruited — I don’t know if that’s true, you know? There’s a lot of guys who can run. Good-looking athletes. I’ve been down there before — and I was impressed — but I don’t know if it ever hit me like it did than we did the two camps in the Miami area.”
Nebraska has been fairly active in the Miami area the last two cycles, landing DiCaprio Bootle in the 2016 class and Guy Thomas and Willie Hampton in the 2017 class.
It’s a terrific year in the Miami metro area for the 2018 class, especially at the skill positions. But the hometown Hurricanes have already vacuumed up some of the best players, which is why coach Mark Richt’s team has the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports Composite service. On top of that, FAU (Lane Kiffin) and FIU (Butch Davis) have aggressive, established recruiters. Florida State, Florida, South Florida and Central Florida get their share, too. And Alabama.
Can the Huskers find a Sunshine State gem?
“There are guys who were really, really impressive athletically who weren’t necessarily at the top of the recruiting boards,” Riley said.
While athleticism doesn’t always translate to a good football player, there are, Riley said, athletic “common denominators” among running backs, receivers, linebackers and defensive backs that help his staff sort the best from the mediocre.
At Lindenwood, it was pretty clear who were tops in terms of athletes — most of them came from Trinity Catholic, wearing gray shirts with a giant T on them. The T was flanked by a smaller C and H — like the Texas A&M logo.
Nebraska had to like what it saw out of 2019 receivers Marcus Washington and Isaiah Williams. The latter is a speedy, quick-cutting type who could play in the slot, while Washington is lanky and long-striding. NU needs more big receivers than it does speedy slot types, so Washington got more of my attention. Ditto for Parkway North’s CJ Boone, who needs to put on some weight — and maybe wear some stickier cleats — but has potential with his 6-foot-3 frame.
Given the time Nebraska linebackers coach Trent Bray spent with 2019 Trinity Catholic’s Shammond Cooper, he looks to be a potential priority for next cycle. Cooper is a natural, fluid athlete. Unassuming, low-key kid, too.
It wasn’t a talent-in-bulk event — its proximity to Nebraska’s Friday Night Lights camps may be part of the reason — but NU isn’t looking for seven commits out of St. Louis. It wants one or two per cycle.
Which is why Brown’s decommit hurts. He had been a stake in the ground of this 2018 recruiting cycle. Now, NU has to decide whether it wants to go after Brown again, or let him bounce and pursue other wideouts on its deep, well-cultivated board.
If “bounce” is your choice, just remember: Nebraska has finished one wideout short in the 2016 and 2017 classes. Right now, NU has two receiver commits in its 2018 class — Manuel Allen and Eric Fuller — but Fuller committed to Nebraska sight unseen. He hasn’t been active on social media or talked to the media recently.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Fuller is out — Hampton and Thomas did the same last spring/summer and ultimately signed with Nebraska — but don’t count him as automatic.
The X factor in this conversation isn’t a coach or a prospect, but a current Husker: Tanner Lee. If Lee becomes the quarterback NU coaches think he can be, know this: He’ll be a good player recruiter.
Nebraska needs to use him as an asset at the FNL events. Freshman Tristan Gebbia, too. Both have that laid-back-but-quietly-intense vibe that works for quarterbacks.
The kinds of receivers Riley and position coach Keith Williams want? Those guys need to see a quarterback who can deliver them the ball. The Huskers landed Tyjon Lindsey — the subject of Evan Bland’s Sunday World-Herald profile — through sheer recruiting craft and good salesman skills. But an elite passer would help.
Maybe Lee’s that guy.