LINCOLN — The signing day surprise for Nebraska’s 2016 recruiting class turned out to be a Norfolk Catholic three-sport star who has been going to Husker games all his life and never thought that dream offer would come his way.
But Monday night, as he was at basketball practice, David Engelhaupt missed a call from Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf, who left a message. When Engelhaupt called Langsdorf back, he was in a perfectly ordinary place that he’ll probably never forget. He also got that Husker offer.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Engelhaupt attended one of Nebraska’s Friday Night Lights camps last June — and did well — but had long been committed to Wyoming and had accepted that he wasn’t going to Nebraska. He was ready to play defense for the Cowboys. Instead, he’ll play tight end and H-back for the Huskers. He became NU’s 20th commit on Tuesday. Top 100 prospect Lamar Jackson became the 21st a few hours later.
Jackson announced his decision with a two-minute, slickly produced video on Bleacher Report. He’ll be a primary topic of conversation among reporters when coach Mike Riley unveils his recruiting class at a 2:30 p.m. press conference inside Memorial Stadium. Riley will also be on a Nebraska-produced Internet show that starts early in the morning and continues throughout the day.
Engelhaupt, meanwhile, posted a Nebraska logo on Twitter. He made his decision late Monday after talking to friends and family. He has attended Nebraska football games as long as he can remember. His favorite Husker was linebacker Lavonte David. As he talked in a phone interview Tuesday, his voice still had that quaver of joy in it.
“I was just surprised,” he said of the late offer. He hadn’t even spoken to Riley yet. “I was just taken aback by the whole thing.”
In his conversations with Langsdorf, Engelhaupt said, it was clear that a scholarship had opened up when “a few people weren’t coming to Nebraska.” One was likely Desmond Fitzpatrick, the four-star wideout from Waterford, Michigan, who on Monday stunningly switched from being an NU silent commit since December back to Louisville, a school he’d committed to nearly a year ago. The move took recruiting analysts and likely Nebraska coaches by considerable surprise.
That opened the door for Engelhaupt, who said he’ll be an H-back at Nebraska, or a combination of roles manned by Cethan Carter and Andy Janovich in 2015. At Norfolk Catholic, Engelhaupt played running back, defensive end and even a little linebacker. He broke the school record with 36 touchdowns.
“He was great for us on both sides of the ball,” said Norfolk Catholic coach Jeff Bellar, whose program has won three Class C-1 state titles in the last six years. “He has great hands, and he has great burst. He really gets off the line of scrimmage well. And he’s a great kid. Great family.”
Engelhaupt’s speed — he runs roughly a 4.6-second 40-yard dash — certainly doesn’t hurt for a guy his size. In his Hudl highlight video, Engelhaupt is frequently seen running away from defenders.
At tight end/H-back, Engelhaupt fits a need inside the Riley/Langsdorf offense. NU tried and failed to land two other in-state tight ends. Jared Bubak is going to Arizona State and Noah Fant is signing with Iowa. Engelhaupt’s frame more closely fits that of a tight end right now.
His likely role? “Taking handoffs, catching a few passes and blocking,” he said. “That sounds like a lot of fun.”
For Nebraska fans, signing day is invariably fun — snowbound as it might be. The Huskers should sign a top 25 class according to most recruiting services, and it should include at least 21 members, after Olathe (Kansas) North athlete Isaiah Simmons picked Clemson over Nebraska and Michigan in a late afternoon announcement.
There could have been a 22nd member in the class if running back Beau Bisharat — from Jesuit High School in Carmichael, California — were to pick the Huskers on signing day sight unseen. But Bisharat announced late Tuesday night that he had committed to Colorado. He decommitted from Stanford in mid-January and visited Arizona State on Jan. 22.
“Nebraska wants me to sign on Wednesday, but I’ve never even been there,” he told Huskers Illustrated. “They basically said to sign and then take a visit a week later. It’s hard to sign somewhere I’ve never been, and I’ve only known the coaching staff for a week.”
Bisharat, a four-star prospect according to Rivals, Scout and 247Sports’ Composite service, had offers from NU, ASU, CU, California and West Virginia, among other schools. He posted three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons at Jesuit, which operates a split-back offense.
Riley will deliver a class rich in skill talent, with questions at a few spots:
» NU’s defensive backs class — which includes Jackson, safety Marquel Dismuke of Calabasas, California, safety Tony Butler of Lakewood, Ohio, and cornerback DiCaprio Bootle of Miami — is among the best in recent years. All four have the ability to play cornerback — Bootle played there exclusively in high school — while Jackson and Dismuke, both four-star prospects, project as immediate impact athletes as freshmen on special teams and perhaps on defense. A linebacker commit, JoJo Domann of Colorado Springs, could also play safety.
» A four-man offensive line class from the 500-mile radius that represents the players NU coveted most in the region. Sioux Falls (South Dakota) Washington tackle Matt Farniok and West Des Moines Valley center John Raridon are both four-star prospects according to several recruiting services, while Bryan Brokop of New Lenox, Illinois, and Boe Wilson of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, project to guard. Wilson was an Under Armour All-American, while Raridon and Farniok were both U.S. Army All-Americans.
» Quarterback Patrick O’Brien is already quietly drawing praise inside the Nebraska football offices. The four-star prospect from San Juan Capistrano, California, enrolled early and intends to compete immediately for the starting job.
» Standout talent at running back and wideout, regardless of Fitzpatrick’s and Simmons’ decisions to attend ACC schools. Slot Derrion Grim of Stockton, California, caught 96 passes for 1,928 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior; he’s already enrolled. JD Spielman of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, was Mr. Football in his state after a standout year in which he scored touchdowns rushing, receiving and on kick, punt and interception returns. At running back, NU landed St. Louis Christian Brothers standout Tre Bryant, who averaged 10.4 yards per carry and 17 yards per catch en route to 23 touchdowns. Bryant also posted the nation’s No. 11 testing score at Nike’s national camps. He had a vertical jump of 38 inches and a 40-yard dash time of 4.53 seconds.
» The defensive line class — Ben Stille of Ashland-Greenwood and Collin Miller of Fishers, Indiana, is smaller than Nebraska coaches had probably sought, since NU had combed the junior college ranks looking for more but didn’t land anyone it wanted. Nebraska similarly rifled through several options at tight end, striking out on several until Engelhaupt.
NU’s loss on a few other guys becomes Engelhaupt’s gain. He’ll also have quite a story to tell of how he learned of the offer.
After Engelhaupt went to the locker room to check his phone, he listened to Langsdorf’s message. He drove to a Casey’s gas station. There, in the mini-mart, Engelhaupt called back Langsdorf and learned of his offer to Nebraska. He also bought Doritos. Nacho cheese. Those must have been about the best-tasting bag of Doritos Engelhaupt ever had.
He called his dad, Dave. They’d attended many Nebraska games together.
“He was pretty excited,” David Engelhaupt said.
Husker dads usually are. There will be several new ones on Wednesday.
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