LINCOLN — As Nebraska football’s new coaching staff prepares for its biggest recruiting weekend of its still-young tenure, the goal is clear: The Huskers want players who committed during the Bo Pelini era — and guys who are still looking at NU — to get more comfortable with the coaching staff that Mike Riley has now finalized with the hiring of Keith Williams.
“I think the biggest thing is selling our staff,” said Andy Vaughn, the Huskers’ director of football and recruiting operations. “That’s what it’s about — the relationship part of it. That’s what holds guys in. That’s what gets guys to really buy in to your program, is the relationship part of it.”
Said Ryan Gunderson, director of player personnel: “All these guys have been on campus — there’s a few that haven’t — but they know this place. A lot of these kids know this place better than we do. They could give us the tour. It’s being around us. It’s building trust. These kids — they’re looking for someone they can trust, or their parents are looking for someone they can trust with their children.”
“What we hope to accomplish is to meet the complete coaching staff and just feel comfortable with all the changes that have happened,” said Tracy Davis via text. “Before signing day, we just need to be reassured that we still made the best decision about Nebraska.”
Four-star prospects according to various recruiting services, the Davis twins — both 6-foot-3 and around 270 pounds — were bombarded with attention after Nebraska fired Bo Pelini. Missouri has tried several times to convince the Blue Springs, Missouri, stars to visit Columbia. They actually made a plan to do so Jan. 30 until a phalanx of Nebraska defensive coaches — including coordinator Mark Banker — persuaded them to cancel.
Tracy Davis is also interested in seeing Nebraska’s track and field facilities. Carlos and Khalil were among the nation’s best high school discus throwers last year and traveled during the summer competing in major events instead of attending football camps.
As of Thursday afternoon, several more current commits are scheduled to visit this weekend to meet the full staff. Although visit lists can be fluid, the most likely attendees among current commits are:
Omaha North offensive guard Michael Decker: The 6-foot-4, 275-pound three-star is considered the state’s top overall prospect by Scout and ESPN, and he helped pave the way for the Vikings’ back-to-back state titles and dominant running game.
Omaha Central defensive end DaiShon Neal: At 6-foot-7, 255 pounds, Neal has the frame indicative of top defensive ends in college football. As such, he’s received several late-in-the-game offers, including those from Oklahoma, where he visited Jan. 16, and Iowa. Michigan appears to be in the mix. Neal is the top prospect in the state according to Rivals and 247 Sports.
Sachse, Texas, running back Devine Ozigbo: Committed to Nebraska sight-unseen after he got an offer right at the end of the dead period. The 5-foot-11, 225-pound three-star played in a pass-first offense but has one-cut-and-go skills as a runner.
New Orleans Edna Karr linebacker Tyrin Ferguson: He flipped from Oregon State shortly after Riley took the job at Nebraska and brought linebackers coach Trent Bray with him. Ferguson, a late bloomer, is a 6-foot-3, 210-pound three-star who had a limited list of offers.
Baldwin City, Kansas, offensive tackle Christian Gaylord: The 6-foot-6, 275-pounder committed to Nebraska near signing day last year and hasn’t wavered much in that decision. Gaylord is a four-star according to 247 Sports and a high three-star according to other services.
Among the uncommitted prospects:
South Carolina linebacker Kaiwan Lewis: A 6-foot, 228-pounder who intends to graduate from USC and transfer with one year of eligibility left, Lewis could give immediate relief to the Huskers’ depth issues at linebacker. He’s also considering Rutgers. Lewis was visited by Riley this week.
“Really everything,” Lewis said via text when asked what he was looking at with Nebraska. “I’ve never been to Nebraska and I don’t know anything about the area or school besides the coaches.”
NU only has five scholarship linebackers in the program. One of them, Dedrick Young, just enrolled. Two more, Michael Rose-Ivey and David Santos, will be coming off major surgery. A fourth, Marcus Newby, was hampered for much of 2014.
Loganville, Georgia, linebacker Mohamed Barry: A Kansas State commit from the Atlanta area, Barry is down to three schools: the Wildcats, Nebraska and Miami (Florida). Barry visited Miami last week. The 6-foot-1 210-pounder was previously committed to Wisconsin.
Spring, Texas, cornerback Willie Sykes: NU wants to add one more defensive back to the class, and the 6-foot, 185-pound Sykes — a two-star according to Rivals and Scout and a three-star according to ESPN and 247 Sports — may fit the bill. Sykes, from the Houston area, committed to Washington State but is still scheduled to make a visit.
Among 2016 committed prospects:
Lincoln Christian tight end Jared Bubak: The top in-state prospect for 2016 could fit in well with Riley’s new offense. At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, Bubak has played a variety of positions for Lincoln Christian.
Des Moines offensive lineman John Raridon: A top-100 prospect, Raridon is also a Husker legacy — his dad, Scott, played for the Huskers — and one of the best-rated players in the Midwest.
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