Nebraska opened its June camp season with its first of three Friday Night Lights camps.
NU coach Mike Riley said after the camp Friday night that this FNL camp was an add-on to the June 17 and June 24 events, in part because the Huskers had originally planned to hit more satellite camps with more staff members. Instead, Nebraska geared back its satellite camp plans to focus more on local camps and current player development.
So, given the first camp happened with a bit of short notice, the turnout was good. The overall talent Friday night probably wasn’t quite as good as the overall talent from either of last year’s FNL camps, or what fans should expect in the June 17 and June 24 events, should they attend.
Some takes on standout campers and the event opening to the public:
>> Good move by Riley and Co. to open the event to the public, which sat on the West side of the stadium and tried its best to beat the heat. Fans were unobtrusive.
>> The 40-yard dash times were perhaps a little fast, since prospects ran them in the stadium with a modest tailwind behind them. The Hawks Championship Center is getting new turf, otherwise the testing portion of the camp may have taken place in there.
>> South Dakota State’s Dan Jackson and North Dakota’s football staff worked the camp alongside Nebraska. Jackson is an aggressive recruiter in the state, landing some players I imagine the Huskers would have taken as walk-ons.
>> Many of the state’s top linemen will compete in Monday’s Big Man camp, and thus didn’t attend the FNL event. The few that did — 2017 Kearney tackle Rudy Stofer (6-foot-6, 254 pounds) and 2018 Bellevue West guard A.J. Forbes (6-2, 298) looked good. Forbes, who missed most of last season with a torn MCL, is comparable in size to 2016 Husker signee Boe Wilson. He’s a bright, thoughtful kid off the field and has good leverage and feet on the field. With a good, healthy season, he’ll be in the mix for an offer next year.
Stofer has a Wyoming offer already, and, with 30 pounds, becomes a legit college offensive tackle. Nebraska already has two of those committed for 2017, and has some pretty good leads on a third guy.
>> Nebraska seems to have a lot of tight ends in the state borders, and there were plenty at the FNL camp. Lincoln Southeast’s Sterling Smith (6-3, 214) has good frame and may fit the tight end spot better than he did wideout. Smith has a “post up” ability, but needs to be more consistent. He has a South Dakota State offer. Cedar Bluffs’ Trey Tenopir — a 6-5, 245-pounder with a familiar name — was intriguing. So was Firth Norris tight end Bryce Stai — a 6-foot-3, 211-pounder with another familiar name. Stai, a 2018 prospect, might be worth a look on defense, too. He’s more of an “in space” guy than necessarily a mauler at tight end. He moves well.
The best tight end was perhaps FCS target Tanner Taula (6-6, 215), who’s from Blue Springs, Mo., and has offers from a host of FCS programs — including North Dakota State — should an FBS offer not come to pass. Taula has decent ball skills and, judging by his Hudl highlight film, he’s a skilled blocker.
>> At running back, Bellevue West’s Jaylin Bradley (6-0, 192) was the best player, and arguably the best in the camp. Bradley is a naturally smooth runner, he changes direction easily, and defenders struggled to flip their hips and cover him. Bradley will be one to watch on a lot of fronts. The other running back who reportedly had good 40-yard dash times, Braeden Hartwig (5-11, 190), may have helped himself with times. I didn’t see much of Hartwig Friday night, but I watched him at Lincoln Southwest several times last year. He’s a good, headlong runner, a guy who’d make a nice fullback (even though he has very good speed; fullbacks don’t have to be slow) or a one-back offense runner.
>> At wideout, blazer Cameron McKinney (5-9, 157) is from the West Coast and has FCS offers out there. He’s fast, but as slight as they come.
>> On defense, one player stood out among the others: 2018 cornerback Bryce Jackson (5-9, 175) out of Chandler, Ariz. Jackson had 30 tackles for Chandler as a sophomore and is considered one of the better 2018 prospects in Arizona. He’s built and explosive, and, in coverage situations, he adjusted well to the ball. Jackson would probably have to add an inch or two to play corner at Nebraska, but he’s one to watch.
Among in-state prospects, Millard North’s Jack Begley (6-3, 203) and Omaha North’s Davon Wells-Ross (6-4, 180) are the most intriguing defensive athletes. Last year, Begley played safety in Millard North’s defense — that’s where the Mustangs like a big-time playmaker, at safety — while Wells-Ross played a little bit of everything for the Vikings.
If Begley can retain his speed, he could gain weight and be a FBS linebacker. His game isn’t so much different from that of Cole Fisher, a Millard North grad who just started for Iowa’s Rose Bowl team. He’s smart, learns quick and competes hard. It’ll be interesting to see if Begley gets FBS offers beyond Air Force, if he goes to the Ivy League or FCS, or if he walks on somewhere. He has a lot of options.
Wells-Ross has an offer from Wyoming, and whatever Wyoming or any other school wants him to do, it should probably include coverage. Wells-Ross showed a few nice plays where he turned and ran with a running back or tight end, and he can move laterally, too.
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