New location? No worries. Nebraska's southern California satellite camp, moved at the last minute because of brush fires, unfolded almost seamlessly Sunday.
Each one of the Husker coaches was on hand, working in close quarters with more than 160 high school players. And that included a few big-name commits and targets (more on those individuals at the bottom of the blog):
2017 QB Tristan Gebbia, 4-star, No. 154 overall (247 Sports Composite), Calabasas, California (NU commit)
2017 WR Keyshawn Johnson Jr., 4-star, No. 254, Calabasas, California (NU commit)
2017 WR Jamire Calvin, 3-star, No. 490, Los Angeles
2017 WR Tyjon Lindsey, 5-star, No. 28, Corona, California
2017 DB Darnay Holmes, 5-star, No. 8, Calabasas, California (Did not participate in workouts)
2017 RB Nathan Tilford, 4-star, No. 181, Upland, California (Arizona commit)
2018 DB/WR Brendan Radley-Hiles, 4-star, NR, Calabasas, California
2018 RB T.J. Pledger, 4-star, NR, West Hills, California
The campers warmed up Sunday with agility work, broke off in position groups for skill development and finished with a competitive set of one-on-one battles (receivers vs. D-backs; O-line vs. D-line; etc).
Had you just arrived at Oak Park High School Sunday morning you would have never guessed that the entire event had been transported to that site just a few hours earlier.
A fire — which started around 4 p.m. Saturday — wasn't contained enough Sunday to hold the camp at its originally scheduled location: Calabasas High School (home of NU commits, Johnson Jr. and Gebbia). The blaze was spreading just a few blocks from there. Emergency personnel were using the school's parking lot as a command center Sunday morning.
So Calabasas, the college coaches and the players all had to adjust. They didn't seem to mind Sunday.
Wide receivers coach Keith Williams was boisterously conveying his message, like always — encouraging, and dissing, and joking, and instructing with as much enthusiasm as any on-campus practice. Linebackers coach Trent Bray sternly and purposefully delivered his words as he tutored all day long. Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh and defensive line coach John Parrella got fired up working with the boys in the trenches. Defensive backs coach Brian Stewart had a piece of advice after every rep. Running backs coach Reggie Davis was preaching toughness to all the ballcarriers he worked with, even at the end of the camp during the day's final position-specific huddle.
Special teams coach Bruce Read, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and defensive coordinator Mark Banker were canvassing the field for players they could help advise. Coach Mike Riley spent much of his time observing — shaking a few hands when he needed to and even posing for some photos as well.
You got the sense NU's staff didn't want to let this opportunity go to waste.
Many of the players didn't, either.
Just a few observations and notes from the players' on-field workout:
>> Gebbia carries himself like the prototypical quarterback. Confident. Out-going. Always willing to encourage. Certainly willing to laugh (he joked that he was showing off his elite dual-threat skills while running high knees and cradling a football during warmups). He seems to know his place, as a figurehead of Nebraska's 2017 class, and he doesn't shy away from that platform. ... On the field? He's still got a cannon. Even the pre-camp throws were darts. He said he's spent considerable time, though, on improving the mental part of the game — breaking down plays and understanding defenses. Gebbia still has work to do in the weight room. Improving accuracy is always a focus, too. But he has the drive to put in the time necessary to improve.
>> One play during one-on-ones Sunday tells the story of Johnson. He stuck his foot in the turf and broke toward the sideline — but the defender stayed with him. The football arrived high, seemingly set to sail over the head of Johnson as he turned over his left shoulder to make the play. But the 6-foot-1 Johnson spring-boarded off the turf and wrapped his hands firmly around the bullet pass — securing the leaping grab with a cornerback hanging all over him. A great catch. And that's Johnson. If the football's within reach, he has a tendency of making the play. Great hands. ... His next step? It's speed, Johnson said. He wants to get faster, so he'll be spending the summer training with that in mind. Lots and lots of sprint work.
>> Radley-Hiles, who switched back and forth between the D-back and receiving groups Sunday, stepped to the line of scrimmage. He was a pass catcher for this particular rep. Radley-Hiles, running a go route, was going stride for stride with the defender, who actually had underneath position — what seemed to be an ideal place to get a pass breakup as the underthrown football soared their way. But Radley-Hiles jumped up, reached his hands over the cornerback's head and hauled in the spectacular grab. All in that same motion, he proudly raised the football with his right hand as he stumbled to the turf. ... The sky's the limit for Radley-Hiles. He's only 5-foot-8, but he has all the other tools — and plenty of time, as a rising junior, to keep growing and developing.
>> Then there were a couple of super-speedsters, Calvin and Lindsey. It was tough for defenders to stay with those two. Two steps, really. That's all it took. Their burst off the line of scrimmage is what jumps out. Lindsey appears to be the more developed of the two (a little thicker and a little more explosive; he has great hands, too). Both are key NU targets. And it was a mini-victory for Nebraska that they were simply active in Sunday's camp.
>> Tilford and Pledger, the standout running backs, both seem to have the agility and athleticism to be difference-makers at the next level. Tilford, at 6-foot-2, 190, almost has the frame of a linebacker. Pledger's more compact (listed at 5-foot-9). Both are studs — and obviously high on NU's radar.
Below is a sampling of Sunday reaction from Husker recruits:
GOOOO BIG RED ❗️❗️#GBR ⚪️🌽— Brendan Radley-Hiles (@Bookie_44) June 5, 2016
Thank you to the Nebraska coaching staff for coming out and coaching us up. It's all love #Calibraska— Keyshawn Jr. (@keyshawnnnn) June 5, 2016