Both are highly touted junior prospects, according to every recruiting service. The 247Sports composite rankings list Yankoff — a speedy athlete from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho — as the No. 12 QB nationally in the class, while Corona (Calif.) Centennial standout McKee slots at No. 15. The four-star players rise to Nos. 4 and 6, respectively, among those who have yet to commit to a school.
The Huskers harbor hopes for landing both in part because one wouldn’t arrive on campus until the 2020 season.
McKee — who runs the read-option offense for the same high school Taylor Martinez once did — will embark on a two-year mission trip after graduation in keeping with his Mormon faith. With more than a dozen proposals so far from the likes of Louisville, North Carolina, Oregon State, Utah and BYU, many schools, including Nebraska, think he is worth the wait.
“He might have a few more offers if he was definitely a 2018 recruit,” Centennial coach Matt Logan said. “For some schools, (the mission) helps; for some schools, it probably hurts. Either way, it is what it is and he’s a prospect you have to look at who is only a sophomore in terms of recruiting.”
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound standout has a “pro style” tag next to his name on many recruiting sites, though he considers himself more well-rounded — he ran for 539 yards and 15 touchdowns as Centennial finished 11-2 last fall. McKee also completed 203 passes in 280 attempts (72.5 completion percentage) for 3,552 yards and 36 scores against eight interceptions.
McKee took an unofficial visit to Lincoln for the Maryland game Nov. 19 — the same day NU extended him an offer — and “will probably most likely” return to campus in an official capacity in the coming months. He said he will begin whittling down his list of suitors this spring.
As for Nebraska? McKee is familiar with the program after watching Martinez on television for years. He is friends with recently signed NU wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey, who was his teammate for a short time before transferring to Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas. The owner of a 4.2 GPA, McKee likes the Huskers’ academic support as well as offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf.
“I’m just trying to keep the process going and get to know them better,” McKee said. “The coaches are awesome and I relate to them well. And the atmosphere at Nebraska is really cool.”
Logan said the quarterback — who also plays outside hitter on the boys volleyball team — can gun balls into tight spaces or add touch on deep fades. Rarely is the 16-year-old son of former BYU basketball player Jeremy McKee seen without a composed demeanor or smile.
“He’s kind of a throwback,” Logan said. “He’s still in a situation where he’s not even close to being polished and his upside is tremendous. (He wants to go) someplace that can continue to help him grow while playing quarterback.”
Yankoff, meanwhile, is coming off a 10-game campaign in which he accounted for 53 touchdowns and 4,097 total yards (3,129 passing for 27 scores). The Idaho Gatorade player of the year was committed to Oregon when Nebraska offered in October, but he backed off that pledge in December when the Ducks fired coach Mark Helfrich.
At 6-4, 200 pounds and possessing 4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash, Yankoff showed off his array of skills on a weekly basis. In one game, he threw for 434 yards and four touchdowns while adding four more and 150 yards on the ground. Against eventual unbeaten Washington state champion Camas, he passed for 485 and three scores and rushed for 73 yards.
It’s no coincidence at least 16 schools from all over extended scholarships — Oregon, North Carolina, TCU, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Washington State and Central Florida among them.
“The thing I tell people is there’s no black marks against Colson,” Coeur d’Alene coach Shawn Amos said. “He’s humble, he’s hard-working, he’s got a great attitude. He’s one of those special, rare kids. As a designated runner, he’s a home run threat. If he gets a seam, he’s gone. No one’s going to catch him.
“People like him. He has that when-you-walk-in-the-room kind of thing without trying. He doesn’t even know who it is, but we call him Ferris Bueller. You have to be old like me to know what that means. He’s just a nice kid and treats people right.”
Yankoff didn’t play quarterback until eighth grade, after which he began receiving college mailings. His father, Trevor — who played the position at Brown University in the mid-1990s — helped accelerate his development, as did work with area coaches.
Named in part after Brown alumnus and political figure Charles Colson, Yankoff is approaching recruiting in calculated fashion. His “big three things” are a close connection with a staff that has job security, a system that fits his skills and a school that supports him academically in an engineering field.
Yankoff has yet to visit campus, but said he and his dad are targeting dates in early March when the Huskers begin spring practice. He is already getting to know Langsdorf, who recently flew out to watch him play basketball.
Yankoff laughed that weather isn’t a factor — he enjoys snowboarding in the winter and wakeboarding in the summer. Indoors, the student with a 4.3 GPA counts the piano and guitar among the instruments he plays.
“I’m looking around outside right now and we have about 2 feet (of snow) on the ground,” Yankoff said. “Nebraska’s high up on my list. I’m very interested in the program, and obviously we’re trying to schedule some trips. I’d really like to make it up there to see more of the place.”
Amos said his team’s even-keeled leader didn’t miss a beat as the full-time starter after splitting reps his sophomore season. He didn’t buckle under pressure, instead exceeding expectations and performing as one of the best quarterbacks in the country. He also doesn’t buy his recruiting hype, the coach said, and will likely restrict his offseason camp participation to an Elite 11 regional.
“It kind of leads you to believe he’ll be able to go to a place like a Nebraska, where the spotlight’s on you,” Amos said. “He’s going to be able to handle it.”
The pursuit of Yankoff and McKee is in line with comments coach Mike Riley made during the program’s recruiting press conference earlier this month. After working with an explosive quarterback like Tommy Armstrong, Riley said he’s more open to bringing in players with similar rushing abilities as long as they are also accurate passers.
Nebraska’s top two QB targets for 2018 meet both standards.
“We’re not going to turn down one of those dual-threat guys at all,” Riley said Feb. 1. “As a matter of fact, some guys that are high on our list for next year are that kind of guy. What we know now is we can blend what we have done in the past with what we have learned to do in these past couple of years. ... It’s going to be good for Nebraska and it’s going to be good for our coaches and it’s going to be good for our playbook.”
Photos: Nebraska's highest-ranked commit from each recruiting class since 2002
Check out the Huskers' highest-ranked commit, according to Rivals.com, from each recruiting class since 2002.