Recruiting: New staff makes overtures to in-state prospects

Garrett Snodgrass of York, above, is one of two committed recruits for NU’s 2019 class along with fellow Nebraskan Garrett Nelson of Scottsbluff.

Norfolk Catholic’s Jeff Bellar passed along the news to Omaha North’s Larry Martin during a casual conversation between football coaches Monday morning. One of Bellar’s junior defensive linemen, Ethan Piper, had received a scholarship offer from Iowa over the weekend.

The first thought from Martin, whose team captured the Class A state title last month, was that it should have come from another school. After watching Scott Frost’s press conference Sunday, he believes the days of Nebraska being out-recruited on its own turf are numbered.

“I said to Jeff, I said, ‘Hopefully down the road these are going to be the types of kids that we know about already in our state,’ ” Martin said. “I think Scott and his staff will work diligently to make sure that we’re covering every area of the state. We can’t miss on the Nebraska kids, you know? We gotta have them in our program. They gotta be the foundation, like Scott said. The program can’t lose focus of who we’re playing for.”

Martin wasn’t the only one paying attention when the Huskers’ new coach said the Big Red will aim to restore the walk-on program to what it was in the 1990s. Prep players and coaches from around the state perked up at the message that NU would do more to keep its top talent close.

When the new coaches on Sunday offered Lincoln Southeast standout defensive lineman Bryson Williams — a Wisconsin commit long ignored by the previous regime — their intrigue shifted into celebration.

“Those things have been said by each of the last few staffs,” Bellevue West coach Michael Huffman said. “I think actions speak louder than words.”

Nebraska’s two in-state commits for the 2018 class told The World-Herald they like the big-picture idea of diving deeper into the local prospect pool. On an individual level, though, they and the new coaches have some get-to-know-you work to do.

York defensive lineman Masry Mapieu said he’s just begun to talk with new defensive line coach Mike Dawson and has yet to hear much from the incoming staff. Beatrice tight end Cameron Jurgens — who doesn’t yet know who would be his position coach at NU — spoke with Frost on the phone Sunday and met him face to face in Lincoln on Monday.

“His message was mainly just that I’m an in-state kid that we gotta have there,” said Jurgens, who took an official visit to LSU late last month and has been committed to Nebraska since August 2015. “Something he wants is to make sure he gets the best in-state kids. That’s what he sees me as.

“It’s definitely different. I’ve got to meet the new staff and wait and see what I think of them. I’ve been committed for such a long time, got to know all the guys. It’s going to be weird going there and seeing all new faces. But it’s just a part of college football now.”

Nebraskans Garrett Nelson (linebacker from Scottsbluff) and Garrett Snodgrass (athlete from York) are the team’s only known 2019 pledges. Both said they were more committed to the school than to individual coaches and remain solid in their choices.

Snodgrass said his father, York coach Glen Snodgrass, sat in with Frost and other Oregon coaches when they made the national title game after the 2014 season. Nelson is still shaking his head because his mother predicted he would play for Frost years before he started getting recruiting attention. So it’s not a total restart for either standout.

Nelson said he’s still excited to be a Husker. But Frost’s return might change the course of some of his friends. Like Norfolk senior Ryan Schommer, a defensive end with a few offers from FCS schools who committed to walking on in Lincoln.

“He wants to play for Nebraska,” Nelson said. “I would take 100,000 of those guys over the guy that’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I want to play for Nebraska but I’m just kind of coming here.’ It’s really exciting to see all these in-state Nebraska kids getting excited again that they’re going to be a Cornhusker and they’ve wanted to be their whole life. I’m the same way. I’ve gotten that opportunity and some haven’t yet, and I’m happy for them that they will.”

Said Garrett Snodgrass: “There’s a lot of great athletes in this state. They did a great job of recruiting Nebraska kids before and I’m glad to know it’s still going to be an emphasis with Coach Frost.”

Omaha Burke junior Nick Henrich was the first in-state player to receive a 2019 Nebraska offer when the Huskers reached out last June. But Iowa, Iowa State and Minnesota were among those who beat them to the standout linebacker. Henrich said “we’ll see” about whether the new staff might change his thinking about the local team that was slow to come around.

Burke teammate and junior tight end Chris Hickman got his Nebraska offer in September and said he’d be evaluating the coaches as much as they will him.

“I think it’s great because a lot of players here that should be getting more looks don’t really,” Henrich said. “I think it’s great Coach Frost is trying to do that. It’s a dream come true for a lot of guys who grew up watching Nebraska.”

Huffman said the Huskers have already lost too many standout locals — Stanford senior defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (Millard West) and Iowa sophomore tight end Noah Fant (Omaha South) come to mind — and hopes the talent drain stops under a staff dotted with former Huskers who know what impassioned players can do.

“There’s too many kids from this state right now playing at other schools,” Frost said. “We are going to do everything we can to make sure that those kids are here.”

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