LINCOLN — Big recruiting weekend — round two.
Nebraska's football program hosted a glut of top prospects for the Sept. 29 Wisconsin game. So far, none of the visitors watching NU's 30-27 comeback win has committed.
Will Saturday's Michigan game be a different story?
The caliber of players coming to Lincoln is equal to the talent that showed up for Wisconsin. The 40-degree temperatures will be a little cooler.
“It is only the end of October,” recruiting coordinator and linebackers coach Ross Els said. “Normally, it's not frigid out here. That's just one of the things. We can't change the weather. But we have enough stuff I think to override what they consider cold weather.”
Namely, playing time. Arizona Western College defensive end Randy Gregory — a Purdue commit who's now looking hard at the Huskers — is a 6-foot-6, 235-pound hybrid who can help Nebraska rush the quarterback next year. Outside of junior Jason Ankrah — who has two sacks and five tackles for loss this season — NU lacks experience at the defensive end position for 2013.
“For a guy my size I actually move real well laterally,” Gregory told Huskers Illustrated, which covers Nebraska recruiting. “They think I can stand up a lot more and actually play a little bit of outside linebacker. I can bring a lot to the table.”
Gregory broke his ankle and fibula at the start of Arizona Western's season, so he'll still have three years of eligibility.
The high school headliner of the weekend is Tempe, Ariz., five-star defensive back Priest Willis.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder is that eraser athlete Nebraska needs, a guy who negates a mental mistake with sheer athleticism. He could play anywhere in the secondary, but he seems to best embody the kind of rangy, physical corner coach Bo Pelini craves. A more polished version — at least out of high school — of Prince Amukamara.
The Nebraska connection: Willis works out with former Husker safety Toby Wright, a Phoenix native who played six years in the NFL. After Willis' visit Saturday, he heads to LSU next week for the Tigers' game vs. Alabama. Former NU defensive backs coach Corey Raymond is handling Willis' recruitment to LSU.
Four other prospects heading to Lincoln:
» Jamone Boyd (6-4/240, Lee's Summit, Mo.): The four-star end takes his first official visit of the year to Nebraska, accompanying friend and Husker commit Zach Hannon. Boyd is a 3-4 end in high school, usually playing head-up on the tackle, but his power rush is a good fit for Nebraska. He's unofficially visited Arkansas and Missouri.
» Aaron Cochran (6-8/350, Atwater, Calif.): He plays offensive tackle, another need position for the Huskers. Big, physical, raw. He has an older brother who plays at California, and a visit to Oklahoma set for November.
» Drake Martinez (6-2/200, Laguna Beach, Calif.): Quarterback Taylor Martinez's younger brother could play running back, safety or wide receiver. He's a more fluid runner than his older brother, and Taylor claims Drake is nearly as fast.
» Demorea Stringfellow (6-2/205, Moreno Valley, Calif.): The four-star wide receiver is committed to Washington, but the Huskies are struggling, and current Huskers Quincy Enunwa and Eric Martin are alums of Stringfellow's high school, Rancho Verde. That school asks its receivers to run every kind of route and block, too, so Stringfellow looks as well-rounded as Enunwa is, only faster because of a long, sprinter's stride. He'd be a candidate to play immediately at Nebraska.
Cook comes up
One committed prospect visiting for the Michigan game is Spanish Fort, Ala., corner Jonathan Cook.
After a good start to the 2012 season for Cook — who said he's returned three interceptions for touchdowns already — I'd put the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder as Nebraska's top commit, just ahead of Lincoln Southwest linebacker Josh Banderas. Remember that a suspension stemming from an on-field brawl kept Cook out for several games last year and likely hurt his recruiting stock.
Now, will he stay NU's top prospect? Cook committed to NU without seeing the campus, and he's been to a few Alabama games this year.
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“I want to see the stadium, the fans, the atmosphere,” Cook said in an interview. “I'm taking the visit just to make sure it's the right place.”
Ole Miss, Minnesota and now Auburn are still recruiting him. Alabama offered a grayshirt back in the spring; the way Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban massages roster numbers, a grayshirt could mean “walk on and we'll see.”
Other committed prospects making the trip include Hannon, quarterback Johnny Stanton, defensive end A.J. Natter and wide receiver Kevin Gladney.
Hot seat recruiting
When teams appear ready to fire their coaches, other programs scour the commit lists to see which players might be worth contacting. There isn't anything unethical about it; kids can't be expected to stay committed to a program without a coach. So here's a few “hot seat” recruits Nebraska may want to check out.
» Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College DT Ben Bradley: Committed to Tennessee, the 6-foot-2, 315-pound four-star tackle is a current teammate of Husker target Toby Johnson.
» Alpharetta, Ga., DE Carl Lawson: A consensus five-star, the 6-foot-2, 253-pound end committed to Auburn last March. Nebraska offered, and NU secondary coach Terry Joseph recruits Georgia. If the Huskers are interested in a shorter, athletic corner, Dothan, Ala., athlete Kamryn Melton is committed to Auburn, too.
» Corona, Calif., OT Cameron Hunt: He committed to California over the summer. Although Nebraska feels good about its chances with David Knevel and possibly flipping one of two UCLA commits (Christian Morris or Kenny Lacy), Hunt may be on the market if Cal fires Jeff Tedford.
State playoff time
The state high school football playoffs are here, and Friday I'll be watching two players from Omaha North — one a senior, one a sophomore — make a case for Nebraska scholarship offers as they play Lincoln Southwest, which has two Husker commits. It's a rematch from earlier this year, when North beat Southwest 24-20.
The first Viking is senior tight end Casey Sayles, who's already committed to Ohio — not a shoddy commit these days — but would have to listen, obviously, if Nebraska offered more than a walk-on spot. I've heard from more than one source that Sayles won the first head-to-head battle vs. Southwest end/NU commit Christian Lacouture. The stakes of a playoff game make for a bigger setting.
The second Viking is running back Calvin Strong, who tore up some pretty bad metro defenses, but tore up a pretty good one, too, with 116 yards vs. top-ranked Millard North. If he busts off big runs in these playoffs, he'll be hard to ignore when the junior recruiting rankings come out next year.
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