LINCOLN — Nick Gates started high school at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman as a baseball player. He's still a good one, said football coach Tony Sanchez.
But Sanchez gushed Friday about the pigskin production and potential of Nebraska's latest offensive line commit, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound four-star prospect who sat atop the Huskers' recruiting board at tackle. NU finally secured Gates' pledge Friday afternoon over offers from schools including Alabama, Arizona, Oregon, Texas A&M and UCLA.
Gates could play any position on the line, Sanchez said. He can mash, pull and protect the passer.
“He can do whatever you want,” said Sanchez, whose Gaels just won a fifth straight Nevada state championship. “He's athletic and rangy enough to be a tackle, and I think that's where he'll start out. But he's a road grader. He's one of the best finishers I've ever been around. He takes great pleasure in finishing blocks. He's a perfect fit for the University of Nebraska tradition.”
Husker offensive line coaches John Garrison and Barney Cotton took great pains to sell Gates on that fit, too.
Gates, who did not answer calls or texts from The World-Herald Friday, camped at NU during the summer. Garrison and Cotton — who first met Sanchez when the two worked briefly together at New Mexico State — kept in constant contact, Sanchez said. Garrison had the last possible visit with Gates before the start of the first recruiting dead period in December. Garrison, Cotton and coach Bo Pelini spent all of Tuesday in Las Vegas and at Gorman — one of the nation's top high school programs — culminating in an in-home visit.
A trip to UCLA was canceled. Gates told Husker Online that he canceled an in-home visit from Arizona's coaches. Sanchez said Gates told him he'd have a decision by the end of the week, which heavily favored Nebraska.
Gates told Huskers Illustrated that his relationship with Cotton and Garrison was the deciding factor, as was a budding friendship with NU quarterback Zack Darlington and guard D.J. Foster
“I probably have the best relationship with those coaches, so that played into it,” Gates said to Huskers Illustrated. “They were in there since day one.”
|See the latest NU recruiting news, player cards, photos, video and more.|
Said Sanchez: “Coach Cotton and Coach Garrison, those two were phenomenal. They're stand-up guys. A lot of schools recruited Nick well, but they did a great job.”
Nebraska's effort should be repaid, Sanchez said, quickly. Gates is good enough to play early, Sanchez said, but NU's strength and conditioning program will make him better. Gates plays baseball — last year, according to Max Preps, he hit .370 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs — so he hasn't spent his spring lifting weights or participating in track, like most offensive linemen.
“He hasn't even scratched the surface,” Sanchez said. “Once they get him locked into football, he's going to make huge gains.”
Gates' commitment also opens the door to Gorman, which has sent 14 players to BCS-level schools since the 2009 recruiting class. The Huskers have already offered 2015 four-star tight end Alize Jones — who's committed to UCLA — and three-star defensive tackle Jackson Perry.
“It helps,” Sanchez said. “You got a kid from our place who can be a champion for Nebraska.”
Gates is the 20th commit of the class and the third true offensive line commit, joining four-star guards Tanner Farmer and D.J. Foster. A fourth prospect, Gretna's Mick Stoltenberg, could also play tackle, but tight end and defensive end are viable options, too. West Valley City, Utah, offensive tackle Kenyon Frison is visiting this weekend.
Earlier Friday, NU received good news in the form of a sixth year of eligibility for tackle Matt Finnin. Finnin tweeted that the NCAA had approved his hardship waiver request.