Nebraska is determined to sign an offensive tackle in its 2018 class, and with the Feb. 7 national signing day a week away, the pool of serious candidates numbers three.
While the Husker coaching staff has been busy extending scholarships to 2019 prospects in recent weeks, a trio of 2018 big men have stood out with late offers. First was Willie Canty of Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central on Jan. 23. Bobby Lawrence of St. Joseph (Mo.) Central added an NU offer Sunday, and Jalan Robinson of Lawrence (Kan.) Free State received the same option Monday.
Nebraska hosted the 6-foot-5, 296-pound Robinson on Wednesday for an unofficial visit before he takes an official visit to Mississippi State this weekend. Canty — 6-6, 290 — is set to be in Lincoln this weekend after touring Louisville a week ago.
Both have the Huskers among their final pair of college destinations.
“It’s narrowed down to two schools (for Canty): Louisville and Nebraska,” Glades Central coach Jessie Hester told The World-Herald. “He pretty much told everybody else that he’s narrowed it down to those two schools.”
Of the three, Lawrence’s situation with Nebraska appears murkiest. A three-star tackle according to the 247Sports composite (No. 137 at his position) and ESPN (No. 119), the 6-foot-8, 300-pound Lawrence committed to Iowa State on Jan. 17 as a grayshirt — meaning he would pay his own way this fall with an agreement to go on scholarship with the 2019 class. Since then, the former Illinois State commit has gotten offers and in-home visits from both the Huskers and Missouri while the Cyclones have upgraded their package to an immediate full ride.
“I don’t know where he’s leaning right now,” Central coach Andy Ball said Tuesday. “He’s got some decisions he’s got to make.”
The son of former Kansas State O-line starter Toby Lawrence may have gone under the recruiting radar, Ball said, because of his selflessness last summer. Instead of hitting the summer camp circuit, he stayed close to home as Central worked to install a new offense and new techniques under a new coach.
“I think in some ways it didn’t benefit him very much,” Ball said. “So I tell recruiters he is there for his teammates and does things for the right reasons. That’s something I don’t think you see much of anymore. But he’s one of the hardest workers. The guy works out religiously and does everything he can to train and be more flexible and get better. He’s been a great worker.”
Lawrence’s highlight film shows a right tackle who is constantly knocking over would-be tacklers and sometimes pushing them out of the screen altogether. His 7-foot wingspan and ability to quickly learn alignments and recognize defenses help, too.
The tackle may also feel good sticking with Iowa State as the first FBS school to show interest in him.
“He’s a pretty loyal guy,” Ball said. “I know he was perfectly interested in these other offers for sure, but I think that was what got him at first, was Iowa State being the first one to show him some serious interest.”
Meanwhile, Canty will be in Lincoln this weekend as a three-star prospect according to 247 and Rivals (the 247 composite has him at No. 102 at his position). A left tackle in high school, he can pull all the way across the line for running plays or simply push his man downfield on passing downs.
Hester said his star lineman spots stunts and fronts at a level beyond most prep trench players. Also a basketball standout, Canty is light on his feet and frequently neutralized opposing defensive ends committed to schools like Louisville and Miami (Fla.) last season.
“He has such great upside because he really didn’t attack the weight room the way that he should,” Hester said. “So once he gets introduced to the weights at a higher and more consistent level, his play is going to be extremely stellar. Once he gets his hands on a guy, he can really control them. Right now he just uses his athleticism to keep in front of people. Once he learns to use his hands and do all those other things coaches ask you to do at the point of attack, he can only get better.”
Nebraska has 15 O-linemen on scholarship including 2018 early signee and interior lineman Will Farniok (Sioux Falls, South Dakota). It’s also waiting on a decision from 295-pound guard Jarrett Bell (Norco, California).
Nick Gates was the starting left tackle for the Huskers last year but declared early for the NFL draft on Jan. 2. His 26 starts at the position are the most in school history.
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