LINCOLN — Wide receiver Samori Touré — the FCS All-American who transferred from Montana to Nebraska on Monday — “had a sense” over the weekend that Husker football fans were about to learn that NU’s top receiver in 2020, Wan’Dale Robinson, was about to transfer from the program.
“But I was in contact with Nebraska way before that, when nobody knew if he was going to leave,” the incoming senior said Monday evening, hours after he picked NU over Miami and Oregon and hours after Robinson left Nebraska. “I probably would have come to Nebraska regardless.”
Robinson’s exit probably didn’t hurt because it only improved the chief thing Husker football could offer Touré.
“The main thing with Nebraska, honestly, was the opportunity they provided for me,” Touré said. “I know they’re lacking at the receiver position right now. It’s an opportunity to come in and make an immediate impact.”
Nebraska’s search and struggle with finding and developing quality receivers led to Touré, who caught 87 passes at Montana in 2019 to earn All-America honors. The Huskers get a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder who caught 13 touchdowns last season and set school records for catches in a season and yards in a game.
Touré had 155 catches for 2,488 yards and 20 touchdowns over three seasons for the Grizzlies. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Touré was recruited to Montana by Bob Stitt, a Tecumseh, Nebraska, native who played at Doane and served as Montana’s head coach from 2015 to 2017.
“He’s a great player — very, very competitive,” said Stitt, who is currently out of coaching for a year or two while his son attends high school. “Great ball skills. And he’ll be a great teammate. That’s the one thing he is. He came to work every day, didn’t say much, and just got his job done.”
Touré becomes Nebraska's most accomplished receiver in the wake of Robinson’s departure. The Huskers often used current or former walk-ons Levi Falck, Kade Warner and Wyatt Liewer for much of the season over many of their scholarship options.
Top junior college recruit Omar Manning appeared in just one game — and got one target — because of lingering health problems NU coaches were reluctant to discuss. Freshman Zavier Betts — who had 12 catches for 131 yards — had a strong close to the season, and Husker coaches remain high on youngsters Alante Brown and Will Nixon.
“I feel like I can take the top off of a defense, and I pride myself on what I can do after the catch, also,” Touré said. “The biggest thing for me, since last season, was working on my intermediate routes and polishing those up.”
Touré effectively becomes a sixth-year senior in 2021.
A two-star recruit out of high school, Touré had zero scholarship offers in January 2016 when Stitt, who had just finished his first season at Montana, got a call from former Colorado and Boise State coach Dan Hawkins. Dan’s son Cody coached at Touré’s high school in Portland.
“I watch his film, and this kid’s pretty good,” Stitt said. Stitt took Touré through a “structured interview” that he got from a Lincoln-based company, AuctusIQ, where Stitt is now vice president. The interview measures intangibles.
“I interview Samori on a Wednesday, and he blows this interview away for traits you’re looking for in great players,” Stitt said. “We spent $1,200 to fly him in for a visit that weekend, we got him there immediately, and we ended up offering him a scholarship. Nobody else had. Portland State didn’t even offer him, and he was in their backyard.”
Touré whittled his original list down to Montana and Georgetown — two entirely different experiences — before going with the Griz because of the school’s passion for football. Touré redshirted in 2016, then played three years for the Grizzlies — one for Stitt and two for Bobby Hauck.
In 2020, the Big Sky Conference, along with most FCS conferences, moved its football season to the spring because of the pandemic. Many players opted out, including Touré and Northern Iowa linebacker Chris Kolarevic, who announced in the fall that he's transferring to Nebraska. The NCAA allowed an extra year of eligibility to any fall sport athlete, and Touré will take advantage of it.
He will be in Lincoln to take part in winter conditioning and spring camp. Nebraska began recruiting him not long after he entered his name in the portal, with NU offensive quality control assistant Steve Cooper being an initial point of contact. Later, Nebraska offensive coordinator and receivers coach Matt Lubick took over recruiting. Touré has talked to head coach Scott Frost for the last two weeks, and likes the offense. Touré played in the slot for Stitt and the traditional outside “X” receiver for Hauck.
NU now potentially has a proven anchor on the edge of the field who will help free up space for slot receivers and tight ends. Both positions had increased production in 2020.
“I watched Nebraska a little bit this year because I was out of football, and Samori’s a guy, if defenses are loading up the box on you’re getting man coverage, he can turn that 50/50 ball into a 70/30 ball," Stitt said. "He’s a guy who can go up and get it and has the ball skills to do that.
“He’s unbelievable, and he’ll fit in very, very well in Nebraska’s culture. I grew up there. I know what it’s all about. That’s who I looked for at Montana. He’s somebody who really loves football and has a great work ethic. He was a great teammate — somebody who wasn’t about himself, but ‘how I can help the team and my friends?’
It helped that opportunity is knocking at Nebraska. As one receiver exited, another entered.
"I knew, no matter where I went, no spot is given to you, no matter how accomplished you are," Touré said. "You have to go in and earn it regardless. Just seeing that they had a need for wide receiver, that was a big thing."