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Nebraska received a commitment Friday night from linebacker Mikai Gbayor of Irvington, New Jersey. Three takes on the decision of the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder:
1. An East Coast standout who fits the profile of a Big Ten inside linebacker: Gbayor (pronounced BAYER) looks like a college player in his highlight tape, full grown as he already is. He takes good angles, runs through the ball carrier, shows ability to drop into coverage, and when he has to tackle in the hole — it’s like a car crash in there — he bows up, drops his rear and delivers a shot. It’s how it’s supposed to look. While NU has other presumptive middle linebackers committed in the class — Randolph Kpai and Seth Malcom — both will need to gain weight and muscle. Gbayor is there now.
2. Mike Dawson is paying recruiting dividends in his return to the NU staff: Although Gbayor is likely an inside linebacker, it’s Dawson — the outside ’backers coach — who deserves a lot of the recruiting credit. He’s been recruiting Irvington High School since his days at Central Florida, Irvington coach Ashley “Smoke” Pierre said, and Dawson’s long-term relationships in New Jersey paid off here. Gbayor turned down home-state Rutgers, plus Michigan State, Kentucky, West Virginia and others, to pick the Huskers after visiting NU’s campus. The Huskers may be back to recruit 2022 Irvington defensive tackle Justin Evans-Jenkins. Coaches Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne recruited the heck out of New Jersey, landing such players as Rich Glover, Daryl White, Mike Rozier, Irving Fryar, Doug Colman and the Peter brothers. Dawson can help the Huskers be more of a factor there again.
3. A robust linebacker class even closer to completion: Gbayor becomes the fourth linebacker commit in the class, effectively replacing Christopher Paul, who decommitted from NU to flip to Arkansas. Perhaps NU needs another outside linebacker to join Miami Northwestern’s Patrick Payton, who has never visited Lincoln or talked at length about his commitment to the Huskers. Or perhaps Omaha Westside safety Koby Bretz could slide down to outside linebacker. Or perhaps, with the scholarship crunch brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, a current Nebraska inside linebacker rotates to the outside. Either way, over the last three recruiting cycles, NU has been very aggressive in its approach to linebacker recruiting. The Huskers have to get better there — and they knew it.
On the field, Mikai Gbayor — who committed to NU on Friday night — is plenty loud when he hits an opposing ball carrier.