Steven M. Sipple: NU once again may face a 'Starling situation'

2013-07-21T23:45:00Z 2013-07-22T12:06:55Z Steven M. Sipple: NU once again may face a 'Starling situation'By STEVEN M. SIPPLE / Lincoln Journal Star

Wide receiver Monte' Harrison, the top all-around talent among Nebraska's 2014 verbal commitments, continues to shine on the baseball diamond this summer.

He's created a buzz among major-league scouts.

You're probably thinking what I'm thinking.

"Honestly, it's setting up for possibly another Bubba Starling watch," said Royce Boehm, Harrison's football coach at Lee's Summit (Mo.) West High School.

Flash back to mid-August of 2011. Starling, of Gardner, Kan., turned down a chance to play quarterback for the Huskers in favor of signing with the Kansas City Royals. A 6-foot-5, 195-pound outfielder (think Dale Murphy), Starling was the fifth overall choice in the draft and reportedly received a rookie signing bonus of $7.5 million.

He agreed to terms shortly before the baseball signing deadline. Many Nebraska football fans held out hope that Starling, a four-star dual-threat QB, would choose pigskin over rawhide.

They still hold out hope, and perhaps it's not so far-fetched.

Starling is currently hitting in the low .200s for the Lexington (Ky.) Legends of the South Atlantic League. But know this: The Royals will be very patient with him, considering their investment. But how patient will Starling be with himself?

Harrison, like Starling a gifted outfielder with elite speed and arm strength, is playing baseball this summer for Marucci Elite, a Louisiana-based national team that travels the country. Norris High senior Jakson Reetz, a Nebraska baseball recruit, also plays for Marucci Elite.

The 6-3, 200-pound Harrison, who intends to play both football and baseball at Nebraska, already looks the part of a big-league player, said Marucci Elite coach Chad Raley.

What's more, Harrison throws 97 mph from the outfield.

"Phenomenal arm strength," Raley said.

The coach envisions Harrison bulking up and being a power/speed outfielder along the lines of Mike Cameron. That's saying a mouthful.

"First and foremost, there aren't too many bodies walking around the planet that look like Monte's," Raley said. "He could potentially be a first- or second-round pick if things start coming together for him.

"He's just got to learn what he's doing at the plate. He swings and misses a lot. His lower half and his top half sometimes get disconnected. But it's all things that athletic kids end up putting together as they start getting better coaching.

"In Monte's case, he's behind all the other guys on the team because he hasn't played a lot of baseball. He's played so much football and basketball; he's never devoted all his time to baseball."

He's devoting ample time this summer. Marucci Elite was 20-2 entering a weekend tournament in Phoenix. On Aug. 12 at San Diego's Petco Park, Harrison and Reetz will play in the Perfect Game All-American Classic.

Harrison will also play in the Under-Armour All-America Game on Aug. 24 in Chicago.

Boehm, Harrison's football coach, isn't thrilled about major-league teams "just throwing big money in front of 18-year-olds." He said Harrison ultimately will weigh his options, assuming continued progress on the diamond (Raley said Harrison is hitting well, but the coach doesn't keep statistics).

"If the money's there, I think he's going to go (play pro baseball)," Boehm said. "That's just my opinion."

Bear in mind, however, Harrison's apparent affinity for Nebraska. He was ready to commit to the Huskers in January, but still wanted to visit other campuses. Boehm advised him to take more time with the decision.

Harrison announced his commitment to NU on July 4. Boehm was glad his star player made the decision before football season. However, because of the all-star baseball game in Chicago, Harrison will miss Lee's Summit West's season-opening football game Aug. 23.

Boehm tries to maintain patience as baseball cuts into Harrison's time on the football field.

"Hey, why fight it?" the coach said.

That might be good advice for Nebraska football fans next July, if Harrison has a difficult decision to make.

* The 6-1, 195-pound Reetz recently threw four shutout innings of relief for Marucci Elite. He also plays catcher and outfielder while batting fifth.

Raley thinks Reetz ultimately might be best off as a catcher, in part because of his high baseball IQ. Reetz has worked this summer with former St. Louis Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi, whose son pitches for Marucci.

"Of all three of our catchers, Tom says Reetz has the best upside," Raley said.

* Miami, under coach Al Golden, will win a national championship before Florida or Florida State, ESPN analyst Todd Blackledge recently predicted.

Perhaps Blackledge is on to something.

Despite an ongoing NCAA investigation, Miami is ranked No. 2 in's recruiting rankings. The Hurricanes have 23 verbal commitments, including nine four-star players. A total of nine players are from Miami or Fort Lauderdale.

Location, location, location.

Nebraska plays Miami next season in Lincoln and in 2015 at Miami.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or

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