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Nebraska football practice, 4/3

Linebacker Mohamed Barry is a Husker from the state of Georgia, which has a talent pool the Huskers are eager to dip in further.

GWYNETH ROBERTS, Journal Star file photo

Given the rate at which Nebraska football coaches have extended scholarships during the current evaluation period, names such as Jordon Simmons and Rashad Torrence don’t necessarily stand out.

They’re both Class of 2020 prospects and they’re both players who, clearly, the Huskers have some interest in. Simmons is a running back and Torrence a defensive back. Beyond that? Nothing else jumps out as absolute need-to-know information at this time.

But at least one common factor — both hail from Georgia — is just another marker in a growing pile of evidence that the NU coaching staff is going to continue going toe-to-toe with college football’s heavy hitters in a talent-rich state that doesn’t always get mentioned in the same breath as Florida, Texas and California, but sure seems like it’s going to be a top-tier focus for the Huskers.

Nebraska landed outside linebacker Caleb Tannor and tight end Katerian Legrone in 2018 and tried to nab cornerback Taiyon Palmer. Breon Dixon, a Georgia native, transferred from Ole Miss, and linebacker Mohamed Barry is already on the Husker roster.

It’s not difficult to see why Scott Frost and his coaching staff would like to add to that stable.

In 247Sports’ composite rankings for 2018, 40 Georgia players finished with four-star rankings or better. In 2019, there are 36.

It also seems a sizable challenge for a Midwestern program to make inroads in areas dominated by the South’s powerhouses.

In 2018, Georgia signed six of the state's top nine players on 247Sports' composite en route to putting together a star-studded class. The remainder of the top 10 Georgia recruits: Two to Clemson, one to Tennessee and one to Miami. In all, only two of the top 30 players in the state left the deep South, one each to Michigan and Notre Dame.

Still, Tannor’s head coach, Justin Larmond, thinks the Huskers can make headway and land high-caliber players.

“The big thing is, the coaches just have to hang out down here and do a good job establishing relationships not only with these kids but with the coaches,” he said. “That was a big thing in Caleb’s recruitment, was establishing a relationship with me and me just knowing what their program is about and what they bring to the table.”

Tannor, who headlined NU’s class along with quarterback Adrian Martinez and running back Maurice Washington, was the No. 37 recruit in the state.

That’s the enticing thing about the state, though. Georgia cleaned up, several other heavy hitters got their share and a player such as Tannor, who was committed to the Bulldogs until November, can still wind up in Lincoln.

The Huskers from the Peach State can also make a difference for the future in their own right.

“Word of mouth,” Larmond explained. “Caleb’s going to be up there, Breon is up there and a couple other guys from Georgia. Younger guys that people know down here. If those guys can be successful as well as the program, and you can see the growth, I don’t think they should have a problem getting guys. I think Frost and that wide-open offense is definitely going to generate some excitement, because guys know about Central Florida down here."

They also know about UCF’s tight ends coach, who is now Nebraska’s tight ends coach. Georgia is ultra-competitive recruiting territory, and the Huskers rely on maybe the most outwardly-laid back member of the staff: Sean Beckton.

He’s no pushover, though.

“I’ve talked to plenty, plenty, plenty, plenty of college coaches, man, and I think for the most part, most of the guys are good,” Larmond said. “But with Sean, you get the sense that he’s a guy that will shoot you straight. From a parent prospective — as a head coach, you kind of feel like these guys are your sons — you feel like he’s one of those guys that you don’t mind sending your son to and he’s going to take care of your son.”

There’s a reason, then, that Ryan Held this spring likened Beckton’s decision to join the staff — he was the last one officially in the boat in December — to landing a five-star recruit.

Held mentioned the type of man Beckton is, his character and his enjoyable presence. The bottom line is, he also can go into Georgia and find players.

For 2019, the Huskers have already offered 36 Georgia players per 247Sports, fourth-most behind Florida (51), Texas (50) and California (46). For 2020, NU’s already offered 10.

Georgia already has verbal commitments from three of the top 10 instate players in 2019, while Auburn, Tennessee and Michigan are also on the board. The top 40 is peppered with high-profile programs.

The Huskers didn’t just recruit the area because of leftover knowledge and proximity to UCF, though. They’re going to try to land one or two or more from the state per cycle.

Can they? Tannor and Legrone were the first Georgia prospects to sign with NU since Barry and Aaron Williams in the 2015 class, but this staff appears more than willing to duke it out year in and year out.

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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