Following a flurry of verbal commitments, the perception of Nebraska's 2014 recruiting class changed dramatically.
I'll get to that in a second.
Don't bother asking ex-Husker Steve Warren about it.
An All-Big 12 defensive tackle in 1999, Warren says he is mostly interested in two recruits -- Gretna lineman Mick Stoltenberg, who on Saturday accepted Nebraska's scholarship offer; and Millard West lineman Harrison Phillips, who last week worked out for Husker coaches and now hopes for an offer.
Warren trains both players as part of his growing sports academy in the Omaha area. He thinks both players can excel at the BCS level.
Stoltenberg, at 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, has run a 4.75-second 40. His agility is excellent. Unlike most high school players, he uses his hands exceptionally well. He easily passes the eyeball test; he has the body of a fitness model, said Warren, who estimates he has put Stoltenberg through 60 training sessions.
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Sheer size, raw strength, speed and agility — along with a motor that always runs hot, Warren says — are what separates Stoltenberg from the pack.
It appears Nebraska recruited Stoltenberg to play offensive tackle, although he could play defensive end, or perhaps eventually defensive tackle. Thing is, the Huskers' class of 2013 includes six defensive linemen, three of whom are similar in size to Stoltenberg. Greg McMullen, a 6-3, 285-pound redshirt freshman, is another big defensive end prominent in NU's plans.
"I think Mick would be a good strong-side defensive end, but he is a kid I could see playing offensive tackle because he's so long," Warren said. "When we're doing one-on-ones and he's on offense, he locks guys down. He's just a lineman, period.
"He's almost like a utility lineman."
I don't necessarily like the term "utility" attached to an athlete. In baseball, it typically describes a player who is proficient at a few positions, but not necessarily great at one. I would like to think Stoltenberg could become a great player at Nebraska. Warren thinks that could be the case.
However, "Mick's going to have to be developed skill-wise because he's so raw," Warren said. "But the way he works, the sky's the limit."
Warren helps train some 35 players as part of his academy, including the 6-3, 248-pound Phillips. Like Stoltenberg, Phillips is versatile. During NU's camp, Phillips worked out as a defensive end, defensive tackle, center, guard, and even as a tight end.
"I think it's good that I'm so versatile but at the same time I think it's hurting me because Coach (Bo) Pelini said that he doesn't know where to look at me because he doesn't know what my body is going to do (developmentally)," Phillips told HuskerOnline.com. "He wants to know exactly what his plan is for me and he doesn't have that yet."
Phillips expects to get clarity from Pelini in a week or so.
In terms of unyielding effort, Phillips is like Stoltenberg, said Warren, who began working with Phillips last month. Phillips appears more fluid and agile than Stoltenberg, but not as big or straight-line fast.
Phillips covers 40 yards in 4.9 seconds, according to Rivals.com. He has a slew of scholarship offers, including from Kansas State, Duke, Toledo, Western Michigan and Wyoming. In addition, Stanford has shown interest.
Warren understands the challenge that teams face in trying to determine the proper position for players.
"That's the crap shoot of recruiting high school players, especially linemen," he said.
Three quick strikes and I'm out:
* After picking up seven verbal commitments in an eight-day span, Nebraska's total stands at nine for its scholarship class of 2014. The group's overall quality is somewhere north of solid. Husker fans who had been in a panic can breathe easy.
If I were to nitpick, I would say the class could use a bit more star power. A little more oomph.
On the other hand, three-star quarterback Zack Darlington and offensive guard D.J. Foster of Lincoln could be considered marquee players.
Foster — a four-star prospect according to ESPN and a high three-star according to Rivals, 247Sports and Scout — had planned visits to Georgia, Florida and UCLA. Let's put it this way: If Foster had gotten away from NU, there would've been panic in the streets of Huskerland. Or at least on the message boards.
* Check out video of the 6-1, 205-pound Darlington, of Apopka, Fla. He seems to fit Nebraska's offense perfectly. I especially like his ball-handling skills — pump fakes, fake hand-offs on the zone read, option pitches, fake pitches, et al. I think the importance of a quarterback's ball-handling skills, especially in spread offenses, gets overlooked.
* More star power? Jimmie Swain of Lee's Summit, Mo., a four-star linebacker, was among Nebraska's prime targets on defense. However, he has narrowed his list of possibilities to TCU, Oregon, Stanford, Michigan and Michigan State.
Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or email@example.com.