Nebraska offensive line recruits Matt Farniok and John Raridon have striking similarities, with one critical difference.
Raridon has verbally committed to the Huskers' class of 2016, and Farniok hasn't. Not yet, anyway.
Nebraska has a good chance to close the deal on the 6-foot-5, 310-pound South Dakota prep standout, according to recruiting analysts. Now that two quarterbacks are (unofficially) in the 2016 fold, Farniok and defensive end Xavier Kelly of Wichita, Kansas, arguably are the most important targets on the new Husker staff's recruiting board, says Nate Clouse of HuskerOnline.com.
If Farniok indeed chooses Nebraska, he and Raridon, of West Des Moines, Iowa, would have plenty to talk about.
Their dads were offensive linemen in college (Scott Raridon was a devastating blocker as a pulling tackle on counter sweeps during the early 1980s at Nebraska; Brad Farniok was a tackle at St. Cloud State).
Their sons currently are the top-ranked players in their respective states.
They both play basketball well — they're unusually athletic for their mammoth size.
Perhaps most important, and surprising, of all: Both have two brothers who have been NCAA Division I offensive linemen.
Farniok has a brother who plays tackle for Oklahoma and another who was a standout center at Iowa State, while Raridon (6-3, 275) has brothers who attended Notre Dame and Wisconsin.
Yes, it can be an advantage.
"We definitely coached John hard through seventh grade on technique and finishing blocks," Scott Raridon says. "But he just has a work ethic and toughness about him that you can't teach. I don't know if you've ever watched his film, but he's just relentless driving people into the ground."
Although his brothers chose other programs, John Raridon "always wanted to play for Nebraska the most," says his dad, noting John's bedroom is like a shrine to the Huskers.
A sixth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1984, Scott Raridon as a senior helped Nebraska lead the nation in rushing (401.7 yards per game) and scoring (52.0 points per game). Husker fans long for the days when the offensive line could consistently dominate.
Getting players such as Raridon and Farniok on the roster obviously could help in that regard. And make no mistake, offensive line recruiting is critical for the class of 2016, as Nebraska is set to lose six senior offensive linemen after the coming season. That means the Huskers likely will try to sign at least five, if not more, O-linemen.
In addition to Raridon, Nebraska has a verbal commitment from offensive lineman Bryan Brokup of New Lenox, Illinois. New Husker offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh is locked in hard on about 10 prospects, according to Clouse, the recruiting analyst.
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I'm guessing Farniok crosses Cavanaugh's mind daily. Or even hourly.
"He gives relentless effort," says Chad Stadem, Farniok's coach at Washington High in Sioux Falls. "And he's fast. When people watch him play basketball, they can't believe he's over 300 pounds because of the way he runs the floor. His feet are amazing for how big he is. He's not going to score a ton of points, but he's a good defender, and he's a really good passer for a big guy.
"Plus, he loves playing physical football. When he puts his helmet on, he's a go-getter, a junkyard dog."
Farniok dominates against competition in his state that is better than some folks might realize. But you naturally wonder how he'll hold up when he consistently faces players his size. This is where Farniok's brothers help matters. Matt says they've told him that he can't rely solely on his size — that footwork and technique are critical.
"Matt's not afraid of anybody," Stadem says. "You don't have to worry about that. He loves challenges."
In addition to Nebraska, he has scholarship offers from Florida State, Florida, Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Penn State, Arizona State and Stanford, among others.
"He's handled the (recruiting) process a heck of a lot better than I would've at that age," Stadem says. "His maturity during this whole thing, with the amount of attention and pressure, is amazing. That's probably the biggest thing I respect out of Matt. I just respect the heck out of the kid.
"He's getting contacted by a lot of people. It's constant. But he just goes about his business."
Nebraska coaches have been to Washington High twice.
"They seem like a really good group of guys," Stadem says. "I like them. Very professional. Very personable."
Scott Raridon agrees.
"One of my best friends is Barry Alvarez," he says of the former Nebraska linebacker and current Wisconsin athletic director. "He was my high school coach (in Mason City, Iowa). Barry just flat-out told me, 'You know, Mike Riley is one of the best coaches in college football, hands down.'
"Barry would like to see my son go to Wisconsin, so that means something when he says that about Riley."
The Raridons have been on a couple of recruiting trips that involved the Farnioks. John's gotten to know Matt pretty well, the elder Raridon says. Cavanaugh would like to see them get to know each other even better, while wearing Scarlet and Cream.