Kilgore (Texas) College offensive coordinator Peter Hopkins had a busy Thursday, with major-college coaches rolling through his office — including Nebraska assistant Ryan Held — during prime recruiting season.
Held and Husker receivers coach Troy Walters are lead recruiters for Kilgore star Omar Manning, the top-rated junior college wide receiver in the nation, according to both Rivals and 247Sports.
Chances are Held and Walters know all about what Hopkins told a Journal Star reporter Thursday afternoon about Manning. After all, Nebraska has made Manning a high priority, and it appears the Huskers are in good position to land the 6-foot-4, 225-pound native of Lancaster, Texas, come Dec. 18, the first day of the early signing period. He visited NU's campus in June, has taken no visits since and apparently has no others planned.
In helping lead Kilgore to an 8-2 record this season, Manning recorded 35 catches for 727 yards, an eye-popping average of 20.8 yards per reception. He makes it look easy, Hopkins said, and there's a reason for that.
"Truth be told, the game looks easy for him because of the work he puts into practice," Hopkins said. "He's not one of those players who just shows up when the lights turn on. He's one of those players who are revealed through the hard work he puts in during the week. Whatever he does in the game, we've seen a million times in practice. When he makes a big play in a game, we say, 'It's just Omar being Omar.'"
Omar being Omar could be of critical importance to Nebraska in 2020 because the Huskers sorely need a big-bodied receiver who can stretch the field. Manning seemingly would serve as an excellent complement to senior-to-be JD Spielman (5-9, 180), the only player in school history with three 800-yard receiving seasons. In general, the Huskers' receiving corps is on the small side in terms of stature.
It's no wonder Nebraska is hard after Manning, whose natural talent is off the charts, Hopkins said.
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"He's an NFL talent, for sure," said Hopkins, whose coaching background includes a stint at Louisiana Tech. "He's one of the better players I've ever been around."
What's more, Manning is one of the best-behaved players on the team, Hopkins said.
"Omar don't drink, Omar don't smoke," the coach said. "He's never failed a drug test here. I've never seen him drunk or anything like that. We do curfew check at 10:30. When you knock on his door and go in his room, you'll find him throwing the ball up in the air and catching it while everyone else is playing their video games."
Manning spent the 2017 season at TCU as a redshirt after choosing the Horned Frogs over offers from Nebraska, Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Florida, LSU, Michigan, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma, among others.
Fast forward to late 2019. Both Rivals and 247Sports forecast Manning as a safe bet to select Nebraska. It's hard to say for sure, though, because he isn't one to talk much to media, Hopkins said.
"He doesn't want a lot of attention," said the Kilgore coordinator, noting that one of his enduring memories of Manning will be this season's 20-10 playoff loss to New Mexico Military Institute.
It should be noted that Manning had zero catches in the game.
"I'm looking at Omar on the sideline during that game and he never, ever griped about not getting the ball — never fussed at all," Hopkins said. "But he did talk to the running backs and say, 'When I'm blocking this way, you run this way.' He was blocking his butt off. He's running hard routes. But he never came to me and said, 'Coach, I need the ball, I need the ball.'
"That sort of player is special. He told me, 'Coach, what I care about is winning. I could have zero catches as long as we're winning.'"
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