Welcome to Husker Extra's recruiting ticker, where we'll track the happenings in Nebraska football recruiting as a three-week contact period progresses. Check back here throughout the day for updates.
Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco is in a slightly different spot from most of his fellow assistants at NU. His room is smaller than others and he's only looking for one player in each cycle.
Not only that, but he's already set for 2019 and 2020 thanks to verbal commitments from Luke McCaffrey (Littleton, Colorado) and Logan Smothers (Athens, Alabama).
Verduzco said last week that, in addition to seeing those two players, he'll be turning his attention to 2021 prospects during the current contact period.
"Me and (head coach Scott Frost) and (recruiting personnel) Sean Dillon and (Trent) Mossbrucker and Ryan Callaghan talked about, 'We’re ahead, let’s stay ahead,'" Verduzco said then.
Verduzco was part of a group of coaches that saw McCaffrey, along with Scottsbluff outside linebacker Garrett Nelson and tackle Michael Lynn (Englewood, Colorado), on Sunday. Then he separated from the group and is making rounds on the West Coast for the early part of the week. Verduzco is expected to stop at several schools in California and elsewhere out West before a late-week trip to Alabama to see Smothers.
While the Huskers may have targets in 2021 — they've offered legacy four-star Jake Garcia (Narbonne, California), son of Randy Garcia — the time element allows Verduzco and company to see a lot of players if they so choose.
Verduzco last week made clear, though, that they aren't looking at other signal-callers in 2019 or 2020.
"No, we’re good," he said. "Maybe in other years you might (consider taking more than one). But we have other needs and we feel good about the room that we’ve got right now. We’re pretty excited about that. We’re going to be fine."
Verduzco isn't in California just looking for quarterbacks, though. He was at Modesto Christian High on Tuesday, where the Huskers offered 2020 defensive end/tight end Xavier Carlton. Carlton goes 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds, is rated a four-star prospect and has offers from Notre Dame, USC, UCLA and many others.
— MCHS Football (@MCHSFootball) November 27, 2018
A coast-to-coast search for front-seven players: Nebraska had coaches from California to New Jersey looking for impact defensive players on Tuesday.
Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander was in California, but further south than Verduzco. He stopped by Riverside Community College in California to see a pair of junior college linebackers.
Teammates Vic Viramontes and Nick Figueroa are both on the Huskers' radar screen. It's unclear exactly how many defensive junior college players NU will take or how much room they will have ahead of the December date, but these are two guys to keep an eye on.
In South Florida, outside linebackers coach Jovan Dewitt worked familiar territory and saw a familiar face.
Dewitt stopped by Lakeland High, where 2019 four-star pass-rusher Lloyd Summerall plays. Summerall, who has offers from all of the power players in Florida, visited Lincoln for the Michigan State game and saw snow for the first time.
Summerall has official visits lined up to Florida on Dec. 7 and Miami on Dec. 13, according to his 247Sports profile.
Thanks to Coach Dewitt @Coach_Dewitt from Nebraska for stopping by to check out our guys and our program as well as wish us luck this week !!! ⚓️🌽⚓️ #NAUGHTS #HUSKERS @HuskerFBNation pic.twitter.com/aY18so12lF— Lakeland Football (@LHSDreadnaughts) November 27, 2018
Lakeland is still playing this fall and faces Edgewater in the Florida Class 7A semifinals on Friday night.
Further up the East Coast, defensive line coach Mike Dawson was in New Jersey to see fast-rising 2019 defensive end Smith Vilbert.
Vilbert, who confirmed the visit to the Journal Star, is listed at 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds and has seen his recruitment explode in recent months. He said he does not yet know if he will take an official visit to Nebraska and it’s unclear if he’ll sign in December or wait until February. As a guy garnering extensive interest late in the process, he might be a candidate to wait until the later signing date. Currently, he is slated to visit Oregon this weekend.
Dawson was also expected to see 2019 Husker verbal commit Rahmir Johnson, the standout running back at Bergen Catholic in Oradell, New Jersey, on Tuesday.
Coaching carousel watch: A staff shakeup on the West Coast could have an impact on Nebraska's recruiting efforts.
Even though USC kept head coach Clay Helton, the school is overhauling the staff underneath him. Defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze was fired as part of the changes. Udeze was the primary recruiter for four-star defensive end Ty Robinson, who is also considering Nebraska, Alabama and others.
THat could have an impact on Robinson's thinking as he moves closer to a decision.
More Georgia time Tuesday: Several Nebraska coaches, including head coach Scott Frost, were expected to continue recruiting in the Atlanta area for a good chunk of Tuesday.
They were visiting a pair of verbal commits in running back Ronald Thompkins (Grayson High) and rangy defensive back Quinton Newsome (North Gwinnett). NU was set to meet with Thompkins, who missed all but one half of one game with a knee injury this year, Tuesday afternoon.
Then coaches were meeting Newsome for an in-home visit Tuesday night evening.
Nebraska coaches also stopped by North Forsyth High in an interesting move. That's the school of talented 2019 offensive lineman Jeremy James. James, listed at 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, has been verbally committed to Ole Miss for months. That didn't stop him from using an official visit to Lincoln in September, though. The Huskers had Frost, offensive line coach Greg Austin, tight ends coach Sean Beckton and secondary coach Travis Fisher all together in Georgia. It's likely the coaches saw James at his home, too, since they are making the rounds and visiting other 2019s this evening.
The Huskers currently have four verbal commitments for Austin's group and would like to take at least five. Can they convince James to join the fold?
— NFHS FB Recruiting (@NFHS_FB_Recruit) November 27, 2018
|Matthew Anderson||OT||6-7||250||Leesville, La.||***|
|Bryce Benhart||OT||6-9||305||Lakeville, Minn. (North)||****|
|Desmond Bland||OL||6-4||300||Flossmoor, Ill. (Arizona Western C.C.)||****|
|Darien Chase||WR||6-1||175||Vancouver, Wash. (Union)||****|
|Myles Farmer||DB||6-3||180||Atlanta (Westlake)||***|
|Jamin Graham||OLB||6-6||240||Attalla, Ala. (Etowah)||***|
|Jackson Hannah||ILB||6-3||220||Nashville, Tenn. (Montgomery Bell)||****|
|Nick Henrich||ILB||6-4||210||Omaha (Burke)||****|
|Chris Hickman||TE||6-5||220||Omaha (Burke)||***|
|Rahmir Johnson||RB||5-10||170||Oradell, N.J. (Bergen Catholic)||****|
|Michael Lynn||OT||6-7||300||Englewood, Colo. (Cherry Creek)||***|
|Luke McCaffrey||QB||6-3||185||Littleton, Colo. (Valor Christian)||***|
|Dedrick Mills||RB||5-10||227||Waycross, Ga. (Garden City C.C.)||***|
|Jamie Nance||WR||6-0||170||Blanchard, Okla.||***|
|Mosai Newsom||DE||6-5||260||Waverly, Iowa (Waverly-Shell Rock)||***|
|Quinton Newsome||DB||6-2||180||Suwanee, Ga. (North Gwinnett)||***|
|Ethan Piper||DL||6-4||275||Norfolk (Catholic)||***|
|Wandale Robinson||RB||5-9||180||Frankfurt, Ky. (Western Hills)||****|
|Ronald Thompkins||RB||6-0||203||Loganville, Ga. (Grayson)||***|
|Javin Wright||DB||6-3||195||Chandler, Ariz. (Hamilton)||***|
1. OHIO STATE (11-1, 8-1)
Previous: 2. Last week: W 62-39 vs. Michigan.
There are unexpected results and then there’s an offense that’s been hit-and-miss this fall hanging 62 points on what was widely regarded as the best defense in the country. It’s funny, in a way, because Ohio State winning the East shouldn’t ever be surprising, nor should Urban Meyer beating Michigan, but this one was still a shocker. The Buckeyes can make life tough for the College Football Playoff committee with a convincing win over Northwestern on Saturday.
2. NORTHWESTERN (8-4, 8-1)
Previous: 3. Last week: W 24-16 vs. Illinois.
OK, so the Wildcats didn’t blow anybody’s doors off the past two weeks, but they could have fully packed it up after wrapping up the West. Instead, they capped off an 8-1 conference campaign with a pair of wins. Who’s more likely to win Big Ten coach of the year than Pat Fitzgerald? Can Northwestern pull off a magic trick in Indianapolis?
3. MICHIGAN (10-2, 8-1)
Previous: 1. Last week: L 62-39 at Ohio State.
Man, oh man. Michigan had it all right there for the taking — East title, favorable championship game matchup, surefire CFP berth with wins over the Buckeyes and Wildcats. Instead, well, Dwayne Haskins threw for 396 yards and six touchdowns and broke Drew Brees’ conference record with 42 touchdown passes on the season. It was ugly. Now, can the Wolverines bounce back and win what is almost sure to be a New Year’s Six bowl?
4. PENN STATE (9-3, 6-3)
Previous: 4. Last week: W 38-3 vs. Maryland.
The three losses — to division foes Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State — will sting in State College, but it’s not easy to win nine games. For that to be a down year speaks to the work James Franklin and company have done. A plum bowl assignment and a chance to notch another 10-win season awaits.
5. IOWA (8-4, 5-4)
Previous: 6. Last week: W 31-28 vs. Nebraska.
The Hawkeyes cap off another solid regular season, but considering the talent they have, it must feel like a bit of a disappointment considering the way the West ultimately fell. That defensive line is already powerful and will be a force to be reckoned with in 2019. UI has some young talent in the backfield and at receiver, but will probably lose at least one of those dynamite tight ends. Can Nate Stanley make a big jump for his final year?
6. MICHIGAN STATE (7-5, 5-4)
Previous: 7. Last week: W 14-10 vs. Rutgers.
A weird regular season ends on weird note for the Spartans, who just about lost to Rutgers before a late Cody White touchdown. Mark Dantonio’s team will try to win a bowl game and then regroup from a disappointing fall.
7. PURDUE (6-6, 5-4)
Previous: 8. Last week: W 28-21 at Indiana.
The Boilermakers hit some rough road there in November, but got an in-state win on the road to qualify for a bowl game and finished above .500 in Big Ten play. Now, if they can hang on to Jeff Brohm through coach poaching season, that will set up a very intriguing 2019. Rondale Moore's first 12 games in college football: 103 catches, 1,164 yards, 12 TDs plus 203 rushing yards and another score.
8. MINNESOTA (6-6, 3-6)
Previous: 12. Last week: W 37-15 at Wisconsin.
What a way to close the regular season for P.J. Fleck and company. They stomp historic rival Wisconsin on the road. They take back Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time in 15 years. And, oh yeah, they qualify for a bowl game in the process. Probably one of the best days of Fleck’s time in Minneapolis so far.
9. NEBRASKA (4-8, 3-6)
Previous: 9. Last week: L 31-28 at Iowa.
The Huskers won four of their final six and, really, had a chance to win each of their final seven. The arrow is pointed up in Lincoln. There will be tinges of disappointment – the West turned wild and NU nearly beat Northwestern, Iowa and Ohio State – but almost everybody in the Husker program believes bright days are ahead.
10. WISCONSIN (7-5, 5-4)
Previous: 5. Last week: L 37-15 vs. Minnesota.
OK, there’s a little bit of folly in putting Nebraska ahead of Wisconsin. Head-to-head Badger win, bowl qualification, etc. But who feels better about its program right now? Comparing preseason expectations, Wisconsin is the most disappointing team in the Big Ten and one of the most disappointing in the country. After a bowl game, the next eight months will be about figuring out whether this was an anomaly or the end of a dominant run in the West division. Since UW beat Nebraska at Cam Randall, the Badgers are 3-4. The Huskers: 4-3.
11. MARYLAND (5-6, 3-6)
Previous: 10. Last week: L 38-3 at Penn State.
Maryland fizzled down the stretch. At one point, they were 5-3 and appeared headed to a bowl game. But a four-game losing streak scuttled that track. It was a challenging season in College Park and it’s going to be more of the same in the offseason, but the Terps have some young offensive talent to build around.
12. INDIANA (5-7, 2-7)
Previous: 11. Last week: L 28-21 vs. Purdue.
For the second straight year, the Hoosiers lost out on a bowl berth because of a final-week loss to in-state foe Purdue. That’s tough. Tom Allen’s team and quarterback Peyton Ramsey have shown that they can be competitive, but wins in the Big Ten have been hard to come by (4-14 the past two years).
13. ILLINOIS (4-8, 2-7)
Previous: 13. Last week: L 24-16 at Northwestern.
The Illini couldn’t knock off Northwestern to close the season, but Lovie Smith did get a two-year extension. The big question will be if his buyout changed. If not, it’s mostly a move for recruiting stability. Smith’s program is making steady, but slow, progress. Can it take a step in 2019?
14. RUTGERS (1-11, 0-9)
Previous: 14. Last week: L 14-10 at Michigan State.
They almost did it. The Scarlet Knights led Michigan State deep in the fourth quarter before giving up a go-ahead touchdown with less than four minutes left. One year after scratching out three Big Ten wins, Chris Ash’s team falls back to zero. Tough sledding in New Jersey.