When Matthew Anderson visited Nebraska unofficially earlier this month, he quickly became sold on the idea of playing for the Huskers.
The latest verbal commit for NU’s 2019 class — actually, Anderson gave his pledge to the coaching staff that first weekend of June, but only publicized it Friday — can go on at some length about why he chose Scott Frost's program.
But if we’re talking difference-makers, Anderson points to a long meeting with head strength coach Zach Duval.
“After talking to Coach Duval, I was just like, ‘Wow,’” Anderson said recently. “I could tell that they don’t just want me to lift 1,000 pounds or something. They want me to be healthy and they want me to be good at football. I can tell that they’re going to get me strong and everything that comes with college football in the weight room, but they also want me to be healthy, and that’s one of my biggest things.”
At 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds, Anderson is strong but lean and only moved to the offensive line from tight end last fall. While some schools may see that as a detriment, NU saw the opposite.
“He hears that a lot, ‘You’re a lineman? You’re kind of skinny,’” his dad, Mark, said. “But he’s big and he understands leverage and power and positioning. Last year, he was at like 220 pounds and he’s going up against 300-plus (pound) defensive linemen.
“You hear the strength and conditioning coach say, ‘No, you’re perfect, because we don’t have to try to get rid of that excess baggage that’s just fat.’ He’s lean and he’s got a massive frame.”
Added Matthew: "They gave me everything. He showed me his plans with me as an athlete, what he does normally with athletes, what my stuff would be like."
Anderson just turned 17 on Friday and said he’s the youngest person in his class at Leesville High in Western Louisiana. Even though he's currently not planning on enrolling early, a late-May/early-June 2019 arrival would put him in NU’s strength program before he turns 18.
“The weight room, you have to do it right or you’re going to get injured all the time,” Anderson said. “Anytime I’ve ever been hurt, it’s from the weight room. I just feel like I really trust those guys.
“They talked to me about how you have to allow yourself to (recover). Recovery is the key in everything and some people will work and work and never recover properly and don’t get the gains you normally would. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’ll get killed — there will be some pretty hard workouts — but I think this will be a chance for me to recover from that workout and be able to get better from it.”
There are many ways to develop players and, if you survey the best offensive linemen in the country, you can likely find several body types. What’s interesting here is watching the way Nebraska recruits linemen going forward. In 2019, the Huskers now have two verbal commits in Anderson and Arizona Western transfer Desmond Bland. Bland is thicker at 6-4 and 300, but he’s also considerably older.
Offensive line recruiting is important every year, but perhaps particularly so in the 2019 cycle for NU. Not only is it this staff’s first full swing at a class, but center Michael Decker left the program this spring and three more multiyear contributors — Jerald Foster, Cole Conrad and Tanner Farmer — are seniors.
Many of the Huskers’ other scholarship offers are of a similar mold as Anderson and Bland: either tackle-type frames or junior-college guys who could potentially play right away. It’s an area that’s sure to be active in the coming months.