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Spring Game, 4.13

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost (right) talks with quarterback coach Mario Verduzco during warmups before the Red-White Spring Game April 13 at Memorial Stadium.

Let’s take a little midweek drive.

1. Mario Verduzco doesn’t much mind what anybody else thinks about quarterback prospects around the country.

The Nebraska QB coach has had success in the way he evaluates high school quarterbacks and knows what he’s looking for in terms of baseline qualities and also development potential.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Verduzco and the Huskers were the first team to offer Peter Costelli, a 2021 signal-caller at Mission Viejo High in California.

Costelli is listed at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, and is considered a three-star prospect by 247Sports. As a sophomore at Rancho Santa Margarita High School, Costelli threw for 2,292 yards (54.1% completions) and 20 touchdowns against 10 interceptions before transferring to Mission Viejo. He also ran for 194 yards and a pair of scores.

Costelli's is the ninth known scholarship offer at quarterback for NU in the 2021 class. Tyler Buchner is verbally committed to Notre Dame, but the other eight are currently uncommitted. Jake Garcia (Harbor City, California) and Texas standout Dematrius Davis (Houston) are the only two known to have been to campus so far.

Let’s see if that changes this summer.

2. Omaha Burke coach Paul Limongi is coaching the Shrine Bowl’s North team this week and said he’s having a great time getting to know players from not only his area but also other parts of the state and classes.

He also spoke highly of his own talented junior wide receiver and safety Xavier Watts, who is being heavily pursued by Nebraska, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Northwestern and several other schools.

“We knew ‘X’ was going to be a special player for us, but what surprised us was his impact on defense and how he played safety,” Limongi said. “The physicality he showed running the alley, the way he played the ball in the air was tremendous. The last four playoff games, defensively, were out of the park. People tend to forget that and focus on him catching the touchdown passes. In our biggest games, he came to play.”

Watts has been on NU’s campus several times this year and toured many schools in the Midwest this spring. He reportedly has a summer official visit lined up to Notre Dame, which has emerged as a serious player in Watts’ recruitment.

One thing Limongi is sure of: Watts will make a well-informed decision.

“First and foremost, he’s an honor student and academics are important to him and to his family, and it shows,” Limongi said. “He wants to go to a school that has a family-like atmosphere and he can establish a good relationship with the coaches and achieve success. He’s doing his due diligence on finding that school, and he’s taking his time and giving everybody the respect they deserve.

“When he makes a decision, it’s going to be the right one.”

3. Limongi has seen high-profile recruiting up close and personal, of course. His pair of 2019 standouts, linebacker Nick Henrich and tight end Chris Hickman, are both freshmen and early enrollees at Nebraska.

Both have also already faced adversity.

Hickman was out for most of the spring with a shoulder injury, and Henrich suffered his own injury midway through camp. Hickman is further along in recovery — though he has significant physical development ahead of him before he’s game-ready, tight ends coach Sean Beckton said last month — while it’s an open question whether Henrich will be recovered in time for the beginning of the regular season.

“They’re tough kids, they’re mentally tough, they know how to handle adversity,” Limongi said. “They’re both very resilient, and basically I just tell them ‘Hey, attack the process.’ Whatever they tell you to do, whether it’s rehab, gaining weight, lifting weights — attack it. Their response is exactly what it’s been for the past four years. ‘Yes, Coach.’

“I have full confidence that both of them are going to do the best they can, and the best they can is pretty darn good.”

4. One more from Limongi: The Bulldogs have an intriguing senior running back this year who is trying to turn some heads on the recruiting trail.

That’s Jaylon Roussell (6-foot-1, 180 pounds), who rushed for 831 yards (8.1 per carry) and nine touchdowns as a junior and looks primed to replace stalwart James Burks as the go-to option in Burke’s backfield.

“James was one of the toughest football players I ever coached. Heart. Tons of heart. Never gives up. The bigger the challenge, the tougher he plays,” Limongi said. “Jaylon is what you want if you were going to create a running back. He’s 6-1, he’s long, he’s extremely quick. He puts a foot in the ground and it’s scary how fast he gets out of it. He’s strong, he’s tough, he’s got some really good physicality in him that you like in a running back.

“He’s really starting to learn and understand what it takes to be at that high level, and that’s hard work and good leadership. So far this offseason, he’s taken that all and run with it.”

Roussell showed well at a recent Rivals camp in St. Louis and has a big summer ahead of him in terms of NCAA Division I interest.

The 2020 high school class in Nebraska is interesting and has been outlined here in the past. There’s a deep group of talent that’s garnered Division I attention, but nobody the Huskers have offered other than Watts and fellow receiver Zavier Betts (Bellevue West). The most likely scenario is that NU sees how the class develops and perhaps offers another in-state prospect late in the cycle depending on scholarships remaining. Or maybe somebody, whether it’s Roussell or elsewhere, forces the Huskers’ hand.

5. Not to say there won’t be any Nebraska-related recruiting movement in the coming days, but let’s read some tea leaves and look for a period when action is likely to heat up.

Coveted defensive lineman Nash Hutmacher (Chamberlain, South Dakota) takes his official visit to Wisconsin on June 7. Outside linebacker Blaise Gunnerson (Carroll, Iowa) is reportedly officially visiting NU on June 14. Then June 21-23, near the end of camp season, is shaping up to be one of the biggest recruiting weekends of the year so far for the Huskers.

Nebraska hasn’t received a commitment for 2020 since Turner Corcoran pulled the trigger while visiting for the Red-White Spring Game in April, but June is lined up to be an action-filled month.

6. Nebraska signee Myles Farmer had an interesting run-in at the airport on his way to Lincoln. The defensive back from Atlanta tweeted a photo of himself with the rapper Lil Nas X.

Must have been a surprising encounter. The thought here was that Lil Nas X now only traveled by horseback.

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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