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Nebraska's defensive line apparently will get a new player with some experience in the college game.

Vaha Vainuku, a former Utah lineman who played sparingly in 2016, appears set to join Nebraska's program as a two-year graduate transfer, meaning he would be eligible to play in 2018 and 2019. NU can't officially acknowledge the transfer until Vainuku signs scholarship papers.

The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Vainuku was on a flight Friday and unavailable for comment, but did tweet the following:

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Vainuku left the Utah program in April of 2017 because of a foot injury he suffered in 2016. He continued his studies at Utah on a medical hardship and received a bachelor's degree.

He was sidelined in 2015 with an injury and redshirted before being limited to two games in 2016 because of the foot injury. Although he came to Utah as a defensive lineman, he played on the offensive side in 2016 out of necessity -- although Nebraska apparently wants him on defense.

He graduated in 2012 from Salt Lake City East High, where he was a star on the gridiron and also won a state championship in shot put (50-03.25). He served an LDS Church mission before joining the Utes in 2015.

A three-star defensive tackle recruit in the class of 2012, Vainuku was ranked as the state of Utah's eighth-best player overall as a senior. He chose Utah over Washington State, but visited only Utah, according to Rivals.

It's possible Vainuku could help Nebraska at nose tackle, where the Huskers have three scholarship players -- seniors Mick Stoltenberg and Peyton Newell as well as redshirt freshman Damion Daniels. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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