Almost a month ago now, Nebraska football coach Scott Frost said his program’s recruiting approach will approximate taking the best available player, regardless of position.
There are certainly some needs, too, though, as four known official visitors make their way to campus for the first of four main recruiting weekends between now and the second National Signing Day in February, including outside linebacker, wide receiver and defensive back. Not surprisingly, NU’s January visit schedule is shaping up to show a cross between the best-available approach and a needs-based strategy.
“Those are kind of the areas that we’re looking, but it doesn’t really matter — skill player on offense, (defensive) line — if we find a kind of player that can help us win games in the Big Ten, we’re going to take them,” Frost said.
The Huskers are slated to host four-star wide receiver Charles Njoku (Wayne, New Jersey), four-star outside linebacker Steven Parker (Dallas), cornerback DJ James (Spanish Fort, Alabama) and junior college outside linebacker Soni Fonua (Mesa, Arizona) this weekend.
They’ll also be on the road extensively. Running backs coach Ryan Held stopped by Pittsburg, Kansas, on Friday morning — the first day visits are allowed after a dead period that stretched back to Dec. 15 — to see three-star outside linebacker Dylan Jordan before Jordan headed to Utah for an official visit. Jordan is slated to visit NU on Jan. 25.
So there are still several moving parts even though Nebraska is running short on spots. The Huskers have 24 players signed already and have a maximum of 30 spots available. They could still sign junior college running back Dedrick Mills (Garden City, Kansas) before Jan. 15 or in February. They will undoubtedly take four-star defensive back Noa Pola-Gates if he picks the Huskers on Jan. 19 during the Polynesian Bowl.
So, there are anywhere between four and six spots available. That includes any flexibility for the spring and summer, meaning NU might not fill to exactly 30 between now and the February signing day.
Got all that? OK, here’s a look at the players who will be on campus this weekend:
Njoku has been on the radar for more than a month now. At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, he’s a bigger receiver than the Huskers currently have on their roster. The younger brother of NFL tight end David Njoku, Charles finished his senior season at Wayne Hills High with 1,106 yards (21.3 per catch) and 16 touchdowns in 13 games. He was originally committed to Missouri, but backed off that pledge in November. He will almost certainly be a coveted prospect by many schools this month. The Huskers have another four-star receiver visiting next weekend in De’Mariyon Houston (Oklahoma City), a former Texas verbal commit who reopened his recruitment last month.
Parker racked up huge numbers at Dallas power South Oak Cliff High. The 6-4, 225-pound edge rusher earned first-team all-area honors from The Dallas Morning News and was named the District 11-5A Defensive MVP each of the past two seasons. The Texas Associated Press Sports Editors named him a first-team all-state defender for Class 5A. As a senior, he had 70 tackles (25 for loss), 18 sacks and four forced fumbles. Parker was verbally committed to Texas Tech but decommitted at the beginning of December.
The Huskers made a late charge to land Caleb Tannor, a highly regarded outside linebacker, in January last year. Can they do it again with Parker?
James is a 6-0 cornerback who is currently verbally committed to Mississippi State, but did not sign in the early signing period and plans to take several official visits this month.
James also is receiving interest from Iowa, Oregon and several other schools around the country.
Defensive back is one of the most fluid areas remaining for the Huskers. They covet Pola-Gates and have worked to get James on a visit. Players such as Tavian Mayo (Leesburg, Georgia) and Jamel Starks (Decatur, Georgia) remain uncommitted and visited NU during the season. How many will the Huskers take with a very limited number of spots remaining and three already signed?
Fonua is also a recent target but played at a school (Mesa Community College) in Arizona that plays in a league the Husker staff has scouted before. He’s big, listed at 6-4 and 264, and is related to senior defensive tackle Vaha Vainuku.
Fonua is slated to visit Central Florida, Oklahoma State and Kansas in the three weekends following his trip to Lincoln.
The Huskers enter the weekend having used 36 of 56 official visits for the 2019 cycle. They appear on track to use at least about 10 in the coming weeks. Any remaining visits can be used on 2020 prospects this spring and summer.