Tom Minnick is confident that Nebraska's latest pledge will have a great career as a Husker.

How confident? The Arizona Western Community College head football coach thinks Desmond Bland has the makings of an NFL player.

"I would assume he's probably one of the better juco linemen in the country," Minnick said. "He's a competitor. He's only 6-3, but he's so explosive, he can move, bend his hips, he can run.

"He's probably an NFL center."

Bland, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound interior lineman for the 2019 class, announced his commitment to the Huskers on Friday.

He is currently gearing for his third season (he redshirted last year) at Arizona Western, the same program that has groomed incoming Huskers Greg Bell and Jaron Woodyard.

"You picked three of the better ones, which is a great thing, because they've been raised right and do everything right, and they're great kids," Minnick said.

Bland is ranked the No. 2 junior college guard in the country by 247Sports, and the 41st top juco prospect overall. He is rated four stars by Rivals, and is the sixth known recruit in the 2019 class.

Minnick said Bland will play at center this fall for the Matadors, who reached the NJCAA national final the past two seasons.

"I'll tell you what, I can move him to defensive tackle right now and he'd probably start," Minnick said. "That's how well he runs. He'll run laps around our offensive linemen and we have some pretty good offensive linemen coming back. I could have him run sprints with the receivers and he'll stay right with them. That's how well he moves."

Originally from Flossmoor, Illinois, Bland received NJCAA All-America honors as a freshman before injuries forced a redshirt season. Minnick said a shoulder injury is behind Bland -- who was back for spring football -- and he's "ready to roll."

He'll get two seasons with the Huskers.

According to Rivals, Bland has 12 Division I offers, including Arizona, Arkansas, Fresno State, Iowa State, Kansas State, Louisville and Missouri. He picked up an offer from Nebraska in March.

Earlier in the day, the Huskers received a commitment from Vaha Vainuku, a defensive lineman transfer from Utah.

Vainuku, 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.

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Vainuku left the Utah program in April 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 (50-3¼). He served an LDS Church mission before joining the Utes in 2015.


Husker columnist

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

Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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