Nick Henderson has been working with De’Mariyon Houston since the eighth grade.
That’s given the assistant coach at Millwood High in Oklahoma City a front-row seat in watching — and assisting — as Houston developed from a fast middle schooler into a Power Five wide receiver recruit.
Houston, listed at 6 feet tall and 165 pounds, is now one of the few prospects left on Nebraska’s radar screen as the second National Signing Day arrives on Wednesday.
Husker head coach Scott Frost said in December that NU would like to add another high school receiver, and Houston certainly checks a lot of boxes.
“He’s explosive,” Henderson said flatly. “He’s a game-changer.”
Indeed, Houston ran 10.71 in the 100 meters during Millwood’s 2017 track season and turned in a 21.42 in the 200 meters.
Not only that, but he’s been a productive receiver at Millwood for years.
“He’s kind of like a (Kansas City Chiefs star receiver) Tyreek Hill,” Henderson said. “His freshman year he started on the outside because it’s the easiest to learn in our offense. Sophomore year I said, ‘Man, you’re a Division I slot receiver.’ He didn’t want to move in the slot but he trusted me and that was his best season. Junior year he was a slot guy for us and he had a great year, did great in the slot.
“This year, we really didn’t have a second playmaker like that so we moved him all over the field. He played slot, outside, wildcat quarterback if we needed it. When we needed to make a play, he made it.”
Houston originally committed to Texas and spent most of the fall as part of the Longhorns’ class before reopening his recruitment in early December. He visited Minnesota before the early signing date, but kept his options open into January.
That’s when NU really came into the picture. He visited Lincoln the weekend of Jan. 11. Frost, offensive coordinator Troy Walters and running backs coach Ryan Held visited Houston at his home on Jan. 24, the same day that New Jersey prep receiver Charles Njoku committed to UCLA.
“He’s built a lot of relationships with coaches, but one of the things I can definitely say that he liked about the coaches at Nebraska is just it probably reminded him of the staff that we have,” Henderson said. “We don’t pressure our players, we just want them to do the right thing. Our head coach is big on, ‘I don’t want you to make a decision today. I want you to go home, think about it, pray about it, because I want it to be the right decision.’ Don’t make a decision based off emotion. Don’t make a decision because your friends want you to make that decision. Make that decision because you want to make that decision to better yourself, better your family.”
At various points in recent weeks, reports surfaced about Houston potentially visiting Penn State or taking a final-weekend trip to Colorado. Neither materialized. Rivals reported recently that Houston is expected to make his announcement on Wednesday as part of the National Signing Day proceedings.
Running down the rest: Houston is clearly in the mix for the Huskers down the stretch. The rest of the picture is a little bit fuzzier.
Remember, NU doesn’t have to take three players just to take them. They already have 26 signed and could add just one or two more, which would create more flexibility for exploring the transfer market later this year and also help create more spots in the 2020 class.
The Huskers do not have any known official visitors on the final weekend before signing day.
NU’s remaining outside linebacker prospects, meanwhile, are each taking visits. Steven Parker of Dallas is visiting Kansas and Soni Fonua of Mesa (Arizona) Community College is at LSU.
Parker is said to be mulling a three-way choice among NU, the Jayhawks and Texas Tech, where he was once committed. He has kept his recruitment very quiet overall, particularly in recent weeks. Fonua, meanwhile, has visited Oklahoma State and LSU the past two weeks. He had high marks for NU after a Jan. 11 visit, but it’s unclear exactly where things stand now.
Running back John Bivens visited Lincoln on Jan. 18. The prevailing wisdom is that he would commit to the Huskers if given the green light. Whether that happens remains to be seen.
Those four — Houston, Parker, Fonua and Bivens — are the only January visitors that remain uncommitted. A pair of defensive backs that visited during the season also are still uncommitted in Tavian Mayo (Leesburg, Georgia) and Jamel Starks (Decatur, Georgia), though the major recruiting services see them heading elsewhere.
So, what will it be? Zero, one, two or three for the Huskers? That remains an open question, and one that might not be answered until shortly before Frost steps to the podium for a slated Wednesday afternoon news conference.