Imagine the difference between Brooks, Alberta, southeast of Calgary, and Clearwater, Florida.
Imagine the difference between being a little-known Canadian basketball player and high-jump champion and being a wide receiver prospect that everybody in the country, including the two teams that played for college football’s national championship game in January, wants on their team.
That’s about what the past six months have been like for Ajou Ajou, a 6-foot-3 pass-catcher now at Clearwater Academy International in Florida by way of his hometown 240-plus miles due north of Great Falls, Montana.
“I was laughing to myself just a couple weeks ago, like, this kid hasn’t even taken a snap for us and he has offers from Alabama and Clemson. How is that possible?” CAI coach Jesse Chinchar told the Journal Star this week.
Ajou came to Clearwater in February, so he’s got to play spring ball and go through summer workouts with the team. Nebraska last year offered a couple of players at the school including linebacker Kervens Bonhomme (who ended up at Indiana) and running backs coach Ryan Held, inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud and company recruited the program back to their UCF days, so they heard about Ajou before he was ever in Florida.
Even still, most coaches have the same reaction when they see him in person.
“They’re shocked,” Chinchar said. “Nine times out of 10, they’re like, ‘Wow, he’s even better-looking than I thought.' When you see him in person, he’s really tall, but his arms are really long, he’s filled out really well. When you hear 215 at receiver, initially a lot of people are like, ‘Well, it sounds like he’s going to grow into being a linebacker.’ But he’s lean, he’s long, he really kind of has that receiver body.”
Ajou’s offer list also includes Penn State, Florida, Miami, Oregon, Auburn, Texas A&M and a host of other schools.
All of that makes it even more intriguing that NU landed one of Ajou’s five official visits. He is one of seven known players taking an official this weekend in Lincoln — he’s slated to be joined by juco receiver Omar Manning (Kilgore J.C.), running back Sevion Morrison (Tulsa, Oklahoma), linebackers Malik Reed (Chandler, Arizona) and Choe Bryant-Strother (Waycross, Georgia), defensive back Tamon Lynum (Orlando, Florida) and defensive back Josh Moten, a four-star former Penn State verbal commit and a late add to the guest list according to multiple recruiting outlets — along with a large group of unofficial visitors.
“I think it’s just the comfort level with the staff, and we have coaches here who talk very highly about Nebraska, so it’s something that he heard about pretty early,” Chinchar said. “They’ve done a good job of working with him this recruiting cycle.”
Officially speaking: NU’s six expected visitors make nine for the month, as linebackers Cody Simon (Jersey City, New Jersey) and Blaise Gunnerson (Carroll, Iowa) and running back Marvin Scott III (Spruce Creek, Florida) have already been on campus. Add in Nash Hutmacher (Chamberlain, South Dakota) in April and Cal graduate transfer Kanawai Noa in May, and the Huskers will have used — assuming all six visit this weekend as expected — 11 of their remaining visits for the current year.
That would still allow Nebraska to roll one or two forward, meaning the school will have up to 57 or 58 to use between this fall and next summer. Or, perhaps, a surprise or two awaits this weekend. Either way, NU is in good shape numbers-wise.
Watt traveling to ND: Key Nebraska target and in-state wide receiver Xavier Watts (Omaha Burke) is headed to Notre Dame this weekend for an official visit.
Watts has spent significant time around Lincoln recently, visiting the past three weeks for an unofficial visit, a 7-on-7 tournament and last week's Friday Night Lights No. 1.
Watts last month said his final six includes the Huskers and Irish, Wisconsin, Michigan, Tennessee and Iowa State.
Hahn looks to impress: One of the most intriguing prospects expected at FNL No. 2 is in-state athlete Ty Hahn. The Johnson-Brock standout has had a big spring and summer so far on the recruiting trail but has yet to pick up a Power Five offer.
Hahn is 6-2 and about 195 and told the Journal Star last week he's willing to play either side of the ball in college, though he's mostly being recruited as a receiver.
Hahn, of course, plays eight-man football at Johnson-Brock, but says he doesn't think that will hinder his recruitment much overall.
"So far, it hasn't a whole lot," he said. "A lot of coaches have said that I've already passed that barrier. At the start, they did say they wanted to see me at camp because they don't know what the competition is exactly like when they see my highlight tape. ... But now a lot of them say they know I can play."
Hahn hasn't had a ton of contact with Nebraska recently, but has texted with Ruud some and has heard from director of high school relations Kenny Wilhite.
If there's a player in the 2020 in-state class that can prompt NU to offer a third scholarship beyond Watts and verbal commit Zavier Betts (Bellevue West), could it be Hahn? He thinks he can play at the Power Five level.
"I definitely do," he said. "Being at eight-man, you don't always face the best competition, so going to the camps for the first time this summer, that first camp, I thought, 'OK, I've got to adjust a little bit.' ... I fully believe I can play at that level."