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Exclusive Tunnel Talk: 4/21/2023

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Exclusive Tunnel Talk: 4/21/2023

Welcome to the latest edition of HuskerOnline.com’s most popular member feature, Tunnel Talk. Our staff gives you the latest inside information on Nebraska football, basketball, volleyball, and recruiting.

Now, on to the scoop…

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Callahans weekly nuggets

***The interest from Mater Dei (Calif.) offensive lineman Brandon Baker is real. In fact, this week, his older brother, Gary Baker Jr., will be on the trip with him and his parents. Gary is a prominent figure in this, as he played college football at Oregon and will have a lot of good feedback for his brother. 

When Brandon got back from his March trip to Lincoln, he could not stop talking about how much he liked it here and how much he liked Nebraska’s coaching staff. He’s very close to dropping his top 10, and Baker told me this week the Huskers would obviously be in that grouping.

They will also be getting one of his five official visits. Texas, Georgia, Ohio State, and Oregon are the other players, in my opinion.

Do not be surprised if USC or UCLA are left off his top 10 based on our conversation on Monday night.

***Baker played a big part in convincing his teammate, Aydin Breyland, to come out this week. I’m told Breyland kept talking up how much he liked his trips to Georgia and Texas. Baker told him, “Wait until you visit Nebraska.”

We’ll sit down with both Baker and Breyland for a Recruit Spotlight.

***On3 now ranks Nathanial Frazier as the No. 1 running back in the country. He just returned from Alabama but continues to be high on the Huskers. Look for him to make a return trip to Lincoln soon. I expect NU to make the cut list. 

***Four-star linebackers Dylan Williams and Kamar Mothudi will travel to Nebraska with family. The two are very close and play on the same 7-on-7 team in California. Williams’s cousin, 2026 athlete Kamarie Smith, will also be in Lincoln this weekend. I would not be surprised at all if he left with an offer.

***As I learn more about Matt Rhule’s recruiting operation, it’s become evident that Omar Hales is the key figure in the operation. He initiates a lot of dialogue and communication with the different recruits. CJ Cavazos and Mike Wallace are two others that are big in dealing with the recruits. 

***The spring evaluation period began this week on Monday. Nebraska will have 168 total days to use with 10 coaches from now until May 31. All days are live other than Sundays and Memorial Day. It averages out to just under 17 days per coach. But really, it’s closer to 20 because most coordinators do not go out that much.

However, the new recruiting rules where coaches can now have contact with juniors at a school do not go into effect until later in the summer.

***Do not be surprised if Papillion La Vista tight end and Pittsburgh commit Eric Ingwerson is at the spring game on Saturday. He was in Lincoln last week but also attended Pitt’s spring game last weekend.

This is by no means a slam dunk for the Huskers to flip Ingwerson. He really likes Pitt and head coach Pat Narduzzi. He does not have much of a relationship yet with the new Husker staff.

***I talked to one former NU lineman who has been to practice, and he said if the Huskers didn’t have Ben Scott right now, they would be in quite a bit of trouble up front.

***Rhule referenced a practice fight last week. I’m told fullback Braden Klover got into it with tight end Brodie Tagaloa. When that happens in practice, Rhule does not mess around. Both players ran.

There was also a point last week where all the players and coaches did sprints together because something went wrong in practice. Rhule has a very high standard of what he wants to see.

-Sean Callahan

He was a player here.
He was a coach here.
He was a Husker here.

Frank Solich, back in Memorial this Saturday. #GBR pic.twitter.com/EVJcTKp1pE

— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) April 21, 2023

As Sipple sees (and hears) it

***I had a great conversation earlier this week with Barry Alvarez regarding Frank Solich. They were teammates in 1965 for a Nebraska team that finished 10-1 (the lone loss coming to Alabama in the Orange Bowl). Alvarez will be on hand this weekend in Lincoln as Solich is honored during the Red-White Spring Game.

Alvarez, 76, is among 30 or so people invited to a private dinner for Solich on Friday night in Lincoln. KU coach Lance Leipold, who worked for Solich at NU in the recruiting department, also is among the invitees.

A reception in West Stadium will follow, with hundreds expected to attend.

I’ll have a column with extensive Alvarez thoughts on Solich that will be published on HuskerOnline.com later today (Friday).  

Alvarez is coming to town to honor a good man.

“Don’t play those other games,” he said regarding the conversation of a “Solich curse” on the program being lifted. “There’s no need to bring up Steve Pederson or what should’ve happened or could’ve happened. 

“All that bullsh– doesn’t matter now. Let’s just celebrate Frank and his contributions to Nebraska football.”

Amen to that.

***Kurt Frenzen strikes me as the type who tells it like it is.

He also strikes me as the type who’s not easily impressed.

So, when he tells you that Nebraska is emphasizing physical play in spring practices, it’s meaningful to me.

Eyeing his 22nd year as Columbus Lakeview’s head coach, Frenzen attended Nebraska’s scrimmage on April 1, the weekend of the Husker staff’s spring coaches’ clinic.

“I sent a text to our staff members because a few of them had to leave (before the scrimmage),” Frenzen told me recently. “I don’t know how many games (Nebraska) is going to win for sure this season, but I can tell you right now it’s going to be a more physical team.

“We’re going to look more like a Big Ten team than we have in a long time.”

He described a “full-go” scrimmage.

“And it was not a quick whistle,” he said. “Heinrich Haarberg, Jeff Sims, and everybody was in full-contact mode. I told one of my assistants, ‘That green jersey (on the quarterbacks) doesn’t mean anything to the defense besides go harder because they were tackling the quarterbacks like it’s a regular game.’

“It’s interesting to watch what’s going on at Nebraska.”

Much of what Frenzen told me jibes with what we’ve been hearing from camp “insiders,” which is why I’m presenting it in this forum.

It all points to short-term improvement, as in 2023. I don’t mind saying that. Am I wrong?

***You hear a lot of talk about Matt Rhule holding his players and staff accountable.

Frenzen saw it first-hand.

“The accountability piece that was going on during that clinic and camp practices was ‘next level,’ to say the least,” Frenzen said.

Rhule didn’t let so-called little things go.

“I don’t care if it was penalties or a ball on the ground that maybe the offense even got back,” Frenzen said. “He addressed that with the offense. He wasn’t happy because he thought the offense had started to maybe coast a little bit. And he talked about the importance of finishing practice.”

What’s more, “Coach (Donovan) Raiola and the receivers coach (Garret McGuire) a couple different times had kids come back to the edge of the field and run off the field to the sidelines because they didn’t run all the way off.

“Little things make a big difference.”

I really like that sort of stuff. It’s good to hear.

“I saw coach Rhule’s staff show an attention to detail that Nebraska was known for for a lot of years,” Frenzen said. “This isn’t going to be an overnight fix, trust me, and I think pretty much everyone understands that.

“But I think Nebraska fans and high school coaches and whoever roots for Nebraska can just get behind the fact that they’re doing things at a different level than maybe has been done there for a while.”

Just thought you guys – our loyal and dedicated readers – would want to hear that stuff.

***It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the college football recruiting process continues to speed up, with spring (unofficial) visits becoming much more important. Put it this way: I talked to a veteran SEC assistant coach this week who said his program played host to 400-plus unofficial campus visitors during its four-week spring practice season.

Incredible.

***Don’t sugarcoat Nebraska losing Siena’s Javian McCollum to Oklahoma, which was 15-17 last season and has missed back-to-back NCAA Tournaments.

Nebraska needs a point guard.

“When you’re born into this world, you’re either a point guard or you’re not,” a long-time college coach in the women’s game told me this week. “You don’t develop point guards very often.”

I try to talk myself into Hunter Sallis being a Big Ten-level point guard – I try hard, and I can’t do it.

I like him as a player, especially as an on-the-ball defender. Not as a point guard.

-Steven Sipple

Munson’s Musings

***Thank you for the positive feedback on Three & Out and the topics this past week. It’s tough sometimes not to get repetitive or down the wrong rabbit hole and miss the mark.

The data on the visitors was interesting because of the relative lack of numbers at quarterback, running back, and cornerback. You can increment cornerback because William “Speedy” Nettles was here on Thursday and will be again on Saturday.

What’s interesting about cornerback now is that both targets are from the Dallas metroplex.

***What was also interesting was the emphasis on the offensive line and linebacker. There are a couple of breakouts with the offensive line with the IOL to OT positions. It isn’t as clean across LB except if you include Edge.

Some players are hearing inside or outside, some are hearing both, and some have heard about the Jack position. I need to note that because it will be necessary to call that out in the Big Board.

***I heard back from Douglas Utu late on Wednesday night. While Sean had confirmed Utu, there wasn’t a reliable way to reach him once he got to Lincoln. I leveraged another Bishop Gorman OT, 2024 recruit Xander Ruggeroli, to confirm Utu was visiting. Xander added that he planned on taking several visits this summer, including Nebraska. That’s another OT to keep an eye on.

***May can’t get here soon enough. Going through the spring visitors, I realized I hadn’t circled back with guys that weren’t returning for Nebraska visits. I am interested in hearing more about how their lists shape up and their thoughts on official visits.

Also, whether they would take more than five officials with the rule change and would one be to Nebraska. I need to get reconciling on that part of recruiting soon.

***In updating the visitor list for this week/weekend, how few 2024 in-state players will be in attendance has stood out. I can’t completely close the door on Caleb Pyfrom yet, because he wasn’t sure. But players like Isaiah McMorris and Dae’Vonn Hall weren’t going to make it because of 7v7. That was the same reason the Bellevue West recruits couldn’t make it to junior day.

***That being said, getting Carter Nelson back on campus is important. He’s coming off a whirlwind spring visit tour. I look forward to catching up with him to hear his thoughts on the tour and if he’s still jet-lagged. I also want to see how Nebraska compares to the other schools and if the distance from home stands out.

Wonderful time in Lincoln ! #GBR #24Ours pic.twitter.com/mG42KeRS0K

— Tyanthony “Ty” Smith (@Tyanthonysmith1) April 15, 2023

***I talked to Tyanthony Smith on Sunday night and wanted to pass along a nugget – not a good one – not included in my story. I asked him about returning to Nebraska for another visit, and he wasn’t committing to that idea. I would go as far as to say that he wouldn’t look forward to coming back to NU. It was just something that I picked up on. It’s good that Nebraska has some other linebackers coming in this weekend.

***There were some great questions in chat this week. Some of you are cautious about Nebraska’s chances with Brandon Baker. Trust me, I get it. However, I honestly feel NU’s chances with Baker are way better than with Dylan Raiola.

First, I thought the two (Raiola and Baker) would be tied together. It’s pretty clear that they are not. Additionally, you have Baker back in Lincoln for the second time in a month. There’s a lot of chatter that Nebraska could host him for an official visit.

The timeline for Baker’s decision likely carries well into the fall and possibly even into December. If so, Nebraska needs to reach its tackle number without Baker. If he wants in, then you gladly accept and make room. I would have operated the same last year if Nebraska could have gotten Bo Hugley, Zalance Heard, or Cayden Green.

***On whether I see any commitments coming out of this weekend, my answer is the same as it was going into junior day: unlikely. However, Nebraska is in a great position again to continue to improve things with Baker and Willis McGahee IV. It can also make great first impressions on guys like Aydin Breland, Dylan Williams, Kamar Mothudi, Peyton Morgan, Makai Saina, Kahmir Prescott, Utu, and others.

***I wanted to acknowledge the recent social media presence Gibson Pyle and 2023 signee Ismael Smith Flores have had. They are both very interested in helping online by re-tweeting, commenting, etc., to peer-recruit other players. The Huskers need more of those personalities in the 2024 class to help get things going into official visits.

110% COMMITTED! Dreams to Reality After a great talk with @CoachMattRhule I am excited to announce that I have decided to further my academic and athletic career at the University of Nebraska! #GBR #RhuleEra @HuskerCoachTW @evancooper2 @MillardNorthFB @Omeezi_ pic.twitter.com/WGbe0PSQLx

— Caden VerMaas (@Caden_Vermaas) April 20, 2023

***Caden VerMaas‘s commitment to Nebraska was a little surprising. I always felt like he was going to commit to the Huskers eventually. But I didn’t think it would be in April before his junior year. It seems pretty telling, though, coming off of the visit to Ames and pulling the trigger in favor of NU. It will be interesting to see the impact that has on other 2025 targets like Tyson Terry and Christian Jones.

-Bryan Munson

#Nebrasketball is hosting two big-time transfers this weekend. Learn more about the Nebraska natives here…

Hunter Sallis: https://t.co/gi0eKhT5vP

Josiah Allick: https://t.co/dMZYR59KT5 pic.twitter.com/TxhNVqJw2S

— HuskerOnline (@HuskerOnline) April 20, 2023

Washut’s Nebrasketball news & notes

***This is a big weekend for Nebraska basketball, as two former in-state standouts will be on campus on official visits.

We’ll start with the latest on Gonzaga transfer Hunter Sallis.

His visit will be unique compared to other officials in that he won’t go through the usual itinerary. He already knows about the facilities – he won a championship at Pinnacle Bank Arena while at Millard North.

Sallis and his family will be looking for how he connects with Fred Hoiberg’s coaching staff. He hardly knows any of NU’s three new full-time assistants. He’ll also want to see how he relates with NU’s returning players. None were around when he took his last official visit to Lincoln in 2020.

More than anything, Sallis and Nebraska need to see if their respective visions for his role with the Huskers align. That part will be critical.

***It sounds like Wake Forest is Nebraska’s top competition for Sallis. They held their in-home visit with him the day before Hoiberg and Co. were out in Spokane, Washington, on Easter Sunday. Steve Forbes and his staff also locked in Sallis’ first official visit.

Sallis was out there this week.

The other school to watch is Georgetown. The Hoyas have pushed hard to make up ground in his recruitment since Ed Cooley took over.

***The other visitor this weekend is New Mexico transfer and former Lincoln North Star forward Josiah Allick.

I get the feeling that Nebraska is in a very good spot here. Playing a significant role in the Big Ten is something others like San Diego State (even with their magical run this year) and Southern Illinois can’t match.

But the biggest aces the Huskers have up their sleeves are the personal connections. Nebraska is his hometown school, and he’d be surrounded by family and friends.

Even more, he could spend his final collegiate year on the same campus as his younger sister, NU volleyball player Bekka Allick.

During an interview session on Monday, a reporter asked Allick if she was recruiting Josiah to join her back in Lincoln. She tried to play it down, but Bekka’s answer made it clear that it was a very appealing selling point.

“I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say on that,” Bekka said. “I mean, obviously, I love him, and he’s a lot of the reason why I’m competitive the way I am. So being able to actually go to school with him one more time – because I got to go to school with him when I was in high school but only for about a year. (We were) freshman-senior in high school, so it was very different. 

“I’ve learned a lot about life, school, and priorities (from him). I’ve grown more into the woman I am today. I think going to school and hanging out with him here; we would almost be like adults at this point, or at least I’d like to think so. So, it’d be really cool, but I’m going to support him with whatever he chooses.”

***The other former in-state transfer of note is Cal State Fullerton guard Latrell Wrightsell Jr. He officially visited Nebraska last weekend.

While all accounts suggested that the visit went great, the senior guard scheduled two additional visits to Alabama and Arizona. He’s in Tuscaloosa right now and will be in Tucson early next week.

I think the former Omaha Central standout will take his time and make as many visits as possible. That makes sense considering how under-recruited he was coming out of high school.

We might not know much about Wrightsell’s decision for another week or so. The further removed he gets from his trip to Lincoln, the lower I think Nebraska’s chances with him get. I guess we’ll see.

***For reference, the NCAA Transfer Portal window closes on May 11.

***With 2023 Studio City (California) Harvard Westlake wing Brady Dunlap, we should know more about where Nebraska stands by the end of the month.

The four-star prospect was in Lincoln last weekend on an official visit. By all accounts, the visit went very well. But Dunlap also plans to visit all five schools on his final list, which he announced last week.

Nebraska joined North Carolina, St. John’s, Villanova, and Penn State.

The former Notre Dame signee took an official to Villanova on Thursday. He will visit St. John’s on Sunday and then North Carolina on April 30. Dunlap has yet to set a date for a trip to Penn State.

***One of Nebraska’s biggest selling points for Bradley transfer big man Rienk Mast was the opportunity to play in the Big Ten.

Mast made it clear following his commitment that he wanted to play against the best frontcourt players in the country.

“Going into the portal, the main thing I wanted to do was play Big Ten basketball,” Mast said. “I think that’s a league that really fits my playing style. I’ve been living in the Midwest for four years now, and that’s Big Ten country. I wanted to make that step up and get a chance in the Big Ten.”

***Mast also said he watched a lot of Nebraska game film during his recruitment. He paid especially close attention to Derrick Walker.

Mast might not be the ball handler that Walker was (few centers are). But he more than makes up for it with his 3-point shooting (35%) and equally impressive passing ability.

“I watched a ton of film on Nebraska in general and how Coach Hoiberg uses his bigs, and Derrick was definitely one of the bigs I looked at,” Mast said. “They used his passing ability and how they let him put it on the floor, which I really liked.

“I think I can bring a little bit more shooting and spacing with my 3-point shot. But there was definitely a lot to like about how Coach Hoiberg uses bigs.”

100% Committed pic.twitter.com/kx1d65spqB

— Nick Janowski (@nick_janowski12) April 14, 2023

***Nebraska made some waves after landing a commitment from four-star 2024 Pewaukee (Wisconsin) guard Nick Janowski. It was especially notable in his home state, as he also held offers from Wisconsin and Marquette.

I wanted to get a better perspective on what Janowski will bring to the Huskers. So I hit up former HuskerOnline intern Matt Reynoldson, now a sports anchor at WFRV-TV Local 5 News in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Matt has covered several Pewaukee games and has seen Janowksi play live. I asked him for a quick scouting report, and Matt delivered with as thorough of a rundown as you’ll find.

“This kid is an absolute steal, not just because of his ranking, but also for who Nebraska beat out in his recruitment – Marquette (and Shaka Smart), Wisconsin, and especially Iowa State, where his teammate, Milan Momcilovic, is headed.

“Pewaukee (located in the suburban area between Milwaukee and Madison) has become an absolute powerhouse in Wisconsin with three consecutive state titles. While they play in the equivalent of Class B in Nebraska, they would’ve likely finished as runners-up or champs in the top division this year. I’ve seen most of the state’s top prospects for 2024, and in my mind, Janowski is far and away the best high school basketball player of that group.

“I saw Janowski play three times this year, and his most impressive performance came against probably the best defensive team I’ve ever seen on a high school court. Pewaukee came up to the Green Bay area to play De Pere in mid-February, billed as ‘No. 1 vs. No. 1.’ (De Pere finished 30-0 and Division 1 state champs, allowing 44 points per game with an average margin of victory of 30.6).

“Janowski scored more points against De Pere than any other player this season, finishing with 32 after dropping 18 in the first half. He single-handedly kept Pewaukee in that game as De Pere shut down Momcilovic (ranked No. 36 in the On300 for 2023). Janowski brought the ball up the floor but struck me as a true combo guard, looking to drive first instead of passing to start the action. 

“His stellar ball-handling put defenders on their heels early, and when he wasn’t pulling up from midrange, he found the wings for open threes, mostly from baseline passes. I thought his vision was outstanding. The quick release on his shot and the ability to create separation on the pull-up struck me as traits that would eventually translate to an NBA prospect.

“Janowski’s outside shooting was a little less consistent after De Pere changed its defense to face guard him, but he clearly showed an ability and willingness to shoot from the outside. His 3-for-8 performance from three-point range was a tick under his season average – he shot 41.8 percent from deep for the season, finishing among the top 50 players in the state with 71 made threes. He’s a scorer on all three levels and athletic enough to guard 1-4 and switch onto bigs if needed. He had a 5:2 assist-to-turnover ratio and averaged 6.5 rebounds per game from the guard position.

“Watching Janowski at the state tournament as more of an outside observer, I noticed a willingness to let the game come to him. He shot 50 percent in the two state games (semis and finals) but was pass-first, helping Pewaukee dominate the paint in both games en route to the school’s third straight state title. Janowski was the team’s second-leading scorer this year, but he’ll be the centerpiece next season and needs 624 points in his senior year to become just the 50th player in state history to reach 2,000 career points.

“I think the sky is the limit for Janowski at the next level, and at the very least, Nebraska’s getting a player with winning DNA. Playing a key role on three championship teams is more than almost any high school player can say about their career. While I think Pewaukee will be hard-pressed to four-peat (the second-ranked team is in their region and brings everyone back), I don’t think anything that happens next year discounts his high school career. Fred Hoiberg and his staff hit a home run with this recruitment, so hanging onto Janowski until he signs will be key.”

-Robin Washut

MARK YOUR CALENDARS

Tickets for Volleyball Day in Nebraska go on sale NEXT WEEK!

Husker VB Season Ticket Holders
‣ Tues. April 25 | 10:00am CT

General Public
‣ Wed. April 26 | 10:00am CT#GBR@OmahaVB@UNKvolleyball@WSCWildcatVB

: https://t.co/v656c8P1fs pic.twitter.com/w03OZYJWi2

— Husker Volleyball (@Huskervball) April 20, 2023

Abby’s assists

***Nebraska volleyball opposite hitter Merritt Beason talked to the media this past week. The Florida transfer was very impressive with her answers and her relaxed energy. It’s no surprise that Beason was a team captain for the Gators when she was a sophomore.

It looks like Beason will be a prominent leader on this team despite her newness. The Huskers have some obvious options for captains, but they won’t be decided until the fall.

Libero Lexi Rodriguez is a clear choice, as she was a captain last season as a sophomore. Her play and a long list of accolades speak for themselves.

Outside hitter Lindsay Krause could be another option. Head coach John Cook has been working on the 2021 class to step up and lead. Krause will be in a prominent position this fall as she will be on the left with Beason on the right.

Krause played on both pins last season. She impressed her coaches and teammates with her selflessness.

Middle blocker Bekka Allick has also become more of a leader this spring. She said freshman MB Andi Jackson told her she would follow her on the court. She embraced it, although Allick hadn’t experienced that before.

***On April’s Kicking Back with the Cooks, Cook said they were inviting former Husker volleyball players back for their match in Memorial Stadium. I expect there will be a big turnout for the monumental day.

He also thinks he knows the musical artist who will perform after the games. However, he doesn’t know when Nebraska will announce it.

***On the Huskers’ international trip to Brazil this summer, they will play several of Brazil’s national teams. Cook said Brazil’s 19U, 21U, and 23U national teams were on the schedule. The national teams are preparing for the world championships.

The world championships are in August this year. Meaning many high school players will represent the U.S.

***The Huskers’ exhibition match against Wichita State is coming up on April 29 in Central City. Along with that, Nebraska is scrimmaging Creighton. However, the scrimmage won’t be open to the public.

I will have plenty of coverage of the exhibition match, our first look at the six new players.

***Tickets for Volleyball Day in Nebraska at Memorial Stadium go on sale on April 25 at 10:00 a.m. for volleyball season ticket holders. They will be available to the general public on April 26 at 10:00 a.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $5 for high school age and under.

-Abby Barmore

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