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Exclusive Tunnel Talk: 5/5/2023

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Exclusive Tunnel Talk: 5/5/2023

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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Callahan’s weekly nuggets

***A lot of questions about Nebraska’s roster numbers and how things will shake out to 85. Linebacker Seth Malcom was a name people were curious about, and I can tell you he remains with the team. There also has not been an official roster update yet by NU.

I still think the more likely thing will be for players like Timmy Bleekrode to go off scholarship for a semester to finish their time out at NU. You also have to wonder about some top walk-on guys like tight end Nate Boerkircher and if they will go on or have more of a NIL deal to compensate them.

***Speaking of specialists, I have heard Matt Rhule generally only likes to bring one guy in for each spot in fall camp – one kicker, punter, snapper, etc. So will we even see a battle play out in camp at kicker? I still believe the job will go to Tristan Alvano.

Speaking of Alvano, he’s running track this spring for Westside. He’s been clocked at 53.94 seconds in the 400-meter dash.

***One of the interesting things with NIL and the transfer portal is payouts and fulfillment. Athletes that enter the portal might have been paid by a collective with duties that needed to be fulfilled to meet their contract. What happens in that situation? It’s one of the many new bridges you must cross and figure out in the NIL era.

You also have things like guys living in apartments or driving cars tied to NIL. What happens in that situation once the player enters the portal? So many issues pop up with NIL that you don’t even think about. With someone like Casey Thompson, you probably let him stay in his living arrangements this month, as he’ll likely be at his new school by late May or early June.

As for Thompson, I don’t think he left Nebraska purely for NIL. He was already the top-paid football player on the roster, from what I know. His decision comes down more to having a clearer path to be a starter.

***It was interesting to hear Rick Neuheisel talk this week about NIL. He hosted his annual coaches’ charity golf tournament, which drew several big names. Lots of buzz about NIL. He wouldn’t say which player it was, but a coach there said he had a very high-profile player leave because his new deal was for $40,000. He was getting $20,000 a month at his other school.

My guess is he was referring to Georgia defensive lineman Bear Alexander, who left Athens for USC as arguably the highest-profile portal move of the spring. Kirby Smart played in the golf outing that day. When you add the numbers up, that’s a $280,000 roster addition for seven months.

Then in January, schools re-sign players to new deals. Most agreements with collectives are either seven or 12 months, depending on when a player arrives on campus.

***Spending time with Vincent Carroll-Jackson during our Recruit Spotlight interview of the spring game weekend was interesting. He had an offer from Georgia out of high school but didn’t from Penn State.

I asked him if his offer to Georgia was committable, and he said it was, but he was just “realistic” about things. He knew going to Georgia was not a fit for him because he would not get the reps he needed to develop. As for PSU, the Harrisburg native is motivated to play them someday, as they did not recruit him.

***The defensive line class of Riley Van Poppel, Cameron Lenhardt, Sua Lefotu, and Princewill Umanmielan has so much potential. It’s one of the better groups NU has brought in over the last few years. We already know both Lenhardt and Umanmielan probably won’t redshirt. I would not be surprised if Van Poppel played right away as well.

***The last name Scheierman is a familiar one in Nebraska. Keep your eyes on 2025 Aurora quarterback Booker Scheierman. The 6-foot-7, 180-pounder is the younger brother of Creighton basketball standout Baylor Scheierman, who also was an all-state quarterback. I’m told in terms of football, Booker is further ahead than his brother was at this stage of his career.

***Another notable in-state nugget for 2025 was Lincoln Southwest’s Jackson Carpenter, who set a school record in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.75 seconds. The sophomore had never run track before this year. I think he’s on the shortlist to earn a Husker offer sooner than later.

***Keep your eyes on 2024 Las Vegas Bishop Gorman running back Micah Ka’apana, who received a Nebraska offer this week. I would not be surprised at all if he visited NU in June. He’s taken one official visit so far to Oklahoma State.

-Sean Callahan

As Sipple sees (and hears) it

***So, we learned last week that longtime Nebraska athletic department executives Bob Burton and John Ingram are no longer employed by the school.

I’ve heard from some people who find it “interesting” that virtually all the key folks that were involved in the inception and follow-through of the $165 million Husker training facility are gone or soon will be gone before a formal unveiling. We’re talking about Bill Moos, Scott Frost, Matt Davison, John Johnson – and now Burton and Ingram.

Garrett Klassy, hired by Moos, is technically still employed by Nebraska athletics but will part ways with the university at the close of his contract this summer.

***We got a good look at Tony White’s defense in the spring game. I’ll say this: It’s fun to watch. Plus, judging by the way defenders attacked the ball, they seemed to enjoy it. That’s critical.

I recently talked to two veteran defensive coaches about the 3-3-5. Both wondered how well the defense would hold up against ground-heavy attacks in the Big Ten, where programs are serious about running the ball at a high level.

“It’s great versus the pass game, no question about it,” one of the coaches said.

He said a key to the defense likely would be a hybrid safety who’s asked to play eight to 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, often in the middle of the field.

“He’s responsible for being the extra (run) fitter in the run game,” said the coach, most likely referring to the “Jack” position. “Offenses are going to make that guy be the tackler coming in from seven yards. That’ll be the guy that the running back must beat.”

In the ACC, where White comes from, the running game generally isn’t as potent as in the Big Ten. White and Matt Rhule, of course, understand what they’re getting into. So, if adjustments need to be made, count on it happening.

The other coach, a longtime linebackers coach in college, said White’s scheme has some risks in that it relies heavily on blitzers “getting home” and excellent coverage in the back end.

“But the bottom line is, it’s not what you do schematically; it’s how you do it,” he said. “You better have great teachers. Nebraska doesn’t have the talent of the Michigans and Ohio States or Penn States. So, you better be able to develop players, and you better be very sound in what you do.”

***As I mentioned in a column published the Tuesday following Nebraska’s spring game, I had a long talk with Frank Solich. He was thrilled with the way Husker officials and others treated him. He said the entire weekend went well, noting that his daughter Cindy handled much of the planning.

By the way, he never brings up his tenure at Nebraska and says nothing bad about the place – at least not to me. He’s extremely classy. Plus, he’s the type to play it close to the vest, so to speak.

***Seven of Solich’s former Husker assistant coaches were on hand: Tim Albin, Barney Cotton, Marvin Sanders, Ron Brown, George Darlington, Lance Leipold, and Jeff Jamrog.

Tony Samuel was also on hand. He and Solich coached together on Tom Osborne’s staff.

***By the way, Sanders, 55, is the secondary coach for the Arlington Renegades, which will face the D.C. Defenders on May 13 for the XFL championship.

Sanders is also the defensive coordinator for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, an NCAA Division III school located 30 miles east of Los Angeles.

Sanders has told me he thoroughly enjoys coaching for Bob Stoops, the Renegades’ head coach. He also has said he doesn’t envision Stoops ever getting back into the college game, what with NIL and the transfer portal changing the climate significantly.

***It was intriguing earlier this week listening to Bill Busch on Early Break (93.7 FM in Lincoln) talking about the mechanisms of punt blocking. It’ll be interesting to see which players Rhule selects to go after punts.

Javin Wright, a junior defensive back, is surely a candidate. He blocked a punt last season against North Dakota. He’s 6-foot-5 and quick off the line. Just as important, he’s willing to “put his face in the fan,” as Busch puts it. Some players wince and look away at the point of contact, a no-no.

“The best punt blocker I’ve ever seen in my life played here for Nebraska, and that’s Barron Miles,” Busch said of the New Jersey Native, who starred at NU during the early 1990s.

Go out there, my friends, and put your face in the fan.

-Steven Sipple

Munson’s Musings

***I have received a lot of public and private questions about Kamari McClellan, and I get it.

The sign that Nebraska might be moving on from Dylan Raiola and the significant ranking drop-off from Raiola to McClellan. I just haven’t thought enough about it. Nebraska hasn’t offered, but I feel like the staff is taking a necessary step to be prepared if Raiola commits to another school. I can’t blame them for fanning out and evaluating additional quarterbacks.

I was asked about my evaluation of McClellan on RSS. His frame is pretty slight, and NU fans have seen Husker quarterbacks have their fair share of injuries over the past few seasons. Highlights are tricky because we only see the good plays. But if I had to critique, he has adequate arm strength, can stretch plays with his feet in the pocket, and seems able to create.

I found some other stats on MaxPreps from his junior year: 77-of-135 passing (57%) for 1,334 yards, 15 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.

The stats don’t jump off the page, and there are two other concerns. One, as I mentioned in the Three & Out thread, a national analyst said about McClellan said: “He has dropped, and dropped over the last two seasons on boards in the south.” What seems to fall in line with that is that he planned on committing in January. It just doesn’t seem like there is an offer out there that he is willing to take. 

Nebraska needs to evaluate, but as I inferred in Three & Out, there should be other targets between Raiola and McClellan that NU will pursue. It would also be interesting to see what might happen if the Huskers return to Daniel Kaelin now and see his thoughts about staying home and playing in the Big Ten.

*** Like the quarterback position, Nebraska is warming up another running back recruit. The Huskers offered three-star running back Micah Ka’apana.

I have caught up with him and will have that update up either Friday or Saturday. No mention of an official visit to Lincoln yet, but he told me he would like to get to campus later this summer. Also, don’t forget Nebraska was supposed to host running back Kewan Lacy this summer. Lacy, from Lancaster, Texas, could not make the trip but plans to get to Lincoln.

***This week went as expected. Nebraska’s staff was on the road and saw all of the big targets on its board, including Brandon Baker, Nathaniel Frazier, Aydin Breland, Dylan Raiola, Gatlin Bair, Kaedin Massey, Kamar Mothudi, Dylan Williams, Peyton Morgan, Coen Echols, Mario Buford, William Nettles, Kewan Lacy, etc.

The Huskers went where we thought they would and got out to see all their top targets this week, while Ed Foley got all that window time from Lincoln to Mitchell.

***I caught up with Peyton Morgan from Pflugerville (Texas) Weiss. Morgan said NU secondary coach Evan Cooper and receivers coach Garret McGuire visited him on Tuesday. He said he had scheduled an official visit to Nebraska on June 2.

The Huskers are in an excellent position with Morgan, which is great news on the heels of losing Kahmir Prescott to Wisconsin. 

***Coen Echols from Katy, Texas, left Nebraska following his visit with an offer in hand. Immediately following the NU offer, Echols picked up offers from Maryland, Houston, Texas A&M, and Auburn. He has also got an offer from Oregon. He is set to take an official visit to Nebraska on January 13. 

***I also caught up with Dallas area cornerbacks Mario Buford from DeSoto and William “Speedy” Nettles from Mesquite Dallas Christian School. Both recruits saw Nebraska earlier this week. Neither has set up an official visit yet, but both said they would take official visits to Lincoln. Buford said he would officially visit in June and wants to commit this summer.

***I think I listed about 10 new offers in Three & Out that Nebraska had made since the start of the week. I am willing to bet we have seen as many since Tuesday night that I will make sure to recap this weekend.

***I am expecting a commitment today from Keelan Smith. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound athlete from Liberty (Missouri) North is the son of Husker great Neil Smith.

Credit Nebraska with Smith because it has been fantastic about honoring offers from the previous staff and providing a bridge to things now in Lincoln under Rhule. 

***On3’s “athlete” tag on Smith is interesting. It applies to Nebraska’s evaluation of him and where he could play at the next level. His HUDL shows a more-than-capable weapon on the other side of the ball, but he has excellent size and physicality that fits everywhere on the field.

I can easily see him in the 4-2-5 playing somewhere between the linebacker and defensive back positions, which I think would make Dad take a massive homerun cut and smile.

-Bryan Munson

Washut’s Nebrasketball news & notes

***It was a productive week for Nebraska basketball, landing two notable transfer additions in two days.

From what I’ve heard, things happened quickly with Iowa point guard Ahron Ulis. In fact, his recruitment with NU didn’t truly heat up until last week, right before his official visit to Seton Hall.

It sounds like Ulis went into the trip leaning towards committing to the Pirates, but the new interest from the Huskers changed things. Head coach Fred Hoiberg and lead recruiter Adam Howard locked in a visit for Sunday, and Ulis committed to Nebraska the next day.

With New Mexico forward Josiah Allick, NU was in a good spot following his official visit two weekends ago. Even though he took a third visit (along with San Diego State) to Southern Illinois, it felt like the Huskers were firmly in the driver’s seat.

Not wanting to leave things to chance, Hoiberg and Co. held an in-home visit with Allick on Monday, which pretty much sealed the deal. 

***I noted this on RSS earlier, but Allick was also in Central City on Saturday to watch his sister, Bekka Allick, and the Nebraska volleyball team’s exhibition win over Wichita State.

The idea of those two spending the next year in Lincoln together was a key selling point for NU. Allick’s father, Melvin, tweeted this after Josiah’s commitment:

Not everyday you can see your kids dawn the same college colors with the same great head of hair. Today Josiah committed to University of Nebraska Basketball as a Graduate transfer, and Bekka will a 2nd year. Made travel plans a little easier for next season… GBR #53 and #5 pic.twitter.com/TdkSgDg7Ow

— Melvin Allick II (@MelvinAllick2) May 2, 2023

That said, I don’t think family and hometown were the only factors in Allick picking Nebraska. 

He’s an extremely intelligent guy who put a ton of thought into this process. Allick visited three very different programs that offered widely varying opportunities. He also chose those schools over several other high-majors that wanted to get involved.

In the end, coming back home was important for Allick. But he ultimately chose NU because he felt it was the best fit for everything he wanted out of his final college season.

***While I think that Allick will primarily come off the bench next season, I’m intrigued by the idea of Nebraska having the option of a big lineup of him, Juwan Gary, and Rienk Mast on the floor together.

Starter or not, he’ll play 20-plus minutes a game and will be an essential piece of the rotation.

***You can also draw a line directly to Allick’s addition to Thursday’s news of Wilhelm Breidenbach entering the transfer portal.

When you looked at the roster following Allick’s commitment, it was pretty easy to see where most of his minutes would likely be coming – from Breidenbach.

The 6-foot-10, 231-pound sophomore is one of the more disappointing developments under Hoiberg for me. That’s because I know Fred had been so high on Breidenbach’s potential since Day 1.

After Hoiberg wrapped up his introductory press conference as Nebraska’s new head coach, he immediately flew to California to see Breidenbach. Hoiberg thought he was a perfect fit at the four in his system, but it clearly never came close to panning out.

***As things stand right now, I think Ulis has a good chance to be a Day 1 starter at point guard. His Big Ten experience and history of team success at this level can’t be ignored. He’s flashed the ability to control the game on both ends against top-level competition.

I also think Ulis is a guy who will really benefit from a new system. Nebraska doesn’t need him to be a ball-dominant 15 ppg guy. The Huskers need him to facilitate, dictate tempo, and play high-level perimeter defense, which he certainly can provide.

***Here’s the biggest x-factor in the discussion about Nebraska’s 2023-24 lineup – I’m not sure the Huskers are done recruiting yet.

The NCAA Transfer Portal entry window closes on May 15, but there is still a plethora of available talent. Also, consider that numerous top players are going through the pre-draft process while retaining their college eligibility.

My read is that NU wouldn’t hesitate to add another immediate impact scoring guard or a rim-rolling big. 

The key is whether that piece is the right fit – on and off the court – with what the Huskers already have on the roster. I don’t see Hoiberg taking a guy just to fill a spot, but I expect the staff to continue to keep an eye out for further potential additions.

Psalm 23:4 pic.twitter.com/8gYh5w3XaL

— RayJ Dennis (@rayjdennis10) March 29, 2023

***Two possible transfer names I’ve heard to keep an eye on in that regard:

Toledo guard RayJ Dennis and USC guard Tre White. I know both of their camps have had at least some level of communication with Nebraska.

Dennis is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior who was a unanimous selection for MAC Player of the Year and a finalist for the Lute Olsen National Player of the Year. He ranked second in the MAC with 19.5 ppg and first with 5.8 apg last season.

Illinois has been considered the heavy favorite there since he entered the portal, and it sounds like he’s close to cutting down his list and scheduling some visits. We’ll see if NU can make the cut, but that one might be a long shot.

White is a 6-7, 210, sophomore who averaged 9.0 ppg and 5.1 rpg last year as a true freshman. The former four-star out of Prolific Prep was rated the nation’s No. 39 player in the 2022 class.

He’s currently No. 6 on On3’s best-available transfer portal rankings. He, too, might be wishful thinking for NU, but those players fit the no-brainer category for the Huskers.

***Keep an eye out for some 2024 offers to start rolling out over the next few days. Nebraska’s staff was out in full force last weekend during the second live evaluation period.

Assistant coach Ernie Ziegler was down in Bryan, Texas, for the Adidas 3SSB Chapter II Invitational. Howard and Nate Loenser were in Phoenix for the Nike EYBL Session II.

***Speaking of new offers, Nebraska definitely caught some attention this week with a pair of 2025 in-state targets.

On Monday, Omaha Bryan forward A’mare Bynum picked up his first Division I offer from the Huskers. The next day, Lincoln Southwest wing Braden Frager earned an NU offer.

Neither were total surprises, as both have been on the Huskers’ radar for a while now. If anything, they represent how aggressive Nebraska has become with in-state recruiting since Loesner took the lead.

Bynum took two unofficial visits to Lincoln this fall, and Loenser watched him play multiple times over the past year. That included seeing three of Bynum’s four games with MOKAN Elite down in Phoenix, which led to his offer soon after.

Frager was a bit more recent development, but his contact with Nebraska picked up significantly since the end of last season. He’s been on campus to meet with NU’s staff twice over the past two weeks, most recently on Wednesday.

***An interesting note on Frager is that Nebraska’s previous football staff tried hard to sway him to pick the gridiron over the hardcourt. Former head coach Scott Frost and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander had him at one of NU’s camps last summer and approached him about being a tight end or defensive end recruit.

Frager eventually chose basketball, and now he owns offers from Nebraska and Creighton less than a year later.

***During that Nebraska football camp last summer, Frager ran 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash and jumped 30 inches in the vertical. At 6-foot-6, he’s an impressive athlete.

***I’d been teasing it for a few months, but Nebraska finally announced Thursday that it would return for a game at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D. The Huskers will face Oregon State on Nov. 18.

There is still no word on a possible tip-off time, and there probably won’t be until closer to the fall.

What stinks is that the game will be played on the same day as NU’s football game at Wisconsin. That means I won’t be there, and depending on how the start times line up, I might not even get to watch it.

It sounds like options were pretty limited for when the Huskers could lock in a game up there, and that was the best available date.

I know there’s a football game, but if you have the chance to get up to Sioux Falls, I highly recommend it. That atmosphere was incredible the last time Nebraska was there in 2018.

-Robin Washut

Abby’s assists

***We finally got a glimpse of Nebraska’s 2023 volleyball team. My biggest takeaway from the Huskers’ spring exhibition match against Wichita State was that they have lots and lots of talent. The freshmen don’t play like freshmen, and all five made great plays in the match.

Outside hitter Harper Murray started over veteran hitters Lindsay Krause and Ally Batenhorst. She showed off a variety of shots and power with her fast arm. Murray is an early Big Ten All-Freshman Team candidate.

Although I haven’t seen many Big Ten freshmen play yet, Murray looks like she’ll be competing for the conference’s Freshman of the Year award.

***Setter Bergen Reilly has been a huge topic of discussion for a while now. The three-time South Dakota Player of the Year has lived up to the hype.

She ran Nebraska’s offense smoothly against Wichita State. Reilly missed a few sets and serves, but it was her first game in a Husker uniform. She has a great touch on the ball, as it barely spins and has excellent placement.

Reilly has a good feel for who is due for a kill and found Murray in the back row several times for a big kill.

settle in. this one’s a doozy. @harpermurray4 out the backrow!!! pic.twitter.com/kdHLrtlSCW

— Husker Volleyball (@Huskervball) April 29, 2023

Junior Kennedi Orr has her work cut out for her. She has been working hard this off-season to improve her consistency and fundamentals. The 6-foot setter will keep it a close race with her blocking and experience. But man, Reilly is a natural.

***Saturday was the first time Krause served much during a game. She was the Huskers’ best server, with three aces and one error. Her height and power put a lot of pressure on the receivers.

Florida transfer Merritt Beason also served a long run in the second set and had one ace.

The Huskers’ serving struggled mightily in 2022, but they have some really good pieces this fall.

***Batenhorst started the third set as the first outside hitter. She is someone that people tend to count out. But on Saturday, she proved she is still competing in the race to start.

In fact, it looked like Batenhorst added more power to her swing. She does a nice job tipping and jamming balls but has also elevated her full-power swing and passed. The 6-foot-4 junior has the most college experience playing all six rotations.

***USA Volleyball’s National Team Development Program for girls from U15-17 and U18-20 started this week. 2024 Nebraska commits MB Ayden Ames, OH Skyler Pierce, and libero Olivia Mauch were all invited to the U18-20 group.

There were many players that have been to Nebraska’s Dream Team Camps on the teams. Here is a list of some of those high-profile recruits that were at the U15-17 camp:

PlayerPositionRegionMalorie BoesigerL/DSGreat PlainsSamara ColemanOHLone StarGabriella DeVitaOHLakeshoreKeri LeimbachL/DSGreat PlainsMadison QuestOHBadgerReese ResmerOHHoosierHalle ThompsonOHLone StarNatalie WardlowMBGreat Plains

There were several notable players on the U20 team, along with Ames, Mauch, and Pierce.

Outside hitter Abigail Mullen is the No. 1 player in the class of 2025. Nebraska assistant coach Jaylen Reyes has watched a few of her games at Liberty High School in Kansas.

PlayerPositionRegionCharlotte GlassSFloridaShay HeaneyOHGreat PlainsCallie KruegerLLone StarAbigail MullenOHHeart of America

Mullen is also on the U19 National Team. OH Abby Vander Wal, OH Cari Spears, OH Teraya Sigler, and setter Reese Messer are as well. All four are on Nebraska’s radar.

-Abby Barmore

The post Exclusive Tunnel Talk: 5/5/2023 appeared first on On3.

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