Two-and-a-half weeks before its spring academic semester begins, Nebraska’s football program continues its pursuit of transfer portal players.
Stanford, Baylor linemen and Virginia wideout highlight new Nebraska transfer targets
With seven transfers already set to join the team, NU plans to host multiple other potential additions this weekend, including two offensive linemen who were full-time starters in 2022 and a receiver with nearly 200 career catches.
The Huskers, according to reports, are dueling Oklahoma and Iowa for one veteran O-lineman.
That’d be Stanford offensive tackle Walter Rouse, a 39-game starter, who has one year of eligibility left after earning All-Pac 12 honorable mention in 2022. A biomechanical engineering major, the 6-foot-6, 318-pounder was a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, known as the “Academic Heisman,” awarded to the player with the best combination of academics, community service and on-field play.
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Baylor guard Micah Mazzccua — a Philadelphia native who started 10 games at left guard this season for the Bears — originally committed to BU just after current Husker coach Matt Rhule left Waco. The 6-foot-5, 331-pounder posted a strong season grade of 71.4 according to Pro Football Focus. He announced on Twitter he was visiting Auburn on Wednesday, and NU is in the plans for the weekend. Mazzccua had ties to Michigan, as well, out of high school. He has three years to play two seasons, though he, along with Rouse, would likely vie for starting jobs in spring camp.
Also visiting is former Virginia wideout Billy Kemp, who piled up 1,174 receiving yards and 192 grabs — fourth most in school history — during his five seasons spanning 50 games (25 starts). The 5-foot-9, 172-pounder initially declared for the NFL Draft in early December before entering the portal last week after the NCAA granted Virginia seniors an extra season. That came in the wake of the shooting deaths of three football players and subsequent cancellation of the team’s final two games. The former 2018 three-star prospect from Virginia made 16 catches for 116 yards last year and was UVA’s primary punt returner for several seasons.
While NU has six returning linemen who started games last year, the position group under second-year offensive line coach Donovan Raiola remains in flux. Arizona State center Ben Scott has already signed with the Huskers. Prospects can enter the portal until Jan. 18 but this week and next should be busy, given that many schools begin their academic semester Jan. 17 — just after the Martin Luther King holiday. Nebraska’s spring semester begins Jan. 23.
At receiver, the Huskers have already added Baylor transfer Josh Fleeks to a relatively inexperienced room where Marcus Washington (31 catches) and Alante Brown (16) are the leading returners. Other prospects to watch include Illinois’ Brian Hightower — a former “Calibraska” target who once starred at a Friday Night Lights camp — Georgia State’s Jimari Thrash, Tennessee’s Walker Merrill and three Oklahoma State receivers in John Paul Richardson, Bryson Green and Stephon Johnson.
Rhule’s Huskers have ongoing needs at several other positions, too:
* North Texas tight end Jack Roberts has a Husker offer. Tennessee, Indiana and South Florida, too, among others. NU still has six scholarship tight ends, plus Nate Boerkircher, a walk-on who could start in 2023. Injuries have dogged Thomas Fidone, Chris Hickman and James Carnie, while Chase Androff and Brodie Tagaloa are coming off redshirt freshman seasons.
* If Nebraska is in the market for a pass rusher, it could get involved with Ohio State graduate transfer Javontae Jean-Baptiste, who had 4½ sacks for the Buckeyes this season. Jean-Baptiste, a high school teammate of current Husker running back Rahmir Johnson in New Jersey, spurned NU on Signing Day 2018 when a snowstorm postponed his signing ceremony and gave OSU enough time to keep him in the class.
Nebraska’s current staff, including running backs coach EJ Barthel, has strong recruiting relationships in New Jersey. The Huskers lost their top three edge rushers — Garrett Nelson, Ochaun Mathis and Caleb Tannor — to the NFL Draft, and their two most likely successors, Jimari Butler and Blaise Gunnerson, had a combined 14 tackles in 2022. NU added Florida pass-rushing transfer Chief Borders and Sacramento (Calif.) American River Community College’s Kai Wallin in December.
* The Huskers may also be in the mix to add immediate help in the secondary via former Baylor players in cornerback Lorando “Snaxx” Johnson and safety Al Walcott. Johnson committed late in the 2020 cycle — June of that year, six months after Rhule went to the NFL — over multiple top SEC offers. He appeared in 12 games last season with 16 tackles and five breakups and has three years left to play two. Walcott, a North Carolina native, is a two-year starter who logged 83 tackles last season and nabbed three interceptions in 2021. He has one season of eligibility remaining.
* Arkansas transfer quarterback Malik Hornsby remains set to decide between NU, Baylor and UNLV on Sunday. Hornsby has a redshirt year still at his disposal and skills that could translate to receiver. He rushed for 307 yards on limited carries with the Razorbacks and completed 46.2% of his passes.
Borders, Florida safety Corey Collier, Fleeks, Texas A&M defensive tackle Elijah Jeudy, Florida long snapper Marco Ortiz, Scott and Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims comprise NU’s transfer class thus far. The group is ranked 21st by 247Sports and 24th by On3.
The hits, flips and misses that defined the Huskers’ Signing Day
Meet the class, hear from head coach Matt Rhule and get plenty more in this coverage roundup of how Nebraska fared Wednesday.
Seeking out “winners,” Matt Rhule delivered a recruiting class that no one would have predicted last month, writes Luke Mullin.
Get a closer look at each Husker signee —rankings, evaluations and a look at how they landed at Nebraska.
From recruiting to quarterbacks to disagreeing with a narrative about the offensive line, here are our takeaways after hearing from Husker coach Matt Rhule.
Gunnar Gottula’s recruitment started at home during the pandemic. It came to an end in the same place Wednesday morning. More from a unique but special Signing Day ceremony.
After an up-and-down month of uncertainty for Malachi Coleman, he’s decided to end up at the same place he started: Nebraska.
Matt Rhule’s heard it on his team and, well, everywhere around town: Nebraska’s offensive line was the biggest problem on a 4-8 squad last season. And he’s not buying it.
“I even had people in the NFL say, ‘Hey, you need to go get this guy.’ Everyone recognizes he’s an NFL talent,” said Matt Rhule of the Georgia Tech transfer.
On early signing day for prep prospects, Nebraska is also welcoming in a veteran receiver transfer from the Big 12.
“There have been some other schools that have gotten in here and made some headway recruiting Nebraska. That’s over. We’re coming in now.”
A signing day mostly filled with good news for Nebraska now includes one decommitment. Wide receiver Barry Jackson flipped to Cincinnati on Wednesday.
“Some guys, if they went in and they called me and they said, ‘Hey, I want to come back,’ I’d say I think it’s best if you do move on.” Rhule says he’s open to bringing some transfers back. But not all
Defensive tackle Vincent Carroll-Jackson, who just played his first year of football, flipped his commitment from Syracuse to Nebraska on signing day.
The Huskers received another Philadelphia-area commit when Texas A&M transfer Elijah Jeudy announced he was headed to Nebraska.
Matt Rhule already had the recipe. He believes the Huskers are adding a bunch of the right ingredients with the 2023 class to start whipping up a program turnaround.
Nebraska signee Goldman on team goals: “Short term, a bowl game,” he said. “Long term, a national championship.”
A late Nebraska push to land Lincoln High’s Beni Ngoyi has fallen just short, as Iowa State announced that Ngoyi has signed with the Cyclones.
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