Fall 2012: LSE #13 Luke Gifford

A Big Red Weekend Primer

Nebraska expects to have around 15 to 20 recruits in town over the next few days for Big Red Weekend, the second iteration of what is now the Huskers’ signature summer recruiting event.

Things are always fluid in the recruiting game, particularly when the players are responsible for finding and financing their own way to Lincoln, so the list could change even at this late stage, but here are some of the notable names expected to be there this weekend. (Rankings Key: R=Rivals, 247=247Sports, S=Scout)

THE BIG TWO – There are two players scheduled to be at BRW that should be familiar to most Nebraska fans by now: Lincoln Southeast guard D.J. FOSTER and Hiawatha, Kan. defensive tackle PEYTON NEWELL.

Newell (R: 3, 247: 4, S: 4) is making his second trip to BRW after attending last year so he’s plenty familiar with the scene in Lincoln. That history, along with Newell’s proximity to Lincoln, should play in Nebraska’s favor but competition is keen here. Newell already has more than 30 offers according to Rivals, which ranks him as the 15th-best DT nationally. A weekend commit seems unlikely, but you never know. Newell’s been to Lincoln three or four times at this point which is encouraging when you consider that the likes of Georgia, South Carolina and USC are also high on his list.

There’s some pressure on Nebraska to eventually land the home-grown prospect Foster (consensus 3-star). His brother, Trey, is a tight end for the Huskers and losing out on one of the top linemen nationally when he is right in your backyard wouldn’t exactly go over well in certain circles. Foster, a Crimson Tide fan, took an unofficial visit to Alabama earlier this spring and if the Tide should offer things could get complicated. For now, Nebraska might be a slight favorite but plenty of others (Florida, Georgia, Iowa, UCLA) have offered.

STARRY EYED — There are three players expected this weekend with the stars to quicken the pulse of recruitniks — RB TONY JAMES, WR CAMERON SIMS, and ATH KALEN BALLAGE. All three currently rank in the Rivals Top 250.

The Huskers might have the best shot right now at James(R: 4, S: 3), an all-purpose back from Gainesville, Fla. He’s got Nebraska near the top of his list along with Florida, Ohio State, Oregon, Ole Miss and, Nebraska’s new recruiting nemesis, Kentucky. James ranks as the 15th-best all-purpose back according to 247Sports and third-best according to Rivals.

Secondary coach Terry Joesph used his Louisiana connections to lure Sims (consensus 4-star)– who is from Monroe, La. — to campus. That alone is an achievement, but the Huskers might be facing an up-hill climb here. Half of the SEC has offered Sims, including Alabama, and it’s easy to see why. He’s the prototypical big-body receiver everybody loves.

Nebraska has had some success recently in Colorado, making Ballage (R: 4, 247: 4, S: 3) an intriguing visitor. Well, that and the fact that he’s 6-3, nearly 220-pounds and, according to Rivals at least, runs a 4.37 40. (Note: He probably doesn’t run a 4.37 40 right now.) Ballage could play a number of positions and that means he has a pretty full dance card. He was scheduled to visit Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State this week before hitting Nebraska. Oregon, which hasn’t offered yet, and Arizona State are also near the top of his list.

Landing any of these three this weekend, likely the longest of long shots, would dramatically change the current tenor of Husker recruiting.

THE QUARTERBACK — Jackson, Ala. QB Matthew Jordan (R: 2) is the only quarterback scheduled to be at BRW, but he has the look of an uncovered gem. Nebraska is clearly his best offer at this point but he’s made unofficial visits to Georgia Tech, Auburn and Alabama recently and spent last week at Mississippi State’s camp. He’s only a two-star at this point, but Jordan has the look of a 3-star before it’s all said and done.

THE THREE MOST LIKELY — If you’re looking for commits coming out of this weekend, there are three players to keep a close eye on.

Grandview, Mo. TE/DE FREEDOM AKINMOLADUN (247: 3) has the look of a player whose best football is ahead of him. After spending the early part of his career on the offensive line, Akinmoladun moved to the edge and has the build (6-5, 240) to go either way. Nebraska has a pair of connections here. His cousin, Oladupo, is a track athlete at Nebraska and his brother, Olakuyode, plays football in-state at Nebraska-Kearney. Kansas State, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa and Northern Illinois have also offered.

Alexandria, Va. ATH DEMORNAY PIERSON-EL (consensus 3-star) is a small guy with big-time athleticism. Pierson-El is about the same size (5-9, 175) as Ameer Abdullah was coming out of high school and would likely play at running back while also offering some special teams help. Beyond Nebraska, Boston College and North Carolina are his best offers to date.

Nebraska got in early on McKinney, Texas WR T.V. WILLIAMS, becoming the second BCS school to offer him after Cal. We’ll see if that’s enough, along with the BRW experience, to land a commitment. His offer list is growing and the competition here is a bit stronger than above with Iowa, Kentucky and Oregon State making recent scholarship offers.

LOOKING AHEAD — The Huskers will also welcome three recruits for the 2015 class this weekend and all three are highly-ranked prospects.

ALIZ’E JONES (247: 4) of Las Vegas is the top-ranked tight end in the 2015 class according to 247Sports. He’s already got offers from UCLA, USC, Arizona and Arizona State out on the West Coast.

DE ADAM MCLEAN (247: 4) is a top 10 prospect and he hails from Quince Orchard HS in North Potomac, Md., the same high school as current Huskers Jason Ankrah and Marcus Newby. His offer list includes Florida State, Virginia Tech, Rutgers and Iowa among others.

On the other side of the d-line, DE HALE HENTGES (247: 4) is also a top 10 prospect out of Jefferson City, Mo. He’s got offers from Arkansas, Iowa, Iowa State, Missouri and Wisconsin.

Last year’s Big Red Weekend led to two direct commitments for Nebraska in safety Nathan Gerry — still a guy I think will play right away this year — and long-snapper Gabe Miller, but it also laid the groundwork for future commitments from the likes of Marcus Newby, Zach Hannon and Terrell Newby.

This year’s list is arguably more impressive. The Huskers put a lot of emphasis on getting kids on campus. This weekend, they have them.

Let’s see what happens.