Nebraska’s coaching staff had a handful of things they hoped to cross off their checklist heading into last week’s early signing period. One of them was to get bigger across the board, and a quick look at the 23 players who signed with the Huskers shows that they did just that.
All four of Nebraska’s offensive line signees are 6-foot-6 or taller. All four of Nebraska’s defensive line signees are 6-foot-4 or taller. That’s a departure from what we’ve seen in the trenches in Lincoln over the last several years.
“I said this after the Iowa game, but there were a few games this year where, looking across the 50 at other people warming up, I thought teams were bigger than us and that’s not supposed to happen at Nebraska,” Coach Scott Frost said during Nebraska’s early signing day press conference. “The Nebraska I know is bigger, stronger and more physical than other teams. We certainly have some of those guys on our team right now but we need more of them.”
Nebraska started two 6-foot-6 tackles, two 6-foot-3 guards and a 6-foot-4 center for the majority of last season. Of the six reserve linemen on scholarship, one (Christian Gaylord) is 6-foot-6, two (Cole Conrad and Broc Bando) are 6-foot-5, two (John Raridon and Matt Sichterman) are 6-foot-4 and one (Will Farniok) is 6-foot-3. Two of the interior starters (Tanner Farmer and Jerald Foster) and Conrad are seniors and won’t be back next year.
In this class, Nebraska added a monster tackle in 6-foot-8, 303-pound Bryce Benhart, two intriguing project tackles in 6-foot-7 Jimmy Fritzsche and 6-foot-6 Matthew Anderson (both listed at 250 pounds) and a utility lineman in Michael Lynn (6-foot-6, 280 pounds) who is slated to play tackle but could easily slide inside to guard as well.
Will Farniok, who committed to the previous staff and is the younger brother of Matt Farniok, was the only offensive lineman in Frost’s first recruiting class at Nebraska, so this year’s crop is our first real look at what Frost, offensive coordinator Troy Walters and offensive line coach Greg Austin want in their linemen.
This class also includes a junior college prospect in Desmond Bland (6-foot-4, 285 pounds) who the staff recruited with the idea that he’d be able to plug one of the holes on the interior left by the graduation of Farmer and Foster, but he did not sign during the early period.
Nebraska added some big dudes on the other side of the line of scrimmages as well, starting with Brant Banks, an offensive lineman who Nebraska likes on defense. Banks is 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, which will make him one of the taller players in defensive line coach Mike Dawson’s room as soon as he walks in.
Mosai Newsom is the lightest of the trench recruits at 245 pounds, but at 6-foot-5 he’s got plenty of room to add more weight to his frame and Ty Robinson (6-foot-5, 275 pounds) is the prototypical 3-4 defensive end.
Norfolk Catholic lineman Ethan Piper is shorter than the others, but at 280 pounds with plenty of room for more, he could end up playing nose tackle down the line. Peyton Newell played a number of snaps at that spot at 6-foot-3, and at 6-foot-2, Carlos Davis took over as the starter there when the 6-foot-5 Mick Stoltenberg got injured.
Khalil Davis (6-foot-2) and Freedom Akinmoladun (6-foot-4) played a ton up front, and Deontre Thomas (6-foot-3) played a good amount until he injured his hand.
Add the four guys they signed this year to a group that includes Ben Stille (6-foot-5, 290 pounds), Damion Daniels (6-foot-2, 340 pounds), DaiShon Neal (6-foot-7, 310 pounds), Chris Walker (6-foot-6, 290 pounds) and Tate Wildeman (6-foot-5, 275 pounds), and Nebraska has plenty of options moving forward if the coaches want more height and length out on the field. Nebraska also officially announced the addition of Oklahoma State graduate transfer Darrion Daniels (Damion Daniels’ brother) who measures in at 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds.
“We wanted to get bigger, particularly on the two lines, but also in other areas and other positions,” Frost said. “We weren’t just recruiting size, we wanted good players and good athletes. I think we were able to fill those needs for the most part.”
Nebraska signed five linebackers, all of whom are 6-foot-3 or taller including the 6-foot-6 Jamin Graham and the 6-foot-4 Nick Henrich. The Huskers signed three defensive backs — two are 6-foot-3 and the other is 6-foot-2. Last year’s class included a 6-foot-4 linebacker in David Alston and a 6-foot-4 corner in Braxton Clark among others.
Nebraska certainly added a significant amount of talent to the roster for next season, closing the deal on the majority of its priority targets and it signing eight players in total rated as 4-star prospects by the Hail Varsity composite, but the Huskers also changed the physical makeup of its roster with a lot of the additions for 2019, and that gives the coaches better flexibility to play more like they want to play on both sides of the ball.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.