Nebraska’s early enrollees for the 2020 recruiting class are all in Lincoln starting classes and winter conditioning. Enrolling early doesn’t only help players get their feet wet on the football side of things. The life of a Division I football player is much different than in high school, junior college or prep school, and being on campus early allows them to adjust.
“They will feel like they are drinking water out of the firehose,” Tuioti told Hail Varsity last spring. “It slows down but there is a transitional period for those guys to get used to.”
To get to know the Huskers’ early enrollees, we’re looking at what they’re getting with each player. We’ve already looked at defensive back Henry Gray, outside linebacker Blaise Gunnerson, wide receiver Alante Brown, quarterback Logan Smothers, offensive lineman Turner Corcoran and defensive back Jaiden Francois.
Now let’s look at inside linebacker Eteva Mauga-Clements.
What his recruitment looked like:
It isn’t often that a player is completely off the radar and then suddently becomes part of the Huskers’ recruiting class. Mauga-Clements fit that bill. Give credit to inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud for catching wind of the defender. The Diablo Valley College standout took an official visit to Lincoln in December. From American Samoa, Mauga-Clements was the player of the year in his JUCO conference. He posted 62 tackles, including 23 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
Why he is important to Nebraska:
Linebacker was the most important defensive need this cycle. There was a need to bring in more than one inside and outside ‘backers to give the Huskers’ defense a boost. There is a lot of potential within Nebraska’s inside linebacker room. There is an age gap between returning starters Will Honas and Collin Miller and the young players in the room. Adding the talented Mauga-Clements to bridge the gap should help the program.
What stands out on film:
Diablo Valley College coach Mike Darr raved about Mauga-Clements’ ability on the football field and as a person off the field. Darr told me that Mauga-Clements’ burst and motor are as good as he’s seen in 24 years of coaching at the junior college level. The Huskers defense needs someone who reads plays quickly. That isn't enough because players also need the athleticism to make tackles for loss.
What type of room he’s walking into:
The inside linebacker group is intriguing. Will Honas and Collin Miller played a lot of snaps last season as part of a three-man rotation. Nick Henrich and Jackson Hannah came in last year with high hopes. Luke Reimer and Garrett Snodgrass saw limited action last season. Joseph Johnson and Caden McCormack are also in the mix. Transfer Zach Schlager will enter the fray this season. The room is crowded but unproven.
Why it’s important that he arrives early:
I spoke with Mauga-Clements’ dad, Derrick, after Eteva committed to Nebraska. The family left impressed with Director of Performance Nutrition Dave Ellis. Eteva has tremendous length for his size. By the time spring football rolls around, he expects to potentially weigh in the 228-230 range. To do that, Eteva needs to go through winter conditioning. He is also still learning the inside linebacker position. The extra practices and time with Ruud will be critical too.
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.