The Huskers got another big-time prospect for the 2021 class when 4-star (HV Rating: 91.8) linebacker Randolph Kpai committed to the team on Jan. 2. He’s the fourth known member of the 2021 class that features three players from the 500-mile radius.
Kpai attends Washington High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Chad Stadem, Washington football’s head coach, has worked with many talented players. That includes current Huskers Matt and Will Farniok, who also attended Washington.
That experience also means Stadem knows exactly what Nebraska is getting in Kpai.
“[He’s] very talented and gifted,” Stadem told Hail Varsity. “He’s got a very wide range of skill sets. He’s only played two years of linebacker so he has a long way to get yet. He’s dynamic.”
Kpai received a lot of recruiting attention early. Programs around the Midwest have known about Kpai but things turned national when Oregon offered.
When it comes to what college coaches and evaluators see in Kpai, Stadem knows one reason is his length. Kpai is 6-foot-3, 185 pounds and can run well with his size. That’s not all.
“He’s very flexible, he can bend extremely well,” Stadem said. “I just remember watching him—there are two other linebackers here in town going to South Dakota State—I remember watching them at a combine last year doing agility drills and how they were told to get low. They couldn’t get as low as Randolph. He could get low and keep his flexibility, speed and quickness. Those guys were good football players and linebackers. There’s the difference right there. I noticed it right away.”
Stadem also noted Kpai’s ability to play against offensive lineman. He was used as a hybrid player for Washington during the 2019 season due to injuries, moving him all over depending on what was needed at the time. There were times he was defending wide receivers one-on-one and others he was running with the tight ends.
“He can do a lot of different things,” Stadem said. “That’s why I say he’s a hybrid type. When we had him in the middle which wasn’t a ton, I’ve found that he is really good at running through holes. He will see a hole and run through it. I think that’s a natural thing. We’ve never taught him how to do that. He finds a way to get to the ball really well.”
Kpai hasn’t always been a defensive player. When he first started playing football in seventh grade, his position was running back but it didn’t last long. As he got more and more into football, it was evident that he loved contact and being physical. While scoring touchdowns was nice, playing defense came more naturally.
That natural ability—and hard work—has turned into attention on the recruiting trail. While it can be difficult for some to handle the pressure, it has never been much of a problem for Kpai. Stadem credits his character, as well as his parents who stay on top of his behavior.
Kpai has also been fortunate to receive advice from those who came before him. When Stadem and Kpai visited Nebraska in 2019, Matt Farniok was the one who talked to him about not getting caught up in the attention. “He doesn’t get caught up in the hoopla,” as Stadem said, but it was still good for Kpai to hear the same thing from Matt.
“Matt said it didn’t matter if you get 80 offers, you choose one school,” Stadem said. “When you get there, you work and earn the respect of your peers. He told him not to get caught up in that social media stuff.
“Once you’ve committed that attention goes away. When you get here you are expected to work. I think Randolph got that message right away. Nate Gerry told him the same thing when they talked. He said we work and that’s what we do. That’s what we do at Washington and it helps.”
Stadem shares the same message on all his players that go on to the next level. Earn your peers’ respect with your work ethic. Find a way to get on the football field. Do whatever coach says and find a way on the field. It doesn’t matter what form it is, you help the football team.
Kpai is only a junior, so he still has room to grow. However, his talent and personality appear to fit right in with the type of dynamic that Coach Scott Frost is trying to build in Lincoln.
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.