Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Recruiting: Familiar Big Ten, Signing Day Face Enters Portal as Graduate Transfer

January 03, 2023

Fifteen days remain before the transfer portal closes. Players currently in the portal have until then to sign with their new programs in order to join them for the spring. That tight deadline hasn’t stopped some high-profile recruits from entering the portal.

One of those is Ohio State defensive lineman Javontae Jean-Baptiste. The standout entered the portal after the Buckeyes’ semifinal loss to Georgia. He is a graduate transfer with one year of eligibility remaining. Husker fans might remember him from his hectic recruitment on National Signing Day.

The Oradell, New Jersey, native was a 3-star recruit out of high school was aligned to join Nebraska’s 2018 recruiting class on decision day. Jean-Baptiste took an official visit to Nebraska just weeks before signing day, putting the Huskers in front of a crowded pack. He called Scott Frost on signing day morning to tell the former head coach he planned to sign with the Huskers. Winter weather closed school for the day, giving Jean-Baptiste time to mull his decision while waiting to send his letter of intent. That’s all the time he needed to flip his commitment to Ohio State and Urban Meyer. Current Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano was Ohio State’s defensive coordinator at the time.

Jean-Baptiste played in 40 games across five seasons for the Buckeyes. He finished with 51 tackles, 10 for loss, including eight sacks. He played in all 13 games this past season with 19 tackles, 4.5 for loss and four sacks.

The defensive end had not received any scholarship offers by Tuesday early afternoon, less than 24 hours after he announced his move. That includes Nebraska’s current coaching staff. Two of Nebraska’s top edge rushers, Garrett Nelson and Ochaun Mathis, both declared for the NFL Draft and 2022 team captain Caleb Tannor exhausted his eligibility. Multiple defensive end recruits signed with Nebraska already, including former Texas A&M portal arrival Elijah Jeudy.

Jean-Baptiste made two tackles with 0.5 sacks during the 42-41 Peach Bowl loss on Saturday.

Recruit Watch

Two notable portal entries that Matt Rhule’s coaching staff offered are Sterling Berkhalter and Isaac TeSlaa. Both would fit Rhule’s philosophy for developing under-the-radar recruits.

Berkhalter, 6-foot-4, 188 pounds, entered the portal after two years as a receiver at North Carolina A&T. The Cincinnati native signed with North Carolina A&T as a 3-star receiver over Morgan State, Navy, Army and Liberty. He has 35 catches for 476 yards and two touchdowns in two seasons. Nebraska offered him on December 27, just before Berkhalter gained offers from East Carolina, Washington State and Tulane. His presence as a deep-ball threat with blazing speed makes him an alluring prospect for FBS programs.

TeSlaa is also from the underground. The former Hillsdale College standout was recently named Great Midwest Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year following a historic season. He led the conference in receptions (68), yards (1,325), yards per catch (19.5), yards per game (120.5) and touchdowns (13). He finished third in NCAA Division II in receiving yards per game and sixth in touchdowns. His receiving yards and touchdowns from the 2022 season rank third in program history for a single season. The Hudsonville, Michigan, native has also gained offers from Ole Miss, Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma State, Houston and many more.

ICYMI

>> Bellevue West emerged above the field and won both boys’ and girls’ titles at the Metro Holiday Tournament over the weekend.

>> The Nebraska men’s basketball team continues its physical push through the Big Ten with a road test against Michigan State tonight. Fred Hoiberg’s team will be without Blaise Keita for the contest.

>> Former Nebraska reserve quarterback and split end Ryan Held was introduced as the new head coach at Nebraska-Kearney on Tuesday. Held most recently coached at North Alabama after an assistant stint at Nebraska under Scott Frost.

>>Former Husker wide receiver Zavier Betts has entered the transfer portal after not playing in 2022.

>>Nebraska picked up a commitment from 3-star defensive back Ethan Nation during Tuesday’s UnderArmour All-American game.

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