Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska Recruiting: Huskers Still in the Mix for Local Kicker

August 03, 2022

Recruiting never stops and it’s easy to miss the top stories day-to-day. Hail Varsity recaps all things Nebraska recruiting news, analysis and more so you never miss a thing.

Nebraska special teams coach Bill Busch is scheduled to meet with the media following the Huskers’ practice on Thursday, so updates on the specialist battles aren’t far off.

It’s reasonable to expect Brian Buschini, FCS Punter of the Year and an All-American in 2021 at Montana, to have a leg up at punter. I’ll be surprised if Nebraska isn’t still evaluating its options in the return game. Wide receiver Trey Palmer is a deserving favorite. He was LSU’s primary punt returner in 2021 and kick returner the past two seasons, averaging 27.3 yards per return with a touchdown. (Nebraska hasn’t had a kickoff return for a touchdown since 2017.) Arizona State transfer cornerback Tommi Hill was also in the mix in the spring. He handled four kickoff returns, averaging 19.75 yards per return, in 2021.

That leaves kicker, and in my mind it’s the most interesting special teams battle this August. The Huskers have five on the roster. Morningside transfer Brendan Franke offered set-it-and-forget-it consistency on kickoffs last season, much needed, but probably isn’t among the top contenders for place-kicking duties though he did make a PAT in the spring game. Chase Contreraz attempted the only two field goals in the Red-White scrimmage, making from 26 yards and missing from 42. (He was also 2-of-4 on field goals over the final four games last season.) Sophomore walk-on Gabe Heins also handled some PATs in April, going 1-for-2.

Now, however, the new arrivals are in the picture. It remains amusing that Nebraska just downloaded Furman’s two-deep at kicker, adding sophomore Timmy Bleekrode and redshirt freshman Spencer Pankratz. Bleekrode was the starter for the Palladins, making 21-of-25 field goals over two seasons and earning second-team All-SoCon honors both seasons. It’s the most impressive place-kicking résumé on the roster right now, but we’ll see what Busch has to say about the Huskers’ present tomorrow.

The future could gain some clarity tomorrow as well. Millard South kicker and punter Simon McClannan announced he’ll making his college decision on Aug. 7.

McClannan, who has made multiple visits to Lincoln, is deciding between Nebraska, Kansas State and South Dakota State. Maybe it’s something, maybe it’s nothing, but his commitment date announcement came a day after tweeting he’d received an offer from the Wildcats.

Kohl’s Kicking rates McClannan as a 5-star kicker, 22nd nationally, and a 4.5-star punter, 19th nationally. Here he is in action at Kohl’s National Underclassmen Challenge in February.

Recruit Watch

>>That didn’t take long. One-time Nebraska commit Ashley Williams Jr. has committed to Auburn.

>>Nebraska remains one of the favorites to land 4-star edge rusher Cameron Lenhardt and the recruiting sites are all reporting a decision could be coming soon. Here he is talking about his growth at IMG Academy.


>>Jacob Padilla shares his thoughts on the John Cook and Kayla Caffey transfer misunderstanding and more from Big Ten media days.

>>More volleyball: Coach Cook has long advocated for volleyball to be allowed summer workouts as other fall/winter sports are, but not everyone is convinced more time with coaches is a positive.

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