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Nebraska Recruiting: JUCO Edge James Williams Joins Growing 2023 Walk-On Class

June 25, 2023

Much of the recruiting attention lately is on Nebraska’s 2024 recruiting class. Rightfully so, those scholarship additions, either star-studded or under-the-radar, collectively put the Huskers in the top 20 national classes. Aside from those additions, Matt Rhule and his staff are assembling a battalion of walk-ons. And they added another fighter to the force on Saturday night.

James Williams, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound edge rusher, announced his intentions to walk on at Nebraska as a late addition to the 2023 class. He spent one year at Iowa Central CC where he made 19 total tackles, 7.0 for loss and 6.0 sacks. He also caused two fumbles in 11 games. Williams also runs the shuttle in 4.36 seconds and the 40 in 4.72 seconds.

He was an all-state two-way player at Park Hill South High School in Riverside, Missouri. He gained no major offers, just scouting curiosity from both Kansas and Missouri. 247Sports gave him 2 stars in his only evaluation. Williams gained attention from Husker coaches at Nebraska’s post-graduate camp earlier this month.

His commitment follows recent preferred walk-on roles from former Iowa Western CC quarterback Luke Longval and former Montana commit Cooper Wilson. At the most recent calculation, that makes 15 preferred walk-on additions to Nebraska’s 2023 recruiting class. Nebraska already has two PWO commitments in the 2024 class between New Jersey specialist Nico Ottomanelli and Cross County fullback Izaac Dickey.

Rhule consistently says he doesn’t want to separate the roster between scholarship and non-scholarship. The Huskers’ current locker room, built in the era of Bill Callahan who was not an advocate for the walk-on program, isn’t conducive to a massive walk-on program. Space inside Nebraska’s new facility, which the team will move into the first floor of in a matter of about two weeks, is more spacious and can accommodate each athlete’s needs. Rhule also wants football players who want to play at Nebraska, and walk-ons with limited opportunities elsewhere certainly would fit that mold. Much of the 2023 walk-on class consisted of homegrown players at the end of spring ball. Since then, the Huskers are adding PWOs from all over the country who see opportunity in Lincoln. Williams and Longval are now two former community college contributors who elected to transfer in hopes of playing Power 5 football.

Recruit Watch

Quarterback recruit Stone Saunders teased an announcement for Tuesday. The composite 4-star recruit from Bishop McDevitt in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has made multiple trips to Lincoln and is a promising member of the 2025 class. The Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year has been heavily linked to Kentucky since visiting Lexington earlier this month. In two seasons so far Saunders has thrown for 6,620 yards, 100 touchdowns and 10 interceptions at Bishop McDevitt.

Mario Buford, the 4-star 2024 defensive back who committed to Nebraska earlier this month, was named to the Third-Team Super Team Defense by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. The soon-to-be-senior recorded 32 tackles on the back end of state champion DeSoto.

Two native Nebraskans are headed out of state after committing to separate FBS programs. Creighton Prep tight end Michael Burt announced his commitment to Iowa and Elkhorn South lineman Ben Gustafson committed to Northern Illinois. Burt announced an offer from Iowa first, which was followed by offers from Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois. Gustafson is the second Nebraskan to commit to NIU, following Grand Island Northwest tight end Ben Stein. The Huskies heavily recruited Nebraska during the January recruiting window.

Not a commitment but Cross County tight end Tanner Hollinger just received his first Power 5 offer from Illinois. Hollinger is a talented ball player and 3-star recruit. He received the offer while on an official visit to Champaign. Hollinger visited Nebraska earlier this month.


>> Jordy Bahl was the most dominant pitcher in Nebraska and became Most Outstanding Player at an untouchable Oklahoma program. She returns home to Nebraska, now an underdog. And she’s embracing that change.

>> Alexis Jensen, who will be a junior pitcher at Gretna this upcoming season, learned softball lessons from Jordy Bahl. She’s poised to be the next big national recruit from Nebraska. And she’s excited to see Bahl represent Nebraska once again.

>> In case you’d like to take a break from recruiting news to read about actual football, Hail Varsity took a look at the 2019 Big 12 Championship Game and what it teaches us about Matt Rhule’s football teams.

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