Nebraska Cornhuskers tight end Austin Allen (11)
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska’s NFL Draft Hopefuls Show Difficulty of Projection, Importance of Development

April 28, 2022

The Huskers have several players that hope to hear their names called this weekend for the 2022 NFL Draft. The crop of players is one of the strongest that Nebraska has had in a while. It’s a group of players that all have unique stories of turning themselves into pro prospects.

There is one thing that each player has in common: none were highly-touted recruits. The highest-rated recruit of the bunch was Cameron Jurgens. He is shooting up draft boards playing a completely different position than he was recruited at.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane with the Huskers’ draft hopefuls to remember them as recruits.

Right now, Jurgens is in line to potentially be the second center selected in the NFL Draft. In high school, he was a 4-star tight end committed to a different coaching staff. Jurgens was part of the last class that coach Mike Riley helped recruit before he was let go from Nebraska. Coach Scott Frost convinced Jurgens to stick with his pledge to the Huskers despite a late push from LSU. It’s amazing to think about how Jurgens committed to Nebraska to be a pro-style offense tight end. Those athletic traits are still there when you see him maul defenders in the run game. His ability to climb to the second level of defenders has NFL scouts excited about him.

Watching his high school highlights feels like watching a different prospect altogether.

Jurgens can be counted as a developmental win for the Huskers. Aurora native Austin Allen can be as well. The tight end was part of the 2017 recruiting class and was a 3-star prospect. He had a handful of offers out of high school but his only official visit was to Lincoln. Allen was also a standout basketball player in high school. Standing at 6-foot-8, it’s tough to project players that tall in college football. Allen worked hard to get himself into a draftable tight end prospect. Allen ended up as one of the models of an under-recruited Nebraska native who just needed time to develop. We see this every year and good coaching.

JoJo Domann left college as a jack of all trades defender with a unique skill set. He arrived in Lincoln as part of the 2016 recruiting class for Riley. He was labeled an athlete coming out of Pine Creek High School in Colorado, making him difficult to project to a position in college. The defender had double-digits offers out of high school and the majority were from schools out west. Domann battled injuries early in his career while going through multiple coaching changes. Domann truly lived up to the “athlete” label at Nebraska. The ‘JoJo nickel’ position was created for him because of his unique skillset.

Some players will always be linked with the new way of recruiting that has taken over college football. Oregon native Samori Touré will be an example of the transfer portal working in Lincoln for a long time. The wideout was a record-setting player at Montana before making the jump to the Big Ten. He racked up 1,495 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2019 at Montana but was unable to play in 2020 because of COVID-19. Coming out of high school, Touré was very under-recruited as a late bloomer. He was labeled a 2-star recruit by most services with Montana being one of his few offers. Touré led the Huskers in receiving during his lone year in Lincoln. The playmaker said after Nebraska’s Pro Day that he accomplished what he wanted during his time.

“That’s the whole reason I came here is to put myself in a better position to make it to the NFL, have a good career in the NFL and I feel like that all worked out how I wanted it to,” Toure said.

The theme of Nebraska’s draft hopefuls this year is development. The Huskers have a major recruiting and development win with defensive back Cam Taylor-Britt. The defender was part of Frost’s initial 2018 recruiting class. He was a quarterback in high school but colleges saw him as a defensive back at the next level. Taylor-Britt displayed great athleticism and always seemed mature for his age. Those traits helped him adapt to the new position quickly.

His final group of schools was Nebraska, Missouri and Troy. There was a late visit to Auburn that worried Husker fans. The Tigers never ended up offering Taylor-Britt. The Huskers saw the potential in the Alabama native to star on the defense which he did while in Lincoln.

Nebraska’s top draft prospects this year show how unique each path can be. You never know which prospects on the commitment list will end up NFL-bound.

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