Nebraska got a fantastic surprise Friday evening, as the Husker coaching staff landed a commitment from Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles. Radley-Hiles, who is originally from California but is currently attending IMG Academy in Florida, was originally planning to commit on July 31 but felt the time was right to pledge to the Huskers.
Radley-Hiles spent his junior season at Calabasas High School in California, where he was a standout on both sides of the ball while helping the Coyotes achieve a 14-1 record in 2016. Radley-Hiles is now Nebraska’s highest rated commit, he is listed as a 4-star recruit with a 94.5 rating on Hail Varsity’s composite.
Who Else Was Interested
Who wasn’t interested in Bookie? Radley-Hiles quickly emerged as one of the top 2018 prospects in the nation following an impressive showing in the summer camp circuit prior to his junior year. This led to Radley-Hiles receiving 36 FBS scholarship offers, including tenders from recruiting powerhouses such as Florida, Michigan, Ohio State, USC and UCLA. Despite all the offers, the race soon narrowed down to a two-team race between Nebraska and Florida. As the 2016 season progressed, Radley-Hiles appeared to be leaning towards joining the Gators, but the arrival of Donte Williams quickly changed things. Williams arrival, combined with Radley-Hiles’ close relationship with head coach Mike Riley was eventually enough to convince the talented cornerback to choose the Huskers.
Radley-Hiles measures in at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds. While he isn’t the most physically imposing cornerback you’ll see, Radley-Hiles has a solid frame and plays much bigger than his size would indicate. Radley-Hiles has a lean and athletic build and still has room to fill out in both his upper and lower body. When Radley-Hiles is finished filling out, I would expect him to measure in at 5-10 and in the low 190 pound range.
1. His physicality at the line of scrimmage. Radley-Hiles may be a tad undersized at 5-10, but he plays like giant from his cornerback position, bullying receivers at the line of scrimmage and knocking them off of their route. Radley-Hiles possesses a great first strike from his starting stance, this allows him to deliver a shock to the opposing receiver while still remaining balanced, allowing him to run and the receiver after the initial strike. Radley-Hiles is also extremely competitive once the ball is in the air, as he consistently outfights bigger receivers for position on the ball. In many ways, Radley-Hiles coverage style reminds me of former all-conference Husker Alfonzo Dennard, who made a living out of physically overpowering wide receivers on every play.
2. His athleticism in coverage. Radley-Hiles is one of those guys that just makes everything look easy, as he has a smooth athleticism that allows him to mirror opposing receivers with ease. Radley-Hiles has extremely light feet when in coverage, as he is able to stop and start effectively when in his mirror technique. This allows him to lock in on opposing receivers and mirror them all the way down the field without losing a step. Radley-Hiles is also a tremendous leaper, as he is able to consistently out jump bigger receivers for 50-50 balls. Radley-Hiles athleticism, combined with his physicality at the line of scrimmage, makes him an extremely versatile weapon for Bob Diaco and the husker coaches to use over the next four years.
3. His personality on and off the field. Radley-Hiles has the infectious energy that makes him a natural leader on the field and a fan favorite off of it. Radley-Hiles is already a fan favorite around Nebraska due to his polite and energetic personality, but he becomes a fiery and intense competitor once he walks onto the football field. This was all on display during Radley-Hiles dazzling performance in Nebraska’s Friday Night Lights Camp, as he consistently outperformed top 2017 prospects while making it all look easy. Radley-Hiles plays with a swagger and confidence that he backs up with a tireless work ethic; this makes him a guy that can become an instant leader in Nebraska’s young secondary in 2018.
4. His versatility. As I’ve stated earlier, Radley-Hiles is an extremely impressive athletic prospect. What makes Radley-Hiles truly special, is the competitiveness and football IQ that allows him to play all over the field and be effective. This is an extremely unfair comparison, but Radley-Hiles reminds of Tyrann Matthieu back when he was at LSU, as he had the athleticism and versatility to be a devastating presence all over LSU’s secondary.
1. His size. Radley-Hiles will never be the biggest receiver, so he will need to learn how to work around this area of his game. While he has been able to consistently bully receivers at the high school level, collegiate receivers are bigger and faster, so this method won’t always work for Radley-Hiles. This simply means that Radley-Hiles will need to keep working to perfect his mirror technique in coverage, as that will allow him to consistently be in position to make a play on the football without having to rely on his physical strength.
2. Managing all the hype. I would argue that Radley-Hiles is the most coveted recruit that Nebraska has landed since Marlon Lucky signed with Nebraska in 2005. Radley-Hiles is already a celebrity around Nebraska and it will be over a year before he actually suits up for Nebraska, that’s a lot on the shoulders of an 18 year old. Luckily for Husker fans, Radley-Hiles has demonstrated impressive maturity for a kid his age, but it is still something to monitor going forward.
This is Nebraska’s biggest recruiting victory of the cycle so far, and it may stay the biggest recruiting win all the way through signing day. This has to feel good for the Nebraska coaching staff, as they put in an incredible amount of work to try to convince Radley-Hiles to give Nebraska a shot, and their hard work was rewarded when Radley-Hiles fell in love with the school last summer. Having Radley-Hiles gives Nebraska a talented and versatile defensive back that should see the field early in 2018, especially after the graduation of Chris Jones and Joshua Kalu. Radley-Hiles also gives Nebraska a rare commit that can peer recruit both coasts, as he has a ton of connections with top prospects in California and Florida. Huge get for the Huskers, who landed a kid that is probably the top prospect on their board regardless of position.
College Comparison: Washington Safety/Cornerback Budda Baker
Pro Comparison: Arizona Cardinals Cornerback/Safety Tyrann Mathieu