Nebraska earned its biggest recruiting victory in over 10 years Saturday, as Foster Sarell verbally committed to the Huskers during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Sarell, a native of Graham, Washington, is Nebraska’s first consensus 5-star recruit since Baker Steinkuhler committed to NU in 2008.
As a senior, Sarell anchored the line of scrimmage for Graham-Kapowsin High School, helping lead the Eagles to a 9-2 record and the second round of the Washington Class 4A state playoffs. Sarell achieved the highest rating of any 2017 prospect on Hail Varsity’s recruiting composite, earning 5-stars and a 99.1 rating.
Who Else Was Interested
Everyone was interested in Sarell. That tends to happen when you are the best offensive line prospect in the nation and possibly the best overall prospect in the country. Despite countless offers, Sarell quickly narrowed his list down to 13 schools, including college football heavyweights such as Alabama, USC and Notre Dame. Few gave Nebraska much of a chance with Sarell, but Mike Cavanaugh used his longstanding ties with Sarell and his family to secure an official visit for the Fresno State game, putting Nebraska in the mix. As his decision date came closer, Sarell’s top group of schools emerged, with Nebraska battling Stanford and Washington for the talented tackle’s signature. Despite a fierce battle with the in-state Huskies, Cavanaugh somehow managed to steal the top recruit in the nation from the Pacific Northwest.
Sarell measures in at 6-6 and 310 pounds and has the ideal frame to play offensive tackle. He also has a thick barrel-chested frame and long arms. Sarell has a well-built lower body, but he still has room to fill out in that area as he matures. When Sarell is finished filling out, I would expect him to measure in at 6-6 and in the 320-325 pound range.
His pass blocking ability: Most young offensive linemen have trouble with this area of their game, but Sarell is already advanced in his. Sarell has a tremendous kick step, allowing him to get himself set and ready for the oncoming pass rusher. He also shows tremendous patience in his pass set, as he rarely lunges at oncoming pass rushers, instead staying back in his stance and forcing defenders to come to him. Sarell also displays impressive pop with his hands, allowing him to stop opposing pass rushers in their tracks and knock them off of their base. He also does a tremendous job of keeping his feet light in pass protection and not stopping his feet once engaged with a pass rusher. This allows Sarell to stay in front of the pass rusher throughout the play and form a clean pocket for his quarterback. This is a tremendous sign for Nebraska, as Sarell’s ability in pass pro can allow him to see the field early for Nebraska in 2017.
His hand-punch in the run game: Sarell plays with heavy hands when run blocking. This skill allows him to consistently knock opposing defenders off of their base and drive them backwards from the line of scrimmage. Sarell also shows good hand punch at the second level and he is able to strike opposing linebackers with force and keep them out of the play. Hand punch is one of the most difficult things for young linemen to learn, most either have this skill or they don’t, so it is great that Sarell is already proficient in this area of his game.
His natural agility: Players at 310 pounds aren’t supposed to be able to move as smoothly as Sarell, as the massive 18-year-old is able to pull and reach block effortlessly on film. Sarell’s agility makes him a tremendous fit for Nebraska’s zone-blocking scheme, as he has already shown the ability to effectively reach block to the second level on film. Sarell’s agility also helps him in the pass game, as he is able to stay in front of oncoming pass rushers when in space while also allowing him to work through defensive stunts and blitzes.
His ability to raise his game against better competition: One of the main concerns I had with Sarell when I first heard his name was if he could translate his success in Washington high school football to the college game. Sarrell’s performance on the summer camp circuit proved to me that he could. Sarell absolutely dominated the Nike Opening this summer, earning the overall MVP at a camp that featured over a hundred of the top prospects in the nation. This indicated that Sarell could step up his game at the collegiate level, something he will need to do as he will likely be counted on as a true freshman.
His potential: Sarell is only scratching the surface of his potential, a terrifying thought when you realize that he’s already one of the top players in the class. As Sarell adds strength to his frame and adjusts to the college game he will only get better. He should be fun to watch over the next three, maybe four years.
His aggression level at the second level: I’ve already stated that Sarell has the agility and athleticism to be a tremendous run blocker at the second level, but he needs to rein in his aggression in this area in order to reach his full potential. Sarell has a tendency to lunge at linebackers when blocking at the second level, a habit that takes him off balance and forces him to play from a less powerful position. This is a relatively easy habit to fix and Sarell should improve as he adjusts to college speed.
Adding good weight to his frame: The only thing that can derail Sarell at this point is if he allows his weight to become an issue. If Sarell doesn’t embrace the weight room and eats poorly, then he’ll add bad weight to his frame and lose quickness and effectiveness. If he does embrace the weight room and training table, then he shouldn’t have any problem.
Sarell is Nebraska’s biggest recruiting victory since they landed Marlon Lucky, as Cavanaugh went into the heart of Pac-12 country and stole the best prospect in the country away from several recruiting heavyweights. Sarell immediately becomes a favorite for Nebraska’s right tackle position, as he brings a combination of strength and athletic activity that Nebraska hasn’t had since Toniu Fonoti went to the NFL in 2001. This is an absolutely stunning recruiting victory for Cavanaugh and the Cornhuskers.
College Comparison: Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey
NFL Comparison: Cincinatti Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.