Among the exodus of promising young recruits from Texas A&M after the Aggies’ 5-7 season came Elijah Jeudy. He signed with Texas A&M in January 2019 out of Northeast High in Philadelphia, having picked the Aggies over Georgia. He was one of the top edge rushers in the country, a 4-star, potential NFL defender. Now he’s at Nebraska because he likes a challenge.
Jeudy entered the transfer portal in early December and committed to Nebraska just over two weeks later. He knew head coach Matt Rhule, who tried to recruit him to Baylor back in the day. Jeudy also knew Mike Wallace, current director of football advancement, and Omar Hales, director of player personnel. So when he arrived on campus he saw some familiar faces. Then he got a taste of why he wanted to join them at Nebraska.
“When the coaches pulled me aside when I first got on campus, they told me what I needed to hear instead of what I wanted to hear,” Jeudy said on Thursday. “They told me all the things I needed to work on, what they think I’m good at and how I can fit into the scheme.”
Coaches told Jeudy he needs to work on his hand placement with his pass rush and run stop. So he jumped in to learn his teammates, the new playbook, new campus traditions. His two seasons of college ball yielded limited game experience but valuable college reps. He hopes the collective push he’s getting at Nebraska helps him achieve his potential.
“My goal is to just take it and run with it,” he said. “Whatever they throw at me I’m going to make sure I do it to the best of my ability so they know I won’t back down from a challenge. That’s what I want, I want a challenge.”
Coaches are moving Jeudy all across the defensive front. At Texas A&M he mainly played on the interior. This spring he’s taken reps over the center, guards and tackles. He likes displaying his versatility, although the moving among different spots on consecutive plays means he has to adjust his first movements. The Philadelphia native considers himself more experienced in the four-down line but has played in three-down linemen packages. He now prefers the three-down set because he can beat the center and get into the backfield.
Right now he wants to work on getting off the ball faster. With his eyes on the offensive lineman’s calf, he gains every bit of visual advantage he can to attack first. That makes him a valuable fit for defensive coordinator Tony White’s attack-centric defense.
“He’s got a lot of talent,” White said of Jeudy on Thursday. “You see why, you understand why his recruitment was the way it was. It’s about the growth of them and the expectations of them. We know he’s talented.”
Jeudy now finds himself on a defensive line he described as “got a lot of grit.” It’s a team, and a specific defensive line unit, that wants to be great and doesn’t want to fall further behind. Jeudy and White both mentioned the defense’s need to not let those mistakes linger and instead move onto the next session. They lift each other up and build towards potential greatness a handful more times this spring.
When Jeudy first arrived in Lincoln he looked up to Carroll, Iowa, native Blaise Gunnerson. The defensive end attacked mat drills and returned to morning workouts with a passion and purpose every day. Jeudy said that motivated him to not only hold himself to the same standard for his own good, but for the team. Those two might find themselves side by side on the defensive line later this year.
Coaches and teammates alike are pushing Jeudy. They’re motivating him, teaching him and pushing him.
“That’s what I want,” he said. “I want someone to be hard on me and push me to do better and do better than the standard that was set before me.”