There is perhaps no better sign of Nebraska’s improved recruiting recently is the Husker presence at The Opening finals, Nike’s premier event for the elite high school recruits from across the country. A few of Nebraska’s 2018 commits and a handful of their top targets took part in the event, and a couple of them caught the attention of some of the talent evaluators in attendance.
SB Nation’s recruiting writers Bud Elliott and Alex Kirshner named their All-Opening Team highlighting the top 35 performers at the event, and a familiar name to Husker fans was featured among the defensive backs.
Cornerback Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles has become the face of the 2018 class at Nebraska and it seems he stands out wherever he goes.
Here’s the blurb from SB Nation about him:
“Radley-Hiles is small, but he’s a game-changing talent. Nobody made more plays, and that’s in a setting that doesn’t allow him to return punts, another one of his strengths.”
Listening to the podcast by Elliott and Krshner that was embedded in the All-Opening team story, Elliott brought Radley-Hiles up again and said the 5-foot-8 defensive back mentioned Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu as a player to whom he compares himself, and Elliott agreed, saying he had maybe the best instincts of any player at the event.
Kirshner also mentioned Nebraska athlete commit Chase Williams, who is planning to play cornerback in Lincoln. Kirshner said he has the size and versatility to play anywhere from strong safety to outside corner to slot receiver to outside receiver at the next level.
Radley-Hiles also made Paul Myerberg’s stand-out list for USA Today. Per Myerberg, Bookie “was simply outstanding during 7-on-7, sometimes even calling out opposing routes before the snap, and showed the competitive streak, nose for the football and aggressiveness that makes him one of the elite players in this year’s class.”
Some of the players Nebraska is recruiting hard who also made either the SB Nation or USA Today lists are defensive back Bryan Addison, lineman Michael Thompson, running back T.J. Pledger (currently committed to Oklahoma), linebackers Micah Parson and Owen Pappoe (a 2019 recruit), athlete Talanoa Hufanga and wide receiver Kamryn Babb.
There’s a chance Nebraska strikes out on all of these players, but even being in the mix for such a talented group in addition to already having Radley-Hiles, Williams and wide receiver Joshua Moore, who was also at The Opening, says a lot about how much Nebraska’s recruiting has improved over the last couple of years. Now it’s time for that to start paying off on the field.
As for players already on campus, Fanrag Sports’ Wendell Barnhouse highlighted how big of a role tight ends could have for Nebraska.
“In Riley’s final four years at Oregon State, tight ends averaged 55.6 catches for 569.8 yards and 5.6 touchdowns per season,” Barnhouse wrote. “Over the last four seasons – two under former coach Bo Pelini and Riley’s first two seasons in Lincoln – the Huskers’ tight ends averaged 22 receptions and 271 yards per season.”
Nebraska’s tight ends the last couple of years were far more experienced and I would also say more talented – Cethan Carter is a better tight end right now than anyone still on the roster – but it’s not unreasonable at all to expect more production from the position this year. How many times to we see Carter get open only to see the ball sail over his head are not even come his way?
Tanner Lee, whose ability to make quick decisions and accurate throws, figures to make better use of the tight ends and could rely on them as the young wide receivers gain experience. Tyler Hoppes is the top guy and should have a good year, but one player to keep an eye on is a guy Barnhouse didn’t even mention: redshirt sophomore Matt Snyder.
Snyder has had terrible injury luck his first few years on campus and has yet to see the field, but the coaches mentioned him right behind Hoppes coming out of the spring. With players like Kurt Rafdal and Austin Allen now on campus and Beatrice stand-out Cameron Jurgens arriving next year, it looks to be now or never for Snyder, the first tight end Mike Riley signed at Nebraska. Playing time and targets at the tight end position are wide open heading into the fall.
The Grab Bag
- Former Nebrasketball stand-out Shavon Shields has re-signed with Dolomiti Energia Trento of the Italian Serie A league. Shields averaged 10.3 points after joining the team in April.
- Charles “Chuck” Davis, a cornerback at Virginia who participated in spring ball at Nebraska before transferring back home an sitting out last season, won $100,000 in the lottery by listening to his grandma.
- Former Nebraska swimming coach Cal Bentz passed away on Tuesday at the age of 84 after a battle with cancer.
- Oregon’s top wide receiver, Darren Carrington, has been suspended indefinitely after being charged with a DUI. The Huskers travel to Eugene in week two of the 2017 season.
- 2018 Papillion-La Vista forward Ed Chang, who held an offer from Nebraska, talked to the Omaha World-Herald’s Mike Sautter about his commitment to Washington which he announced on Monday. Chang is a talented prospect, but heading to the Pac-12 is a good move for him, and this was not a case of Nebraska “missing out” on a local recruit they recruited really hard.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.