Nebraska’s football coaches liked the progress shown by early enrollees in spring ball. They adapted to new offensive and defensive systems, as well as the speed of college football, enough to stand out. Husker fans witnessed that promise during the Red-White Game. Princewill Umanmielen, Cameron Lenhardt, Maverick Noonan, Gunner Gottula, Dwight Bootle and Syncere Safeeullah all jumped out. Throw in junior college arrival Kai Wallin and walk-on Korver Demma from Gretna and every early enrollee showed their promise in the spring.
When asked if Lenhardt, Umanmielen, Noonan and young guys like that could play right away, head coach Matt Rhule said he didn’t know why not.
“So we have a lot of work to do this summer – really the spring and finishing school, I believe there’s several weeks left of school,” Rhule said. “I would see no reason why those guys wouldn’t be fighting to start, play, any and all of the above.”
The rest of Nebraska’s 2023 recruiting class is now on campus. That class includes some potential playmakers who could find themselves amid the hunt for significant playing time this fall. It’s easy to forget about their promise because they haven’t played in scarlet and cream yet. So it’s worth revisiting them and what they bring to the table.
Nebraska’s top-rated recruit of the class is homegrown Malachi Coleman. The Lincoln East graduate committed to the Big Red twice and chose not to enroll early in favor of a final high school track season. He attended every Nebraska spring practice while a hamstring injury ultimately shut down his track season. Coleman’s athleticism, size and speed provide a unique target for the Husker offense and an equally unique threat for opposing defenses. Nebraska coaches mentioned a need for young receivers to step up this fall. Coleman could certainly provide that lift. Or it could be Jaidyn Doss, the Kansas City native and Coleman’s roommate. The first-team all-state selection caught 47 passes for 794 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Nashville native Demetrius Bell arrives in Lincoln after tallying 702 yards and eight touchdowns. Bell could provide a lift to the receiver group.
The Huskers also went out and got some speedy, developmental receivers. Omaha Westside graduate Jaylen Lloyd joins the receiver room after grabbing 44 passes for 784 yards and five touchdowns last season. Lloyd is also a four-time state track champion and school record holder, who will also compete in track for Nebraska. Nebraska’s coaches plan to mold his athleticism into a top-quality receiver. Coaches plan to do the same with Bay City, Texas, native Brice Turner. Turner caught 22 passes for 495 yards and six touchdowns last season. His 10.25 he ran in the 100 as a high school junior would rank No. 5 all-time in Nebraska’s school history. Arlington, Texas, native Jeremiah Charles also steps into the room after a 23-catch, five-touchdown senior season. He played basketball and was one of Texas’ top jumpers in track.
Nebraska’s offensive arsenal also gains speedy running back Kwinten Ives from Palmyra, New Jersey. He ran for over 100 yards in each of his final 14 high school games, 3,000 yards and 49 touchdowns in total. He offers a change of pace from Nebraska’s already loaded running back room. Tight end Ismael Smith Flores, from Arlington, Texas, brings athleticism and strength into a room budding with promise. The offensive line gets a lift from three in-state bodies. Creighton Prep’s Sam Sledge, Scottsbluff standout Brock Knutson and Gretna’s Mason Goldman all join the room to provide depth. They’ll likely develop initially, although coaches want to substitute on the line often to keep players fresh. That opens opportunity for the new faces.
The Huskers also gain a big group of defensive linemen. Riley Van Poppel comes off a strong senior season at Argyle, Texas, after a long commitment to Nebraska. In total, of his 150 career tackles, 37 went for loss, including 19 sacks. Promising Philadelphia lineman Vincent Carroll-Jackson comes to Nebraska after just one year of high school football. He made 50 tackles, 20 for loss in his only season of high school ball. Sua Lefotu of St. John’s Bosco in California comes to Nebraska after largely serving a supplemental role for the high school powerhouse. Lefotu finished with 24 tackles, 3.0 for loss, during his senior season. Pierre, North Dakota, native Jason Maciejczak rounds out the defensive line arrivals. He adds impressive strength to a defensive line room consisting of diverse skillsets.
Capped off a great week with 31 reps of 225🚨
— Jason Maciejczak (@Maciejczak6) February 3, 2023
Two linebackers join an evolving defense. Texas native Dylan Rogers, another longstanding commit, can play on the line, at the second level and drop back into coverage. He finished with 230 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, five sacks and five interceptions at Cypress Woods High School. Eric Fields of Ardmore, Oklahoma, made 270 tackles in his final two seasons of high school football. He was also a standout sprinter on the Ardmore relay teams during track season.
At the back end of the defense come three new arrivals. Ethan Nation, a participant in the Under Armour All-America Game, arrives following a successful career at Roswell, Georgia. Across his high school career he made 100 tackles and 12 interceptions. The Huskers also welcome Rahmir Stewart, one of the top defensive back recruits from Pennsylvania last season. Stewart made at least three interceptions in each of his final three high school seasons. Signing Day arrival D’Andre Barnes also joins the defensive back room from Regis Jesuit in Colorado. He was a talented receiver there as well, utilizing his speed and athleticism to catch 37 passes with nine touchdowns as well as 55 tackles and six interceptions.
The Huskers also signed Omaha Westside graduate Tristan Alvano. Alvano comes off a prolific career at Westside and will likely push Timmy Bleekrode for kicking duties. Bleekrode was 1-of-3 in the spring game while, in Alvano’s most recent performance inside Memorial Stadium, he kicked a perfect 5 of 5, including the championship-winning field goal as time expired.
Nebraska’s 2023 recruiting class also includes several walk-ons. Gage Wager (running back, Arlington, Texas), Cole Ballard (running back, Elkhorn South), Cayden Echternach (tight end, Bellevue West), Mason Jones (defensive back, Omaha Burke), Grant Seagren (offensive line, Oakland-Craig), Conor Cannealy (offensive line, Elkhorn Mount Michael), Will DePooter (long snapper, Omaha Westside), Jacob Bower (linebacker, Rancho Santa Margarita, California), Leslie Black (defensive end, Statesboro, Georgia), David Borchers (offensive line, Eldridge, Iowa), Caleb Becker (tight end, Omaha Skutt/Wyoming) and Barret Liebentritt (fullback, Omaha Skutt/Notre Dame) all announced their intentions to walk-on at Nebraska this upcoming season. Korver Demma’s spring performance and the coaching staff’s desire to eliminate barriers between scholarship and non-scholarship Huskers indicate potential development in Lincoln.