Coach Mike Riley announced after practice on Thursday that six walk-ons have been placed on scholarship: junior center Cole Conrad, senior fullback Luke McNitt, senior tight end Tyler Hoppes, senior tight end Connor Ketter, senior wide receiver Gabe Rahn and senior wide receiver Brett Classen.
The Huskers had eight scholarships to work with after entering fall camp with 77 players on scholarship.
“Great group of guys,” Riley said. “There are actually other guys that are, at this point, still under consideration. There is a big balancing act between earning it and deserving a scholarship and then the number we might have available for next year mid-year. So there are lots of factors that go into this. These guys are guys that have done a great job in the program and have earned a scholarship.”
Conrad has played all over the line at Nebraska and has won the battle for the starting center spot for 2017. The Fremont Bergan product played in all 13 games last season and started the last five at right tackle as starter David Knevel was hobbled by an ankle injury.
McNitt succeeded Andy Janovich as the primary fullback last season after switching over from tight end. He was a key special teams performer and had two carries for 4 yards on offense. McNitt, a Kearney high product, began his college career at Nebraska-Kearney before transferring to Nebraska.
Hoppes is a dynamic receiving threat who did not not record a catch but appeared in 10 games primarily on special teams as a junior. With three senior tight ends moving on after last year, Hoppes is in line to start.
“They just said, ‘Hey, we need to talk to you,’” Hoppes said. “They kind of tried to scare me a little bit — ‘Hey, you actually need to go see DVD [associate athletic director for football administration Dan Van De Riet] here.’ I’m thinking what did I do? It was a nice surprise.”
The Lincoln Southwest product began his career at Wayne State before transferring to Nebraska after his freshman season, and his gamble appears to have paid off, though a scholarship wasn’t his ultimate goal.
“It’s been a long road since Wayne State but I’m happy to be where I am right now … Being fourth string last year, I was really just pushing to have playing time,” Hoppes said. “A scholarship was not really in the back of my mind; I just wanted to get on the field.”
Ketter, a Norfolk Catholic product, played in nine games as a junior, primarily on special teams, and recorded one tackle.
Rahn, a native of LeMars, Iowa, played in six games as a junior and caught a 35-yard touchdown pass against Wyoming.
Classen, affectionately dubbed “Hummer” by wide receivers coach Keith Williams, did not appear in a game as a junior. The native of Medina, Minnesota transferred to Nebraska from Winona State in 2015.