Published Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 10:36 pm / Updated at 12:19 am
FOOTBALL
McKewon: Extra Husker home game allows flexibility in recruit visits

LINCOLN — It won't be library quiet on the Nebraska football recruiting front this weekend, but as I write this Thursday afternoon, it's not going to be rock-concert loud, either.

Just one official visitor — Tampa-area defensive end Rohan Blackwood — is scheduled to make the trip for the 7 p.m. kickoff against Wyoming and what will be the largest crowd in Memorial Stadium history. Otherwise, look for the Huskers to load up on later dates, perhaps that 11 a.m. game on Sept. 14 against UCLA.

Husker recruiting coordinator Ross Els said the team has that luxury, to some extent, because of the extra home game created when Southern Mississippi chose to return to NU for a big payout rather than host Nebraska in Hattiesburg.

“With the schedule these kids have, their time demands are pretty big,” Els said. “When they're able to come in, they're able to come in. We leave it up to them. Absolutely, we want them in as early as we can, but we also have eight home games, so it's not a 'Hey,-you-must-come-to-the-Wyoming-game' type of deal.”

Els added that the extra home game allows Nebraska to spread out its visits more instead of bringing several players at the same position in at the same time.

“Maybe if you have a couple guys at the same position, you can say, 'Let's bring them in a different weekend,' so they have some options,” Els said. “That's good.”

Nebraska stands at 11 commits for the 2014 class, and just two — Pflugerville (Texas) corner Trai Mosley and Lincoln Southeast hybrid Luke Gifford — look to start their careers on defense.

NU could add a third defensive commit Friday if Hiawatha (Kan.) tackle Peyton Newell picks the Huskers over South Carolina, Kansas State and Kansas. The World-Herald will be in Hiawatha, streaming Newell's announcement live on Omaha.com at 2:30 p.m. I still think it's NU, but Newell's been quiet for a while. The Huskers continue to aggressively recruit Fort Scott (Kan.) defensive tackle Abu Lamin, who said by text he hopes to attend a game “and see how it is during the season.”

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Blackwood fits the mold of recent Husker end targets like Randy Gregory. A converted basketball player, Blackwood is raw but rangy, a frame upon which Nebraska could add some weight while he acclimates to college.

Other than Blackwood and a variety of local, potential walk-on candidates who tend to make the trip more than once during a Husker season, the Wyoming game may not produce much for Nebraska football in terms of recruiting.

In fact, the opening two weekends could loom larger for Nebraska basketball. As The World-Herald's Lee Barfknecht reported Tuesday, NU hosts two forwards from the 2014 class — David Wacker and Zach Smith — this Saturday. An even bigger target — literally, figuratively — heads to Lincoln next week.

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That's Elbert Robinson III, a 7-foot-1, 290-pound center from Garland, Texas, whose attention veered toward NU when assistant Kenya Hunter joined coach Tim Miles' staff this summer. Hunter had been recruiting Robinson hard at his previous stop, Georgetown.

“I like Kenya a lot,” said Robinson's father, Elbert Robinson Jr. “He's the reason we got involved with Nebraska.”

Robinson averaged 20 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks over the summer, shot 78 percent from the free-throw line and lost 20 to 30 pounds. Lawrence Johns, his AAU coach, said he projects well as a “true center” in the NBA.

Johns compared Robinson's skill set to that of Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert.

“Elbert's the last of the Mohicans,” said Johns, who counts among his friends former Nebraska defensive tackle Neil Smith. “He's a dying breed. He wants to go somewhere where he can play.”

NU will be the second of Robinson's official visits. Georgia Tech is the destination this weekend. The elder Robinson said Ohio State, Texas A&M and TCU are other major contenders for his son.

“He's kind of of the mind that he wants to make his own mark,” he said.

At Nebraska, Robinson could certainly leave a mark. Perhaps a big one.

Darlington out indefinitely

Whether he practices or plays a down in the next several years, Nebraska got a good one in quarterback recruit Zack Darlington.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Apopka (Fla.) signal-caller will sit indefinitely after suffering his second concussion in as many months after his head hit the turf late in a 51-36 loss to Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes. Husker fans watched on ESPN as Darlington was loaded onto a stretcher and flown to the hospital. And they read as Zack's dad, Apopka coach Rick Darlington, offered a statement on his son's progress:

“It will take time for Zack to heal completely and not be susceptible to further concussions, and we will make sure that he has that time to recover and pursue his dreams,” Rick Darlington's statement read in part. “I spoke with Bo Pelini, the head football coach at the University of Nebraska (on Monday) morning. He told me that if Zack plays again this year, if he doesn't play this year or if he never plays football again, they want him as a Cornhusker.”

Zack Darlington talked to the Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday and said he didn't know what had happened or where he was after he awoke. The Sentinel reported that Zack's speech had changed after the initial concussion in June and that he hadn't been tackled until Aug. 7.

My daughter is 5 and my son is about as old as those hot dog buns in your cupboard. Because you can suffer concussions in more than one sport, I may have to cross the bridge with both of them. The Darlingtons aren't a bad template to follow.

If I had to bet, I'd bet Zack gives the sport — at Nebraska — a final try. There are risks, sure, but it's football, and the rare intrinsic highs of that sport are, for many quarterbacks, simply worth the risk. And if there's one school that can monitor everything concussion-related once Zack comes to school, it's Nebraska with its new East Stadium brain research lab.

I would not bet that Zack takes any hits next spring — remember, he's an early enrollee — or maybe even next fall, unless Tommy Armstrong, Johnny Stanton and maybe Ryker Fyfe injure themselves. And I would also bet NU looks even harder at recruiting a second quarterback for this class. The Huskers hadn't ruled it out before. Creighton Prep signal-caller Easton Stick gets the real chance to earn a scholarship in this next month.

Nebraska coaches twice asked Stick to throw for them during the summer. Stick believes he impressed and surprised them. I've heard the same. Stick is 6-foot-2, a good scrambler, in need of a little extra weight — and whip smart. As I talked with him at the Super Six photo session, Stick was able to break down for me each of the three Iowa quarterbacks — the Hawkeyes are still looking at Stick, too — in impressive detail for a high school senior.

Stick has a little Joe Ganz in him. If he shows it in this opening month, he could be a nice complement to Darlington.

* * *

>> Video: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini talks with the media:

Contact the writer: Sam McKewon

sam.mckewon@owh.com    |   402-219-3790    |  

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him. Follow him on Twitter. Call him.

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