LINCOLN — Some receivers just have the timing to catch the deep ball. They transition from stride to leap to catch to descent in a game the way they would in practice.
Nebraska 2014 wide receiver commit Robert Lockhart — as elusive an interview as he is a player on film — is that kind of receiver. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound three-star prospect catches the ball at the high point like it's a rebound. He twists his frame with ease. The little film there is from Hinds (Miss.) Community College can be found on Hudl, and just about every highlight is Lockhart, in man-to-man coverage, catching a fade or post pattern.
Considering offensive coordinator Tim Beck wants to use those routes to beat tight man-to-man coverage teams that stack the box to stop the run, Lockhart's skill set would be a good bookend to current Husker wideout Kenny Bell, one of the best deep-ball receivers in the Big Ten. Lockhart appears as fast as Bell and has roughly the same frame. He may not have Bell's agility, but the Huskers needed more straight-line speed — even if it comes from a junior college prospect.
The one time I reached Lockhart on the phone, prior to his official visit, he indicated Nebraska was his choice out of high school, but his mom wanted him to stay closer to home. He went to prep school, then Miami (Fla.), then Hinds. He'll come to NU having traveled a road similar to current Husker corner Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Unlike Jean-Baptiste, who found himself in a crowded wide receiver room, Lockhart may be Nebraska's No. 2 guy next year. Hype? Maybe. Until you watch him catch tough throws.
Aside from Bell and Jordan Westerkamp — a better fit at slot — the Huskers have struggled over the past few years to adjust to the passing eccentricities of Nebraska's quarterbacks. Teddy Bridgewater they are not. And the winds blowing around the Midwest, pretty fierce for several games this season, make adjustment imperative. Lockhart brings that to the table. It's an exciting addition to the 2014 class.
Watch Strong, North O-line
Usually when I attend the Class A high school football championship to watch college football prospects, I try to focus on the seniors soon to choose colleges or head off to their selected destinations.
But the spotlight Tuesday night will center on Omaha North junior Calvin Strong. He'll need 209 rushing yards to reach 3,000. He'd be the first Nebraska prep runner to do it, and after what I've heard about Strong's 39-carry, 214-yard performance at Grand Island — where the Vikings needed every yard and every carry — he has a real shot at it.
And that's no knock on Omaha Westside, North's opponent in the final. The Warriors could win the war — the state title — and not necessarily the battle with Strong. That's just how good — and durable — Strong has been this year.
Whether Strong makes the mark, this season will be hard for colleges to ignore since 3,000 yards, at any level, is obscenely good. Whatever Strong's 40-yard dash time might be going forward — he's nobody's idea of a blazer — the ability to slip off tacklers and win one-on-one battles in space has real value at the next level.
That said, North's line — especially the left side of it — is good enough to make holes even when defenses know Strong's coming at them. Though Viking lineman Michael Decker doesn't get the attention Strong receives, he'll likely attract as much college attention next recruiting cycle as Strong will. For every impressive Strong run, you usually see an equally impressive seal block from the 6-4, 275-pound Decker. And North is smart enough to play Decker at left guard, where he can better create blasts in the middle of a defensive line.
Strong and Decker could be the state's top two prospects in 2015. It'll be interesting to see how they stack up against a sound Westside team whose sum is greater than its individual parts.
Checking in with area players
A quick catch-up on in-state kids who took scholarships at FBS schools in the past three years. If we miss someone here, give me a holler; I want to review as many players as possible as the season winds down. And don't worry, I plan to talk about walk-ons and high-level FCS players, too, next month.
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» Josh Banderas (2013 class): The Lincoln Southwest linebacker has started three games for Nebraska as a true freshman and has 25 tackles. Banderas' enthusiasm, knowledge and instincts for the game match his athleticism.
» Tay Bender (2012): The Lincoln Southwest grad left Kansas State early in last season and transferred to Iowa Western, where he's the backup quarterback to Connor Bravard. Earlier this year, he started in place of Bravard and ran for 173 yards in a 25-0 win over North Dakota State College of Science. He'll be a 2015 quarterback prospect, most likely.
» Devin Bass (2011): The Millard North grad is Ohio's top cornerback with two interceptions and 11 pass breakups this year.
» Sam Cotton (2012): He's caught three passes for 22 yards this year for Nebraska while battling injuries. The Lincoln Southeast product will likely co-start with Cethan Carter next year.
» Daniel Davie (2011): The Beatrice cornerback may miss part or all of Nebraska's spring camp with a knee injury sustained in the loss to Michigan State. He'll compete for major playing time as a redshirt junior.
» Cole Fisher (2011): Reserve linebacker at Iowa behind three three-year starters. The Millard North grad will get his best shot at playing next year as a junior.
» Travis Green (2013): The Iowa Western defensive back — by way of Omaha North — has appeared in six games for Kansas State and has three tackles.
» Christian Lacouture (2013): He spent just one year at Lincoln Southwest before heading to LSU (after flipping from his Nebraska commit). He's appeared in every game as a backup defensive tackle for the Tigers and has eight tackles.
» Drew Ott (2012): Starter at defensive end for Iowa. The Giltner grad has 43 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. The Hawkeyes have the No. 9 defense in the nation.
» Ryne Reeves (2011): The Crete native has caught a lot of bad injury breaks at Nebraska. He'll battle for playing time at guard next year behind Jake Cotton and Mike Moudy.
» Casey Sayles (2013): The Omaha North star moved right into Ohio's defense as a true freshman, where he has 21 tackles and three sacks.
» Jake Schany (2012): Blair grad is a reserve linebacker for Ohio. Not on the depth chart currently.
» Jake Schlager (2013): Colorado State got a steal in the McCook defensive back. He's played in all 11 games for the Rams. He has 21 tackles and a forced fumble.
» Nate Skold: (2011) Listed as the No. 3 right tackle at Tulane. The Omaha Westside grad has appeared in several games.
» Zach Sterup (2011): Pencil the Hastings St. Cecilia grad to start at tackle for Nebraska next year. He's made big strides in his redshirt sophomore season.
» David Sutton (2011): Reserve tight end at Nebraska. The Lincoln Southeast grad is behind former teammates Sam Cotton and walk-on Trey Foster.
» Derrius Vick (2011) Ohio's backup quarterback. The Lincoln Southeast grad has run for 69 yards and thrown for 117 this year. He looks to be the front-runner to start in 2014.