Published Monday, February 3, 2014 at 10:55 pm / Updated at 1:27 pm
FOOTBALL
Vandy's coaching change sets Chicago back Wilbon on path to Nebraska

LINCOLN — Mikale Wilbon had to move fast.

The rumors of James Franklin leaving Vanderbilt became reality Jan. 10. Suddenly, Wilbon, who was committed to the Commodores, felt like a running back stranded with the football on a broken play.

He could stick with Vandy, follow Franklin to Penn State or take a chance and open up his recruitment less than four weeks from signing day.

He had to do something other than sit and feel sorry for himself.

“I was real disappointed, because I was really starting to love Vandy, and I could see myself going there,” Wilbon said. “It's a great school academically and I wanted to play for Coach Franklin.

“(But) I got right back up, and I tried to look at it as a positive.”

Shortly after an impromptu group chat and some exchanged texts with his parents, who were both at work, Wilbon went to Twitter to let it be known that he was officially decommitting. Then he waited.

Wilbon never would have guessed that it would lead to Nebraska being one of the first to respond.

A whirlwind courtship followed and a rewritten ending will come Wednesday when the 5-foot-9 195-pounder out of Chicago signs with the Huskers.

“It was really exciting,” said Wilbon, who drew interest from several schools after his decision to decommit from Vandy. “Usually running backs commit early in the process, and you figure most schools already have who they want.”

Nebraska ended up landing one that it had first offered last spring, and one that 247Sports national insider Steve Wiltfong says “will be a guy that can make an impact in Lincoln.”

HUSKER RECRUITING
See the latest NU recruiting news, player cards, photos, video and more.

“There were some really good backs in Chicago, and he's arguably the best one,” Wiltfong told The World-Herald.

Wilbon visited NU the weekend after the Franklin news broke, then committed Jan. 26 when Husker coach Bo Pelini and assistant Ron Brown made an in-home visit to the senior from De La Salle Institute in Chicago. He then passed up possible trips to Missouri and Penn State to make it official.

“There was a time I was thinking about sticking with Vanderbilt ... but I don't know,” Wilbon said. “I was praying about it and it didn't feel right. And I just think everything happens for a reason.”

Wilbon fell just short of 1,000 rushing yards each of the last two years after injuries cut into both seasons. He is currently rehabbing a knee injury that ended his senior year after he ran for 984 yards and 16 touchdowns in De La Salle's first seven games.

Wilbon said he loves how NU senior-to-be Ameer Abdullah is used in the Husker offense, and believes he can do all the things that the Huskers ask their I-backs to do.

“I'm so in love with the running back position that I try to study NFL greats, NFL backs now and college backs, and always try to work on having an all-around game,” he said. “I've been playing it since I was 7 years old. I don't want to play any other position.”

Rivals.com ranks Wilbon as the No. 168 prospect overall on its Rivals250 list, and No. 9 in Illinois and No. 16 among running backs. Both Rivals and 247Sports have him as a four-star recruit.

Wiltfong calls him “rocked up” and “a powerful guy” because of his build, but also somebody with good speed who can change directions. De La Salle coach Mike Boehm said he's “one of those special backs.”

“De La Salle went as Wilbon went, so when he got hurt they didn't play very well without him,” Wiltfong said. “They have some good players, but he was kind of the pulse and the guy that made that team go.”

Shortly after committing to Vanderbilt last April, Wilbon remembers NU assistant John Garrison shaking his hand and congratulating him when Garrison stopped by De La Salle to see the Meteors' staff and talk about some other prospects.

More than eight months passed before Wilbon ever gave that handshake another thought.

“It all happened so fast with Nebraska,” Wiltfong said. “I'm a big believer that kids don't know how special Nebraska is until they get there. And then they get there and they're blown away.”

Contact the writer: Rich Kaipust

rich.kaipust@owh.com    |   402-444-1042    |  

Rich Kaipust is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and some general assignment tasks, including the College World Series and U.S. Olympic Swim Trials.

PHOTO GALLERY AND VIDEO »

 

< >
SPOTLIGHT »
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
Big Ten football recruits
The World-Herald's Big Ten recruiting database contains every football recruit that signed with a Big Ten school from 2002 to 2011, complete with color-coded interactive map representations, player information, high-concentrations recruiting clusters and more.
Devaney Center timeline
Check out a World-Herald timeline to see the evolution of memorable moments at the Devaney Center, complete with photos, videos, memorable quotes and more.
Follow OWHbigred on Twitter
Looking for the latest Husker sports news from The Omaha World-Herald and Omaha.com? Follow us on Twitter!
Husker scholarship distribution chart
Want to see how many scholarships NU has invested at each position? Wondering how the Huskers have appropriated their offers by class? Check out our handy chart to look further into how Bo Pelini has built his team.
Husker Signing Day 2013
The World-Herald's top-notch coverage of the Nebraska football's class of 2013, complete with videos, photos, articles, live recruit interviews, interactive components and more.
Husker turnovers: A slippery slope
Bo Pelini has coached 68 games at Nebraska. When NUís turnover margin is positive or even, the Huskers are 35-2. When they lose the turnover battle, theyíre 13-18. Why hasnít Nebraska joined the nationís elite? More than anything, itís turnovers.
Interactive: Bo Pelini's contract
View an interactive PDF of Pelini's revised contract signed by the NU football coach, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Darin Erstad's contract (2012)
View an interactive PDF of NU baseball coach Darin Erstad's contract released in August 2012, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Tim Miles' contract
View an interactive PDF of Tim Miles' contract signed by the Nebraska men's basketball coach on May 4, 2012, complete with brief legal explanations, comparisons to other Big Ten coaches and more.
Omaha.com's Big Ten coverage
Delivering the best news coverage and analysis of the Big Ten Conference, from Omaha.com and other top news outlets from around country.
Husker Recruiting: Changes shrink NU's sphere of influence
For decades, the Great Plains represented fertile recruiting ground for Tom Osborne's football program. Restoring that lost tradition won't be easy.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
BRT ON TWITTER »
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT »
< >