NU football walk-on class creates intrigue

     It’s just the beginning of a new era for Nebraska Football. New head coach Scott Frost took over the program in December, stating one of his main goals as head coach is to re-establish the once proud and nationally known walk-on program that produced multiple NFL players. Those players include the great Nebraska kicker Alex Henery, three-time National Champion Joel Makovicka, fullback Andy Janovich and former Kearney High Bearcat Luke McNitt who started at fullback for his senior season. The walk-on program for Nebraska was instrumental back in the ‘90’s when the Huskers won three National Championships and I think it’s a smart move by Frost to rejuvenate the program after years of mediocrity.

Frost is out to a fantastic start by providing an in-state walk-on night by inviting all potential walk-on football players to Lincoln for a one night tour and discussion process. It got quite a reaction as the Huskers now have 19 walk-on commitments from the 2018 class. Here they are:

Jake Archer, Omaha Skutt, Linebacker

Anthony Banderas, Lincoln Southwest, Linebacker

Brody Belt, Millard West, Running Back

Chris Cassidy, Lincoln Pius X, Linebacker

Colton Feist, Yutan, Defensive End

AJ Forbes, Bellevue West, Offensive Line

Justin Holm, Lincoln Southwest, Athlete

Joseph Johnson, Gretna, Linebacker

Bryson Krull, North Platte, Wide Receiver

Wyatt Liewer, O’Neill, Wide Receiver

Matt Masker, Kearney Catholic, Quarterback

Cameron Pieper, Lincoln Southwest, Long Snapper

Ryan Schommer, Norfolk, Defensive End

Collin Schefke, Lincoln Southwest, Offensive Line

Isaiah Stalbird, Kearney, Safety

Simon Otte, York, Athlete

Bennett Folkers, Gothenburg, Wide Receiver

Cade Mueller, Gretna, Long Snapper

Moses Bryant, Elkhorn South, Running Back

 

From that list there is a lot of intriguing options for Frost and his staff on how to deploy those players when the time comes. Based on the Omaha World Herald football players rankings, the high profile recruits nabbed by the Huskers were Masker, Bryant, Otte, Forbes and Archer. The one to highlight there is that of Bryant who is arguably the best running back ever to go through Class B by breaking the state’s career rushing touchdown record. He may not be too big at 5’11’’, but his 195 pounds he is listed at seems admirable. Let’s compare him to former Bellevue West running back and current Husker, Jaylin Bradley. Bradley was able to play a few snaps this past season and is listed at 6’0’’ and 180 pounds which is almost no different than Bryant. Remember, Bryant was going to be offered a scholarship from Nebraska if not for his core GPA being 0.15 short of qualification. If he keeps his grades up, Bryant has the speed and agility to make Nebraska work.

Another big prospect is that of Otte from the new Class B state champions, the York Dukes. Otte was a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the ball this past season making 101 tackles and rushing for over 1,400 yards. He also has good size being 6’2’’ and 180 pounds which will work for either offense and defense with Otte declaring himself as an athlete. I could see Frost putting him either at fullback or linebacker. The reason for fullback is that there will be plenty of running backs already in Lincoln and the lack of speed. However, he has enough speed to be an above average fullback.

The last three upper tier of walk-ons are Masker from Kearney Catholic, Archer from Omaha Skutt and Forbes from Bellevue West. I’m a little skeptic about two of these walk-ons mostly because of the abundance of talent at these positions. First, Masker was rated as the top quarterback for the 2018 class so there is plenty of talent. However, the quarterback position is the most cutthroat position in Division I football, especially at Nebraska. The Huskers just picked up dual-threat quarterback and top prospect Adrian Martinez who could become the starting quarterback this next fall. That doesn’t bode well for Masker who will redshirt and have to compete against nationally ranked quarterbacks every year. Speaking of dual-threat, that is the type of quarterback Scott Frost needs to run his system. Unfortunately, that is not the type of quarterback Masker is. At Kearney Catholic, the system they used for Masker was more of an Air Raid offense than anything else. For Masker to succeed at Nebraska, he needs to be able to adapt to the situation he is putting himself in. Do I believe he has the athleticism and work ethic to get it done? Yes I do. There’s a reason he is going to Nebraska. It will be interesting to see what happens a few years down the road. The other walk-on that rings my bell is that of Archer from Omaha Skutt who will play linebacker for the Huskers. Again, I worry not because of the lack of talent, he is going to Nebraska, but because of the abundance of players at that position. For one, Archer will have to compete with four other athletes at the linebacker position from this walk-on class alone. Also, the three possible linebackers coming from this years scholarship recruiting class and the linebackers already at Nebraska. Lastly, Forbes from Bellevue West I think has one of the best chances of playing time when he is finally called to duty. He definitely has the size at 6’4’’ and 230 pounds as a freshman. The only thing he needs to work on will be the weight as offensive linemen at Power Five conference schools are at least 300 pounds. With his redshirt year plus a couple seasons could really shape him up for playing time when it’s his junior season.

These last couple athletes from this year’s walk-on class could be diamonds from the rough and have quite an impact on the program in the future. Seeing him play, I really think Isaiah Stalbird from Kearney has a really good chance of getting playing time early. He was able to make 77 tackles during the season and be one of the contributors on that Bearcat defense who was the Class A runner-up. The first thing that stands out to me is that of his size for the secondary. He is listed as 6’1’’ and 200 pounds which is a pretty good beginning body build for an incoming freshmen, especially for a walk-on. In fact, that is a good build for the secondary where most defensive backs are 5’10’’ to 6’0’’. Seeing him play in person, Stalbird has the athleticism and speed to make an impact for the Huskers very early. Even with him planning to redshirt, that will give him the necessary development to have a chance of playing in his freshman season. I don’t think he will play much in the secondary freshman year but Stalbird could have a chance at special teams.

Others with chances of playing time early could be those of Justin Holm from Lincoln Southwest and Ryan Schommer from Norfolk. Both have necessary size with Holm at 6’4’’ and Schommer at 6’5’’. Holm will come to Nebraska as an athlete so I could see him being put at wide receiver, tight end or defensive end which is similar to what he played at Lincoln Southwest. For Schommer, he will play at defensive end and he has plenty of potential. In fact, this summer he was asked to unofficially visit SEC school Arkansas, so the talent is there.

Overall, this attempt from Frost and his staff to bring back the prominence of the walk-on program is a huge step to bringing Nebraska back to the national championship scene. From linebackers to long snappers, this walk-on class has the tremendous opportunity to be the foundation of the new era of Nebraska walk-on football. The one question that will have to be answered will be how Frost will sustain this program. As people say, it’s not about how you start but how you finish. For the sake of Nebraska football, its fans and players, let’s hope this program is here to stay.