Scott Frost and his coaching staff still have work to do before National Signing Day in February
The 2019 recruiting cycle is rapidly approaching its end with the standard National Signing Day just under a month away. Nebraska has six scholarships left following the early signing period and their board appears pretty well defined. Here are the most probable prospects to put pen to paper come Feb. 6 along with a few sleepers that could be swapped out.
Dedrick Mills, RB
There are some words of optimism coming out of Mills' camp. A February signing would be the best-case scenario for Nebraska. His time spent in Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack coupled with his size (5-11, 227) makes him an excellent choice to succeed Devine Ozigbo. Currently on probation for missing a July court date to address a misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license, Mills still appears a valid option for the Huskers. This is great news following the mystery surrounding his not signing with the Big Red during the early period to do so.
Desmond Bland, OL
Bland wasn’t expected to sign in December but is still reportedly on track to do so in February. Ranked as the No. 1 junior college offensive guard in the nation, he would provide Nebraska with an immediate option to fill the shoes of Tanner Farmer, the Huskers’ departed starting center.
Matthew Pola-Mao, DL
Cousin of heavy Nebraska target Noa Pola-Gates, Pola-Mao stands 6-foot-2 and weighs in at 295 pounds. This frame makes him the perfect candidate to get in the mix at nose tackle following a 2019 season that likely sees Darrion and Damien Daniels play significant minutes. He also could play defensive tackle should defensive coordinator Erik Chinander decide to mix things up and show a four-man front. According to Pola-Gates, he’s looking to schedule an official visit following the Polynesian Bowl all-star game on Jan. 19.
Soni Fonua, DL
Another JUCO prospect, Fonua has the size (6-4, 265) to become a proper 3-4 defensive end. Nebraska does need to add depth on the defensive line, especially on the edges. Carlos and Khalil Davis, Daishon Neal and Ben Stille provide seasoned options, but the former three leave after 2019 and Stille will be a senior in '20. Nebraska does have fresh faces in Tate Wilderman, Deontre Thomas, Damian Jackson and Casey Rogers along with 2019 signees Ty Robinson and Mosai Newsome. However, Newsome (6-4, 255) has the potential to slip back into an interior linebacker role after Mohamed Barry departs following the upcoming season. Long story short: Fonua would provide welcomed experience while the young bucks (Okay, Jackson is a 26-year-old sophomore) develop further. He is scheduled to officially visit Nebraska on Jan. 11.
Eugene Asante, OLB/S
The younger brother of former Nebraska safety Larry Asante, Eugene has the measurables to be either a speedy presence on the outside of the linebacking corps, play the nickel role or end up in the same spot as his sibling. He comes complete with bone-crushing hits and a nose for the football just like his older brother. Asante’s a perfect example of the type of prospect any school wants to get if available after the early signing period. Nebraska, Tennessee and Baylor have already made their intentions well known. Asante currently has no official visit to Lincoln planned but has publicly stated interest in doing so.
Noa Pola-Gates, S
Easily the No. 1 prospect on most Husker fans’ boards and likely high up on the actual target list, Pola-Gates has the ability to challenge for a starting spot from day one. He’ll be announcing on Jan. 19 at the Polynesian Bowl. His cousin Matthew Pola-Mao is scheduled to visit Nebraska following the all-star game and Pola-Gates is apparently considering traveling with him. Another note regarding family, another cousin, Keana Pola, from Santa Ana, California, is currently on the Huskers’ softball team.
John Bivens, RB
Given the officially unknown status of JUCO transfer Dedrick Mills, Nebraska has to look out for its best interests just in case Mills doesn’t sign at all. There are a few options, each with their own risks at this point in the cycle. The safest is probably targeting a graduate transfer considering their previous experience at the FBS level. It’s not ideal for them to come in during the summer, but it’s an acceptable gamble. The Huskers could go after another JUCO transfer, but properly vetting one before National Signing Day could prove incredibly challenging. Finally, there’s the option of bringing in a high school prospect and molding them from scratch. Enter Bivens.
The Ohio native checks in at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, and is talented enough to develop into a back that could thrive in Frost’s system. The issue is that Nebraska is trying to fill the void left by Ozigbo — at least from a size standpoint. If the Huskers can’t get Mills, Bivens looks like the next best option available. He visited Nebraska this past spring and will be making an official visit later this month.
I will be back in Lincoln January 18thð´ð½ #GBR— 3ï¸â£ðð¹ (@runlikejohn) December 4, 2018
Charles Njoku, WR
A former Missouri commitment, Njoku would provide Nebraska with a big-bodied (6-5, 200) target for quarterback Adrian Martinez. He is reportedly entertaining a visit to Lincoln this month.
Lakia Henry, MLB
After decomitting from Tennessee earlier this month, the No. 1 JUCO inside linebacker and No. 3 transfer prospect overall is an easy target for a team looking to strengthen its interior front seven. He currently has a visit to Ole Miss lined up on Jan. 26, but two more spots remain. Look for the Huskers to vie for one to follow up on a previous visit in mid-2018.
Dylan Jordan, OLB
Much like Eugene Asante, Jordan was a great later find by Nebraska in addition to being a speedy, punishing hitter. He also provides the back seven with impressive coverage skills at this point in his career. He has visits to Utah (Jan. 11), TCU (Jan. 18) and Nebraska (Jan. 25) already lined up.
Jamel Starks, CB
Starks has been in Nebraska’s sights for quite some time. At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, he plays a similar game to Husker cornerback Dicaprio Bootle. The biggest question regarding Starks' potential commitment is how much effort Nebraska has put into his recruitment lately. There’s some speculation that a spot may not be there barring other plans falling through.
Tavian Mayo, CB
Mayo’s situation is similar to Starks’, but it’s arguable that he’s in a better position overall. Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald recently discussed his relationship with Nebraska. Mayo reported that he spoke with Huskers defensive backs coach Travis Fisher over the holidays and remains close with him. According to the Leesburg, Georgia, native, the Big Red is still interested in his services. It helps that he and Starks are the exact same in terms of stature (5-11, 180).
— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces). To contact him with tips, story ideas or for interview purposes, click here.