Published Monday, November 12, 2012 AT 9:57 AM / Updated at 9:57 AM
Recruiting: JUCO DT prospects impressed during official visits
Sam McKewon Omaha World-Herald

Nebraska football may have picked up a scent in its continuing hunt for junior college defense tackles.

Two that visited for Saturday’s Penn State game — Quincy Russell and Lavon Hooks — gave NU’s atmosphere and defensive schemes high marks. That’s good news for the Huskers, who sorely need immediate, full-grown-man help in the trenches next year.

“You’re a celebrity, ” Hooks told Huskers Illustrated. “Everybody knows who you are and they treat you good too.”

Said Russell to HI: ”I could really see myself playing at Nebraska you know. They’ve got the same fronts, same scheme. They could teach me a lot to what I already have now. I could see myself playing there.”

The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Hooks finished with 16.5 sacks for Northeast Mississippi Community College this year. The consensus four-star prospect still has visits to Baylor, Arizona State and Miami (Fla.) to take. As his highlight video on Rivals shows, Hooks played as a standup end outside the tackle, head-up on the guard, and occasionally at nose. Quick first step. Probably shoots gaps too much. Snowball speed — once he’s get going, he’ll chase you down. Defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski is looking for guys who have an early burst upfield — who can establish themselves on the other side of the line of scrimmage — and a good, long-lasting motor. The Huskers’ coverage-first philosophy dictates as much. The front four has to fight its way to the quarterback without losing contain integrity.

Hooks told HI that he was impressed with the adjustments NU’s coaches made in the Penn State game.

“The coaches coached Nebraska up pretty well,” Hooks said. “They showed me their schemes and their techniques. I think they’re up-to-par. They’re a bowl team, can make it to a good bowl game any time they want.”

As for the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Russell — a consensus four-star who has more upside athleticism than Hooks but much less production at Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College — he liked the chemistry he had with Husker teammates and coaches. NU recruited Russell fiercely out of a San Antonio high school, but Russell committed to Texas instead.

“I knew I had a good chemistry with them, but when I got there it felt I was going back home to San Antonio,” he told HI. “We joked, laughed and played around. At the same time it was a business trip. We all had fun, it was a good game, a good win. We talked about a lot of stuff. It was a better chemistry then I thought I’d have.”

I wasn’t sold on Russell out of high school. He stood up and looked for the ball too much, allowing offensive linemen to get into his pads too easily. He got away with it in high school, and maybe his technique has improved. He’s the kind of guy that Kaczenski could coach up into an all-conference player, if Russell wants that. All the athletic tools were there two years ago.

Russell’s going to look at Oklahoma, and maybe Kansas State, which recruits junior college players better than any team in the nation. But Nebraska has a real chance with him and Hooks. And with junior college talent Kyle Peko — who might be the best of the bunch — potentially coming in for a visit, NU’s in decent shape with a number of prospects.

The top-rated JUCO tackle — Toby Johnson — had a tough break, tearing up his knee. Johnson told recruiting sites that Nebraska hasn’t wavered in its interest, but he’ll be a long-shot candidate to contribute right away in 2013. So even if NU landed his commitment — still a possibility — it has to look for more prospects, too.

 

About Sam McKewon

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him at sam.mckewon@owh.com. And follow him on Twitter at @swmckewonOWH. And call him at 402.219.3790.