HIAWATHA, Kan. — It costs a little time to drive two hours through lovely southeastern Nebraska — Auburn, Verdon, Falls City — on your way to this town, home of NU’s latest 2014 commit, defensive tackle Peyton Newell. But it pays to have gone, in a sense, for this reason: Having seen Newell — legitimately 6-foot-2, a lean 275-280 pounds, big hands — just wait until Nebraska’s staff gets ahold of him.
Newell’s already strong — he benches 380 pounds, squats 605 and hang cleans 335 — but he can add mass and even more agility than he has. And as he better learns how to shed interior blockers instead of hauling-tail around offensive tackles, he has the potential to be excellent complement to a bigger Vincent Valentine-style nose tackle.
He’s just a little less thick than Maliek Collins — who, like Newell, played more an end spot in high school — but probably just as strong, and perhaps faster. Newell’s first step will be a challenge to stop as he gets older, and if the strength records on the wall are accurate — no reason to doubt they are — he’ll put on a good push, too.
The natural question recruiting services have about Newell is the quality of the competition he faces. Hiawatha itself wasn’t very successful before Newell, and I don’t suspect most of the teams in northeastern Kansas — we’re talking Sabetha, Holton and Wathena, Kan. — have a player who can consistently match up with Newell.
But I’ve long been dubious of the “competition” argument for most positions. The jump from high school to college is so significant that few, if any high schools, come even close to measuring up against the Sun Belt, much less the Big Ten. Freshman Nate Gerry played the worst competition of all of NU’s defensive back recruits this year; he’s also the best of the recruits. Collins spent an entire high school career under the radar, but he’ll end up being a multi-year starter if he stays healthy.
Newell looks a lot like those small-town Nebraska kids who didn’t face great competition, either. But they did just fine in Lincoln. Won a lot of games, too.
Now the Huskers need to working on recruiting some more defensive ends.
Video: Newell’s announcement: