Pernell: 2019 Recruiting Class Position Spotlight: Defensive Line
Last January, the Huskers offered Ty Robinson, who was among the first 25 players from the Class of 2019 to get an offer from Frost. The staff quickly made him a priority target. Robinson made several visits to Lincoln during his recruitment, including an unofficial visit February 16, a return trip for the spring game April 21 and then for his official visit November 17 for the game against Michigan State. Nebraska benefited from Robinson having prior ties to the state. His late father, Jason, and uncles Josh and Jeremy all starred in basketball at Chadron State. His mother, Tresha, is also an O’Neill native and still has family in the area.
The Huskers were believed to be close to a commitment in May, but the Higley (AZ) High School star held off, wanting to see a few other schools. After his official visit to USC October 13, it appeared the Trojans were the team to beat. There were also rumors he was a silent commit to USC. Things changed in late November, though, when Clay Helton fired several members of his staff, including defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze, with whom Robinson had a great relationship. That decision might have kept Robinson from signing with the Trojans.
One of the most coveted defensive line recruits in the country, Robinson was heavily pursued by dozens of schools and had offers from many of the top programs in the country, including Georgia, Notre Dame, Florida, Penn State, Texas A&M and Washington, but ultimately narrowed his focus to five: Nebraska, Alabama, Oregon, USC and Stanford. Frost pulled out all the stops in his pursuit of Robinson leading up to the early signing period. He brought his entire staff with him during his in-home visit December 14, something he had never done in their three-plus years together. Then he and his staff set personal records for the length of an in-home visit at more than six hours. It paid off. The 6-foot-6, 275-pounder, who had been towards the top of Nebraska’s board regardless of position for almost an entire year, committed to Frost on that in-home visit and signed December 19.
Robinson is the prototype 3-4 defensive end. He has an ideal frame and combines it with an impressive combination of power and deceptive speed. He’s quick off the ball, has a tremendous punch and uses his hands well. For such a big kid, he has quick feet and displays impressive movement and mobility. His overall technique as a high school lineman puts him in select company. Because of his size, strength and overall versatility, Robinson could develop into a guy who never has to leave the field. From his defensive end position, he could stuff the run and rush the passer equally. He also has the potential to play end on first and second down and then slide inside on obvious passing downs. The thing you have to love about Robinson is that for as naturally talented he is, his intangible qualities are what separate him. He’s extremely competitive and gives maximum effort. Watching his film, you see a kid who chases a lot of plays downfield. You just don’t see that from kids his size.
As a junior, Robinson earned first-team All-Arizona accolades in the big schools classification playing defensive end, where he totaled 56 tackles, 30 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, five forced fumbles and three quarterback hurries. He gained 30 pounds this last offseason and moved to defensive tackle for the first time in his career, where he accumulated 74 tackles, 34 tackles for loss and seven sacks this season. His play as a senior earned him a first-team All-Arizona selection by USA Today. Robinson was selected to play in the All-American Bowl, where he was one of four finalists for the 2019 All-American Bowl Defensive Player of the Year award. He impressed during the week of practices and in the game itself. For his efforts, Adam Gorney, National Recruiting Analyst for Rivals named Robinson one of eight players in attendance who saw their stock rise. Robinson is a consensus four-star recruit who is ranked No. 91 nationally by Rivals and No. 166 by 247 Sports.
Nebraska has spent the last two recruiting classes trying to add pieces to fit their new 3-4 defense. They added another schematic fit with Mosai Newsom, who played in a 3-4 in high school. Newsom made some waves when 247 Sports named him to their first-team All-Camp team after participating in the prestigious All-American National Combine in January of 2018. An offer from Nebraska soon followed on February 24. Newsom was a frequent visitor last spring, coming to Lincoln March 14 and then on April 7 for a Junior Day and April 21 for the Spring Game. He eventually committed to Nebraska on July 23 over other Big Ten offers from Michigan State, Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern. A lot of credit goes to defensive coordinator Erik Chinander, who was Newsom’s lead recruiter. Newsom was a heavy lean towards in-state Iowa prior to the Huskers getting involved. Instead, he becomes the first scholarship signee from the state since Ben Cotton in 2008.
The Husker staff really likes Newsom’s tools and upside. He’s a bit of a tweener right now, but he’s got long arms, an impressive frame and should be able to gain more muscle mass without it impacting his speed and explosiveness. Newsom has good movement, shows good bend, and plays with nice leverage and pad level. He’ll need a redshirt year, but Newsom is someone the staff is high on.
Newsom helped Waverly-Shell Rock High School to three consecutive state playoff appearances. He also competed in basketball and track. On the hardwood, the 6-foot-4, 255-pounder helped lead his team to the state tournament each of the past two seasons, and earned honorable-mention all-conference recognition as a junior. Newsom has also qualified for the state meet in the discus the past two years, finishing seventh in 2018. He had a school-record throw of 169-1 to qualify for the Drake Relays. Newsom was ranked among the top five players in Iowa by ESPN, Rivals and 247 Sports.
The Huskers filled out their defensive line class with a couple guys who have the ability to play on either side of the ball. Ethan Piper could play strongside defensive end or nose guard in Nebraska’s 3-4 defense. He could also be a really good offensive guard prospect. The staff still hasn’t decided for sure where he’ll start out. Piper has said defensive line is still probably “where I think they’re leaning towards a little more, but they said they won’t make any major decisions until after March, after the Spring Game.”
The 6-foot-4, 280-pounder was a two-way standout for Norfolk Catholic. He spent his first three years primarily at left tackle, but played more right guard as a senior. For his work along the offensive line, Piper was a Lincoln Journal Star Super State pick as a junior and senior as well as an All-Nebraska selection by the Omaha World-Herald as a junior. Piper also earned first-team Class C-1 all-state honors from the Omaha World-Herald as a sophomore. As a defensive lineman, he was named first-team All-Nebraska by USA Today and earned All-Nebraska honors from the Omaha World-Herald as a senior after he recorded 120 tackles and 14 sacks. Piper helped Norfolk Catholic to a 13-0 record and a Class C-1 state title as a junior, and an 11-2 record and a runner-up finish in the Class C-2 playoffs this past season. He’s also a standout in track and basketball. Piper captured the Class C state shot put title in 2018 with a throw of 57-8 3/4, while finishing second in the state in the discus. He is a four-year member of the varsity basketball team and a two-time honorable-mention all-state choice.
Piper held offers from Iowa, Ohio and South Dakota State when the Huskers jumped in with an offer on February 28. He committed less than a week later on March 5. This past June, Piper was tough to handle during Nebraska’s big man camp. He also impressed with his testing numbers, running a 4.81 in the 40-yard dash and jumping 30 inches in the vertical jump.
Much like Jimmy Fritzsche will be someone to gauge how well Greg Austin identifies talent, the same can be said of defensive line coach Mike Dawson in regards to Brant Banks. The Westbury Christian (TX) High School standout played on the offensive line, defensive line and at tight end during his career. He was a first-team all-district honoree at offensive tackle as a junior and senior, while earning second-team all-district honors as a defensive lineman his junior year. He also earned second-team all-state honors from the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools as a junior.
The 6-foot-7, 265-pound lineman had over a dozen offers, but the Huskers were the only Power Five program recruiting Banks as a defender. Everyone else was looking at him as an offensive tackle. But Dawson saw something others may have overlooked. Banks initially came onto Nebraska’s radar last spring after a strong showing at The Opening Regional in Houston. The Huskers offered him on April 5 and had him on campus for a visit in June. Banks took his official visit September 1 during the Akron weekend. Since the game was canceled, Banks and his family came back on an unofficial visit September 29 for the Purdue game. Banks had offers from Missouri, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Cal, Boston College and Houston, among others, but his decision came down to Baylor and Nebraska. On November 29, Scott Frost, Mike Dawson and Greg Austin, who recruits the Houston area, visited Banks in his home. He canceled a planned visit to Baylor and committed to the Husker coaches. Banks kept the commitment quiet until signing on December 19.
On film, Banks appears to be further along as an offensive tackle prospect. He’s a work in progress on defense, but that’s something Husker coaches like about him. Basketball was his first love and his primary focus until just a few years ago. Banks is strong at the point of attack, whether playing offense or defense, and his background on the hardwood should serve him nicely. He has an ideal frame, but he’s definitely a project. Banks has positional flexibility and could always flip over to offense if things don’t work out like they expect at defensive end. He’ll get an early start towards his development as he graduated early and is currently enrolled at Nebraska.
Prior to contributing to HuskerMax, Jeremy Pernell co-founded the all-football website N2FL.com. From 2002-2014, he served as the editor in chief of the college football portion of the website which focused heavily on talent evaluation, which included NCAA recruiting and the NFL Draft. He has analyzed and covered the NCAA and NFL for 25-years. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.