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Nebraska Football Conquers the West Coast: Calabasas Satellite Camp Report

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Mike Riley and staff spent Sunday with a whole host of the nation's top recruits, despite a wildfire.

Gebbia shining on the camera. And Jon Nyatawa's elbow
Gebbia shining on the camera. And Jon Nyatawa's elbow
The Big Red Cobcast/CornNation

The Nebraska Cornhuskers brought the whole gang to California for one of its signature moments in the recruiting season, the first of the Huskers’ two satellite camps in the Los Angeles area. Every assistant coach was in attendance for the Huskers, minus strength coach Mark Phillipp (much to the chagrin of my Big Red Cobcast co-host Ryan Tweedy).

The camp was moved from Calabasas, the home school of Keyshawn Johnson Jr., Tristan Gebbia, Darnay Holmes and Brendan Radley-Hines, due to wildfires in the area. The camp was instead held on the campus of Oak Park High School. It was merely a venue change, and folks from Calabasas (and arguably Nebraska) were still in charge, but it was an impressively quick turnaround in the face of adversity.


A few notes from the day:

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-Darnay Holmes made an appearance, but he did not suit up. He was preparing for an academic test, but he did spend time talking to each of the media outlets (and there were plenty in attendance). If you’ve never heard him talk about his family, it’s a fascinating experience (and an experience you will be granted on this week’s Big Red Cobcast).

-Arizona commit Nathan Tilford, who as of Sunday has a Nebraska offer, had that man-amongst-boys look about him. Amid a group of compact running backs, Tilford stood much taller and larger than the rest. He did not lack for speed or agility either. Another mark in his favor? Red hair.

-T.J. Pledger, a 2018 running back, was equally impressive. He has the more traditional build of a running back (i.e. short). He ate all of the agility drills for dinner.

-There is a legit chance that this wide receiver class could be the best in the nation. Sure, the Huskers’ staff has to land some of these big fish, but there are some significant catches nibbling on the line. Keyshawn Johnson Jr. looked impressive, but he didn’t necessarily rank at the top of the list. That’s not a knock on Keyshawn. That’s an indicator of the type of receiver talent at the camp. Johnson admitted his speed needs improvement. Looking at his body, there’s room for him to grow and increase his athleticism, but his first step is surprisingly fast. And Keith Williams, who was lovingly hard on all of the receivers, constantly praised Johnson’s consistently crisp routes. Jamire Calvin and Tyjon Lindsey were also fun to watch, with speed oozing out of each one of them. Nobody, I repeat nobody, could defend their speed when they went over the top. Neither has nearly the size of Johnson, so it would be fun to see a collection of receivers that included their diverse skill sets.

- Perhaps the most impressive receiver (who also worked out at DB) was 2018 recruit Brendan Radley-Hiles, who recently transferred to Calabasas. He doesn’t quite have the size of Johnson nor the speed of the Lindsey and Calvin, but he’s a complete athletic package. And his fellow campers seemed to enjoy being around him.

-There was perhaps an arm (or two) stronger than Tristan Gebbia’s, but none touched his accuracy. And it’s not like he was lobbing softballs either. I’m not sure how many of the campers he knew already, but he treated each and every one of them in his drills like teammates, whether they were from Calabasas or not. He picked up the ones who needed picking up, and he pushed the ones who needed pushing. His hair is also ready for the big-time.

-I’m not sure how many D-I recruits will come from the ranks of today’s linemen, but there was some definite thumping. John Parrella and Mike Cavanaugh seemed to enjoy the level of physicality that was happening.

-Gebbia’s dad and Keyshawn Johnson Sr. were both in attendance. The elder Keyshawn gladhanded as much as Mike Riley (and Mike Riley did plenty of networking). He conducted himself like a coach, even giving the longest interview of anyone in the stadium.

-Also in attendance was former Huskers staffer (and current UCLA assistant) Angus McClure. He talked about the rumors that surrounded him potentially taking the D-line job at Nebraska this offseason while taking in the performance of his son, who was an offensive lineman at the camp.

-Another fun sighting was Sean Mannion, the record-setting former Oregon State quarterback who is now on the Los Angeles Rams’ roster. Mannion talked with all of the coaches. His longest conversation was with Danny Langsdorf. Interestingly enough, his most excited greeting was for Mike Cavanaugh.

-One interesting moment was a near fight between two of the campers when the running backs were going against the linebackers. I won’t mention the names because 1.) neither player was on Nebraska’s radar, and 2.) it wasn’t the most significant part of the incident (though Tweedy and I were undoubtedly interested in the highly emotive situation). Trent Bray, who was constantly in motion, got after each player, and he did so in different ways. He followed that up with picking each player up. He was having none of the skirmish, and watching the way he handled it was truly fascinating.

-A few media members took a newly minted direct flight from Omaha to LAX on American Airlines. Mike Riley seemed very pleased at the addition of the flight to American Airlines’ regular itinerary for the sake of recruiting west coast kids. He half-joked about trying to get airlines to add a direct flight from Lincoln to Texas.

The only blemish on the day was the fact that neither Tweedy nor I remembered sunscreen. Irish and German skintones are not made for sunlight bouncing off field turf. I’m going to be wearing extra Husker red for the next week. Here’s hoping there are a few more guys from today joining me soon.


Pat can be heard on the Big Red Cobcast, alongside Ryan Tweedy, Joe Canale and Mike Canale, every week on Corn Nation.