Chicago-area prospects impress at Friday Night Lights; notes and quotes from Saturday’s ‘Pipeline’ camp | Sports


Steven M. Sipple, Parker Gabriel and Chris Basnett give some highlights from a Wednesday on the road covering Nebraska’s Big Red Blitz tour, break down the latest in Nebraska football recruiting — including recent commitments from QB Richard Torres and RB Ashton Hayes — and talk through what’s coming up this weekend and beyond for football and basketball.   

A group of Chicago-area players who made their way to Lincoln for NU’s recruiting barbecue ended up taking part in the Friday Night Lights camp, too. 

They made quite an impression.

The group included 2022 defensive back Jalil Martin (Kenwood Academy); a pair of 2023 wide receivers in Malik Elzy (Simeon) and Logan Lester (Kenwood Academy); and 2024 athlete I’Marion Stewart (Bolingbrook).

All four of them earned scholarship offers from Nebraska’s coaching staff after the camp. 

Martin (6-foot-3 and 190 pounds) spent extensive time off to the side with Nebraska secondary coach Travis Fisher working through technique and footwork drills. He is listed as a wide receiver, but Nebraska already has one verbally committed for 2022 and has two more — Grant Page (Boulder, Colorado) and Landon Samson (Southlake, Texas) who have visited recently.

“Me and Coach Fish have been talking for a while and I’m glad I finally got on campus to meet everybody,” Martin told the Journal Star.

Martin’s been on a big run recently, picking up offers in the past three weeks alone from Mississippi, Texas Tech, Missouri, Illinois, Washington State and Colorado.

Stewart (6-1 and 180) has three years of high school left to play but picked up an offer from Nebraska on Friday night after the camp. He also has early offers from Penn State, Washington, Tennessee and Missouri. 

Elzy (6-3, 195) has quickly become a sought-after 2023 receiver in the Midwest, having already landed offers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois, along with Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and others.

Lester (6-2, 185) had an offer from Boston College and picked one up from Nebraska, too, after the camp. 

Nebraska has a couple of connections on its current roster to the Chicago area. Freshman wide receiver Alante Brown starred at Simeon High at quarterback before playing a postgraduate year at St. Thomas More prep school in Connecticut. Similarly, freshman defensive back Marques Buford Jr. began his high school career at Bolingbrook before moving to Texas and playing at Trinity Christian and finishing with a postgrad year at St. Thomas More. NU is also recruiting Buford’s younger brother, Mario, a 2024 defensive back.

Johnson on campus: Of the several Nebraska players who either worked camps this weekend or checked in on the proceedings was the newest member of the team: Ohio State transfer defensive back Tyreke Johnson.

Johnson checked things out on the field Friday night during the FNL camp. NU officials couldn’t comment on his status officially this past week, but he told the Journal Star earlier this month that he was trying to get to campus as soon as possible. It clearly didn’t take him very long.

Newsom sees campus: Asa Newsom has a pretty good resource when it comes to getting information about the University of Nebraska. His brother, Mosai, is a defensive lineman for the Huskers.

A 2023 athlete, Asa suffered a knee injury earlier in his career, but last week picked up his first offer from Nebraska.

He was in town for the recruiting barbecue on Friday and took in the sights and sounds of the FNL camp with Mosai later in the evening.

The Waverly-Shell Rock High standout is 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, and has also picked up an offer from Kansas State in recent days.

Pipeline camp notes: Nebraska’s coaching staff and several players were right back to work Saturday morning, hosting a large group — figuratively and literally — of high school linemen for the school’s Adidas-sponsored “Pipeline” linemen camp.

It was more of a sights-and-sounds type of day rather than a star-studded event, but several intriguing players took part in the helmets-and-shoulder pads camp.

At or near the top of the list is 2023 Creighton Prep prospect Sam Sledge. The 6-foot-4, 270-pounder worked both on offensive line and defensive line groups, though he most likely projects as an offensive lineman at the college level.

“I started off on defense and it went well, but I wanted to get some offense in, so I switched over (halfway through) and felt like I also did well there,” he said.

Sledge picked up his first Division I offer two weeks ago from the University of Miami (Ohio). Since then, he’s been on quite a tour. In the past week alone, he’s camped at Iowa on Sunday, Notre Dame on Tuesday, Northwestern on Thursday and Nebraska, and has Kansas State left this month.

Sledge said he’s been in contact mostly with in-state recruiting coordinator Barrett Ruud so far, but talked with offensive line coach Greg Austin and head coach Scott Frost briefly on Saturday.

“I wasn’t with the offensive line for the individuals, only for the live (periods),” Sledge said. “But (Austin) just said everything went good for the short time I worked with him and he said he was impressed with what he saw, especially for not having learned from him (earlier in the camp).”

His teammate at Prep, 2023 defensive lineman Rocco Marcelino, also has a big frame at 6-5 and about 225. He was originally slated to be at a travel baseball tournament this weekend, but then got an invitation to Nebraska’s Friday recruiting barbecue and the camp, and decided to work out at Memorial Stadium.

Also in attendance was 2022 Colorado offensive lineman John Pastore, who reported an offer from Nebraska after going through a private workout on June 4. NU also worked out 6-10 tackle Keanon McNally (Kearney, Missouri) on Friday.

NU’s offensive line recruiting for 2022 is at an interesting spot currently. Valen Erickson (Chicago) has visited and the Huskers are set to host Jake Maikkula (Littleton, Colorado) this week. The staff told junior college center/guard Seth Falley on Friday that they’ll know more after Maikkula’s visit. They’ve had other 2022s in for workouts, too, but don’t have other known official visitors set up for this month. With perhaps two spots available for linemen, there’s still some moving and shaking to happen either this month or in the fall.

A couple of other interesting players: class of 2022 prospect Rex Johnsen (Logan, Iowa). The 6-5, 280-pounder has picked up offers from North Dakota State and North Dakota in the past 10 days.

Class of 2023 lineman Peyton Lange (Minneapolis) is enormous at 6-9 and 400-plus pounds. He was the biggest player on the field Saturday. Not surprisingly, he struggled a bit with quicker adversaries. He’s made the Big Ten camp rounds this summer.

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