Huskers announce 2012 signing class

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The Class Breakdown:
Total: 17; Freshmen: 15; Junior College Transfers: 2
By State: California (2): Brown (Gardena); Whitaker (Murrieta); Illinois (2): Valentine (Edwardsville); Westerkamp (Lombard); Ohio (2): Alexander (Toledo); McMullen (Akron): Texas (2): Armstrong (Cibolo), Curry (Keller); Nebraska (1): Cotton (Lincoln); Arizona (1): Moss (Tempe); Colorado (1): Thurston (Arvada); Georgia (1): Cross (Gainesville); Louisiana (1): Moore (Winnfield); Missouri (1): Rose (Kansas City); Pennsylvania (1): Anderson (Philadelphia); Utah (1): Afalava (South Jordan); Virginia (1): Seisay (Springfield).
By Position (First Position Listed):
Offense (6): QB-Armstrong; RB-Cross; WR-Westerkamp; TE-Cotton; OL-Thurston, Whitaker
Defense (9): DL-Curry, McMullen, Moss, Valentine LB-Afalava, Anderson, Brown, Rose; DB-Seisay
Athlete (2): Alexander, Moore

Jared Afalava
6-3, 215, LB, South Jordan, Utah (Bingham HS)
Jared Afalava (pronounced Off-uh-lava) is one of four players in Nebraska’s 2012 signing class who are expected to begin their Husker career at linebacker. The 6-3, 215-pound Afalava has been a standout on the Bingham High School defense for the past three seasons, helping the school to a pair of state championships in Utah Class 5A. Bingham recorded more than 180 career tackles, including 87 tackles in his senior season in 2011. He also had two sacks, three interceptions, two fumbles caused and a fumble recovery for Coach Dave Peck’s team. Overall, Afalava had five games with 10 or more tackles in 2011, helping Bingham to a 9-3 record and trip to the second round of the Class 5A playoffs . For his efforts, Afalava was a first-team Class 5A all-state pick by both the Salt Lake City Tribune and the Deseret News. Afalava played in the Semper Fi Marines All-America Bowl following his senior season. Afalava was also a standout during his junior year, totaling 87 tackles and five interceptions to help Bingham to a 13-0 record and its second straight state championship. As a junior, Alfalava was a first-team all-state pick by the Deseret News and a second-teamer according to the Salt Lake City Tribune. He also played a key role in a state title as a sophomore, compiling more than 20 tackles. Afalava is ranked among the nation’s top 50 linebackers by Rivals.com, 247 Sports and Scout.com. He is regarded as one of the top five prospects in Utah by both Rivals.com and 247 Sports, and 247 ranks him among the nation’s top 250 overall prospects. Afalava chose Nebraska after also visiting Washington, and he also had offers from Oregon, UCLA, Utah, Colorado, Oregon State and BYU among others. Afalava is the son of Kesi and Kay Afalava, and he was born on Oct. 30, 1993.

LeRoy Alexander
6-2, 190, ATH, Toledo, Ohio (Whitmer HS)
Versatile athlete LeRoy Alexander joined the Nebraska 2012 recruiting class in late January and has the ability to play either side of the ball for the Huskers. The 6-2, 190-pound Alexander starred at Whitmer High School in Toledo, Ohio, as a senior, helping Coach Joe Palka’s team to a 13-1 record. Whitmer advanced to the Divsion I (largest class) state semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Cleveland St. Ignatius. Alexander was a valuable member of the secondary, racking up 43 tackles, seven pass breakups and a pair of interceptions. He was also an explosive threat on offense, with 60 rushes for 665 yards and eight touchdowns, and he also had a receiving touchdown. Alexander played at Springfield High in Holland, Ohio, as a sophomore and junior before transferring to Whitmer for his senior season. Alexander helped Springfield to a 9-3 record in 2010. Alexander was coached by current Nebraska graduate assistant Vince Marrow at Springfield in 2009. Alexander also had a scholarship offer from Toledo, and was drawing strong interest from Michigan State before deciding on Nebraska. Alexander is ranked as the No. 60 “athlete” prospect in the country according to Rivals.com. A talented two-sport standout, Alexander was an honorable-mention all-state selection in basketball for Springfield High School in 2011, and has helped Whitmer to an 13-2 record and top 10 ranking in Ohio at the midway point of this season. Alexander and fellow Ohio product Greg McMullen (Akron) give Nebraska six signees from Ohio in Bo Pelini’s five recruiting classes as head coach, including four in the past two seasons. Alexander was born on Jan. 20, 1994, and he is the son of LeRoy and Theresa Alexander.

Zaire Anderson
6-1, 220, LB, Philadelphia, Pa. (Frankford HS/Riverside CC)
Zaire Anderson is one of two prospects in Nebraska’s 2012 class to join the Husker program from the junior college ranks. The 6-1, 220-pound Anderson is also one of four linebackers in the Huskers’ signing class. Anderson will join the program this summer with two seasons of remaining eligibility after starring at Riverside (Calif.) City College the past two seasons. Anderson helped Coach Tom Craft’s team to a 21-1 record over the past two years, including a perfect 11-0 record in 2011. Anderson was a play-maker at linebacker, finishing the 2011 season with 95 tackles, including 19 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery. In his final game at Riverside, Anderson registered 12 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and forced two fumbles in a 31-14 bowl victory over Saddleback Junior College. For his play in 2011, Anderson was named a JC Gridwire All-American and the National Division East Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Anderson quickly became an impact player for Riverside in 2010, finishing the year with 92 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks to earn second-team all-conference honors. A native of Philadelphia, Pa., Anderson starred at Frankford High School where he was a first-team All-Philadelphia Public selection in his senior season. He is the first Pennsylvania native to sign with Nebraska since 1999. Anderson is regarded as the top junior college linebacker prospect and No. 13 overall JUCO player by Rivals.com, while JC Gridiron.com named him as one of its “Dirty Dozen” Outside Linebackers. Anderson only visited Nebraska but had numerous scholarship offers, including Texas Tech, Mississippi State and Kentucky. Anderson is the son of Walter Anderson and Kim Hawkins, and he was born on Aug. 18, 1992.

Tommy Armstrong
6-2, 210, QB, Cibolo, Texas (Cibolo Steele HS)
Tommy Armstrong is the only scholarship quarterback in Nebraska’s 2012 recruiting class and is considered one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks. The 6-2, 210-pound Armstrong led Cibolo Steele High School to the Class 5A state championship game each of his final two seasons. Armstrong led Steele to 15 straight victories in 2011, before a loss in the state championship game. In the process, Armstrong produced huge numbers both as a runner and a passer. He finished with 1,281 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground, while passing for 1,945 yards and 29 touchdowns, against just two interceptions, completing nearly 59 percent of his passes as a senior. Armstrong showed his all-around ability during Steele’s run to the state title game. In the quarterfinals, Armstrong threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for a touchdown. A week later in a semifinal victory, Armstrong had 139 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground, while passing for another score. For his effort as a senior, Armstrong was named to the San Antonio Express News All-Area team as an all-purpose player and he was the District 25-5A Offensive MVP. Armstrong also earned first-team all-district honors as a junior, when he led Cibolo Steele to a 14-2 record and a Class 5A Division II state championship. In 2010, Armstrong ran for more than 500 yards and eight touchdowns, while completing better than 51 percent of his passes for 1,343 yards and 19 touchdowns, with just two interceptions. Armstrong is regarded as the No. 5 quarterback in the country and 18th-best overall prospect in the state of Texas by Scout.com, while Rivals.com ranks him among the top 50 players in Texas and one of the nation’s top 10 dual-threat signal callers. Armstrong played in the Offense-Defense Bowl in Arlington, Texas, following his senior season. Armstrong is one of two Texans in the Huskers’ 2012 class and gives NU at least one Lone Star State representative in its signing class for the 12th straight year. He only visited Nebraska, but had offers from coast to coast, including Georgia Tech, Oregon, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, TCU and UCLA. Armstrong is the son of Tommy Armstong, Sr., and he was born on Nov. 8, 1993.

Thomas Brown
6-2, 210, LB, Gardena, Calif. (Junipero Serra HS)
California prospect Thomas Brown is one of four impressive linebacker prospects in the Huskers’ 2012 recruiting class. A native of Gardena, Calif., Brown is also one of two Californians in the Husker class, marking the 14th straight year Nebraska has signed at least one player from the Golden state. Brown was a standout at Junipero Serra High School during his senior season. Brown recorded 77 tackles including 32 solo stops and also had 2.5 sacks and a pair of pass deflections. His play helped Coach Scott Altenberg’s Serra High team to an 11-2 record and a Central Coast Section Division I title. The section championship was the first for the school since 1990. The 6-2, 210-pound Brown played his junior season at St. Anthony High School where he was also a standout defender. Brown racked up 96 tackles and five sacks for St. Anthony during the 2010 campaign. Brown is regarded among the top 75 prospects in California by both 247 Sports and Rivals.com. 247 ranks him as the 17th-best inside linebacker prospect in the country, while Rivals.com and Scout.com also list him among the top 50 inside linebacker prospects. Brown also visited Arizona State, and also had scholarship offers from Colorado, Utah and SMU among others. Brown is the son of Thomas Brown and Lashanda Parks, and he was born on June 23, 1994.

Sam Cotton
6-4, 240, TE, Lincoln, Neb. (Lincoln Southeast HS)
Lincoln Southeast product Sam Cotton will join the Husker program as the lone tight end in the 2012 signing class. He is also Nebraska’s only in-state scholarship signee this year. The 6-4, 240-pound Cotton will continue a family tradition with the Huskers. His father, Barney, is Nebraska’s offensive line coach and played for the Huskers from 1976 to 1978. Sam’s older brothers, Ben and Jake, are both members of the Husker team. Ben will be a senior tight end in 2012, while Jake will be a sophomore offensive lineman for the Huskers next fall. Sam played a key role in helping Southeast earn a Class A state title in 2011. The Knights finished with a 12-1 record, including a 21-9 victory over Omaha Burke in the state title game, when Cotton caught a 34-yard touchdown pass. The championship game capped a senior year in which Cotton had 23 receptions, including seven touchdown grabs. He also played defensive line for Coach Ryan Gottula’s team, and made 42 tackles, including 7.5 sacks. His efforts as a senior earned Cotton first-team All-Nebraska honors from the Omaha World-Herald as a defensive lineman and he was an honorary captain of that team. The Lincoln Journal Star also named him as a co-captain of its Super State team, but listed him as a first-team selection at tight end. Cotton also played a key role on both sides of the football during his junior season, when his play helped Southeast to a 10-2 record and a trip to the Class A semifinals. He was an honorable-mention all-state pick by both major newspapers during his junior season. Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247 Sports all rank Cotton among the top four players in the state of Nebraska, and among the top 50 tight ends in the country. Cotton committed to Nebraska in June of 2011, and did not take any other visits. Sam Cotton is the son of Barney and Christine Cotton, and he was born on Jan. 27, 1994.

Imani Cross
6-1, 220, RB, Gainesville, Ga. (North Hall HS)
Powerful running back Imani Cross joined Nebraska’s 2012 recruiting class in the final week before National Signing Day. The Gainesville, Ga., native checks in at 6-1 and 220 pounds, giving the Huskers a physical presence in the backfield. Cross is Nebraska’s first signee from the state of Georgia since Alfonzo Dennard in 2008. Cross piled up 1,698 rushing yards as a senior at North Hall High School, including 24 rushing touchdowns. Cross averaged nearly nine yards per carry, and also excelled on defense for Coach Robert Christmas, making 88 tackles from his linebacker position. Cross’ play as a senior earned him second-team Class AAA all-state honors in Georgia. As a junior, Cross rushed for 600 yards and nine touchdowns, despite being limited to five games because of an injury. As a sophomore, Cross helped North Hall to a 9-3 record and playoff berth by rushing for 1,417 yards and 17 touchdowns. Cross is ranked among the top 35 running backs in the country by Rivals.com, 247 Sports and Scout.com, while both Rivals and 247 rank him among the top 50 overall prospects in Georgia. Cross also visited Kentucky and East Carolina, and had numerous other offers including Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia Tech. Cross was born on Sept. 23, 1993, and he is the son of Tim and Sharon Cross. Cross’ brother, Izaan, will be a senior defensive end at Georgia Tech in 2012. Izaan Cross has 28 career starts for the Yellow Jackets.

Aaron Curry
6-3, 275, DT, Keller, Texas (Fossil Ridge HS)
Aaron Curry joins the Nebraska program as part of a strong group of defensive linemen in the 2012 class. The 6-3, 275-pound Curry is one of four players expected to begin their Husker career on the defensive front, including two on the interior. Curry is one of two Texans in the Huskers’ 2012 class, giving NU at least one signee from the Lone Star State for the 12th consecutive year. As a senior, Curry had 59 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble for Fossil Ridge High School. His play helped Coach Tony Baccarini’s team to a 6-5 record and a trip to the state playoffs. Curry was chosen an all-district performer at the 5A level for his play. During his junior season, Curry had 68 total tackles, including four sacks. Curry was ranked among the top 50 defensive tackles in the country by Scout.com and Rivals.com. In addition to Nebraska, Curry also visited Iowa, Missouri and Boise State and had dozens of other scholarship offers. He was born on June 12, 1994, and is the son of Aaron Sr. and Peggy Curry. Aaron Curry Sr. played college basketball at Oklahoma.

Greg McMullen
6-5, 255, DE, Akron, Ohio (Hoban HS)
Defensive end prospect Greg McMullen was one of the most dominant defenders in the state of Ohio throughout his prep career at Akron’s Hoban High School. McMullen and fellow Ohio product LeRoy Alexander (Toledo) give Nebraska six signees from Ohio in Bo Pelini’s five recruiting classes as head coach, including four in the past two seasons. The 6-5, 255-pound McMullen racked up more than 40 sacks during his high school career, while being a regular in the lineup since his freshman season. McMullen capped his career with 78 tackles, 12.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss during his senior season. His play for Coach Ralph Orsini earned McMullen North Coast Blue Division Player-of-the-Year honors. He was also a first-team Division III All-Ohio selection for the second straight year. McMullen was equally as impressive as a junior, earning All-Ohio honors after racking up 87 tackles, 8.5 sacks and an impressive 31 quarterback pressures. He also lined up at tight end and had four receptions for 70 yards. McMullen earned second-team All-Ohio honors as a sophomore when he racked up 11.5 sacks from his end position. McMullen first broke onto the scene at Hoban as a freshman, when he had 12 sacks and earned honorable-mention All-Ohio accolades. McMullen is ranked among the top 200 players overall nationally by both Rivals.com and 247 Sports, and is also among the top 12 overall prospects in Ohio by both services. McMullen is also listed among the top dozen defensive end prospects nationally by both of those services. McMullen appeared in the SemperFi Marines All-America Bowl following his senior season. McMullen only visited Nebraska, but he was highly recruited including scholarship offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Cincinnati and North Carolina State, among others. McMullen is the son of Lashaun Brown, and he was born on Oct. 13, 1993.

Alonzo Moore
6-2, 170, ATH, Winnfield, La. (Winnfield Senior HS)
Alonzo Moore is an explosive athlete who could play a number of positions when he begins his college career at Nebraska. The 6-2, 170-pound Moore saw action at quarterback, running back and receiver for Winnfield (La.) High School, helping his team to a 14-1 record and a trip to the Class 2A state championship game in 2011. Moore rushed for 1,473 yards and 22 touchdowns on 156 carries, while throwing for another 442 yards and a touchdown. For his efforts, Moore was a first-team all-state pick and was chosen as the Class 2A Offensive Player of the Year. Moore totaled 26 touchdowns as a senior, including three on returns. As a junior, Moore earned all-district honors and honorable-mention all-state honors, while primarily playing receiver. He caught 49 passes for 1,246 yards and 17 touchdowns for Coach Andy Pyles’ team, while also rushing 53 times for 591 yards and nine scores. His play helped Winnfield to an 8-5 record and a trip to the state quarterfinals. Moore spent the majority of his time at quarterback in his first two years on the varsity squad, and during his sophomore year in 2009, he accounted for more than 2,100 total yards to help Winnfield to an 8-4 record. Moore is ranked among the top 50 receivers in the nation by 247 Sports, while Rivals.com lists him as the No. 22 “athlete” in the country. Both services rank Moore among the top 20 overall prospects in Louisiana. Moore is also an outstanding basketball player, and averaged better than 20 points per game during his junior season. Moore also visited Mississippi State and Louisiana Tech, in addition to offers from Minnesota, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Ole Miss. He is the son of Janice Moore, and was born on Nov. 10, 1992.

Avery Moss
6-4, 245, DE, Tempe, Ariz. (Corona Del Sol HS)
Arizona native Avery Moss is one of two talented defensive end prospects in the Huskers’ 2012 signing class, joining Ohio product Greg McMullen. The 6-4, 245-pound Moss had a highly productive high school career at Corona Del Sol High in Tempe, Ariz. Moss used his size and speed to torment opposing passers throughout his career. As a senior, Moss had 59 tackles, including 26 solo stops, five sacks and a pair of pass breakups. His play for Coach Tom Joseph earned Moss second-team Division I all-state honors from the Arizona Republic. Moss earned all-region honors as a junior despite playing in only five games because of a broken hand. During his limited time, Moss made 12 tackles and had 2.5 sacks. Moss played in the Semper Fi Marines All-America Bowl in Arizona in early January, and made his pledge to Nebraska at that time. Moss is ranked among the top 15 players in Arizona by Scout.com, 247 Sports and Rivals.com. He also ranks among the top 50 defensive ends in the country by both 247 and Rivals.com. Moss also visited Arizona State and Purdue and had scholarship offers from Arizona, Washington, Stanford and San Diego State among others. In addition to his success on the gridiron, Moss is a standout on the basketball court, helping Corona Del Sol to a 22-1 record through Jan. 27. He has received recruiting interest in basketball from several schools including Denver, Pepperdine, San Diego and UCSB. Moss was born on Sept. 16, 1994 and his father is Shalamar Moss.

Michael Rose
6-0, 230, LB, Kansas City, Mo. (Rockhurst HS)
Kansas City product Michael Rose is part of an impressive group of linebackers in Nebraska’s 2012 signing class. The 6-0, 230-pound Rose is one of four standouts expected to begin their Husker career in the linebacking corps. Rose was a playmaker for Coach Tony Severino at Rockhurst (Mo.) High School, helping his team to a 10-2 record and a trip to the Class 6 quarterfinals in 2011. Rose made 104 tackles as a senior, including three sacks, while adding a pair of interceptions, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Rose was honored for his efforts by being named a first-team Class 6 all-state pick by the Missouri Coaches Association and an all-Metro selection by the Kansas City Star. Injuries limited Rose to just six games during his junior season, but he made a big impact when he was on the field. Rose averaged nearly three tackles for loss per game in his limited playing time. Rose first played a key role for Rockhurst during his sophomore season, when he racked up a team-high 95 tackles, two sacks, an interception and a pair of fumble recoveries. Rose participated in the Under Armour All-America Bowl in Florida in January and was one of the defensive standouts in the contest. Rose was the first player to commit to the Cornhuskers’ 2012 class, making his intentions known before his junior season, and he did not take any other visits. He did have dozens of offers including Iowa, Ohio State, Missouri, USC, Kansas and Indiana to name a few. Rose is ranked among the top five players in the state of Missouri by both Rivals.com and 247 Sports, and 247 and ESPNU list him among the top 150 overall prospects in the country. Rose is listed among the top 15 inside linebackers in the country by Rivals, Scout and 247 Sports. Rose was also on the preseason watch list for the high school version of the Butkus Award. Rose was born on Aug. 30, 1993, and he is the son of Michael Rose Sr.

Mohammed Seisay
6-2, 200, DB, Springfield, Va. (West Springfield HS/
Fork Union Military Academy/Memphis/Eastern Arizona JC)
Mohammed Seisay is one of two highly regarded junior college prospects in Nebraska’s 2012 class of signees. Seisay (pronounced See-say) joins the Nebraska program after spending the 2011 season at Eastern Arizona Junior College, and he also has prior Division I experience with two seasons in the program at Memphis. Seisay has two years of eligibility remaining at Nebraska and enrolled in January and will take part in spring football for the Huskers. Seisay had an impressive 2011 season for Coach Bob O’Mera at Eastern Arizona Community College, where Seisay made 22 tackles and recorded six interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns. Seisay is regarded as one of the top 10 junior college players in the country by Rivals.com and among the top three defensive backs, while 247 Sports ranks him among the top 20 junior college prospects in the country. Before transferring to Eastern Arizona, Seisay spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons at Memphis. After redshirting in 2009, Seisay started all 12 games at cornerback for the Tigers in 2010 and earned Conference USA All-Freshman honors. He finished the 2010 season with 39 tackles, including 23 solo stops, two interceptions and three pass breakups. Seisay had a season-high six tackles in three games (East Carolina, Tennessee, UAB). Seisay spent the 2008 season at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, where he played for Coach John Shuman, and helped the team to a 6-4 record. Seisay totaled 45 tackles and eight pass breakups for Fork Union, and also returned a blocked PAT 95 yards. Seisay played for Coach Bill Renner at West Springfield (Va.) High School, where he helped the 2007 team to a 10-3 record and trip to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. Seisay had 35 tackles, four interceptions, 10 pass breakups and forced fumbled in 2007 and was named first-team all-district. He also starred in 2006, including a school-record three interceptions against Hayfield High School. Seisay was a first-team all-district pick in both 2006 and 2007 at West Springfield. Seisay chose Nebraska after also visiting Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, and he had a number of other offers including Florida State and Oklahoma. Seisay was born on May 22, 1990 and he is the son of Ibrahim Seisay and Fatima Seisay.

Paul Thurston
6-5, 275, OL, Arvada, Colo. (Arvada West HS)
Colorado product Paul Thurston is one of two offensive linemen in the Huskers’ 2012 recruiting class. Thurston also continues a strong link to the state of Colorado for Nebraska, as the Huskers have signed at least one Colorado native in five of the past seven recruiting classes. The 6-5, 275-pound Thurston was a dominant blocker for Arvada West High School each of the past three seasons. For his work on the offensive line during his senior season, Thurston was a Class 5A (largest class) first-team all-state selection by the Denver Post. During his junior year of action for Coach Casey Coons, Thurston helped Arvada West to a 6-5 record and a trip to the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. Thurston was a a first-team all-conference selection as a junior, when he played some on the defensive line, in addition to his offensive work. Thurston was also a member of the 2009 varsity team as a sophomore, when Arvada West posted an 11-2 record and advanced to the Class 5A state semifinals. Thurston is regarded as one of the top five players in Colorado by both Rivals.com and 247 sports. He is also listed among the top 150 overall prospects in the country by both Rivals and Scout.com, and is generally regarded among the top 20 offensive tackles nationally. Thurston commited to Nebraska in the summer before his senior year, and did not take any other visits. He did receive numerous offers including Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon, Stanford, Colorado, Northwestern, Kansas State and UCLA to name a few. Thurston is the son of Greg and Janet Thurston, and he was born on June 25, 1993.

Vincent Valentine
6-3, 300, DT, Edwardsville, Ill. (Edwardsville HS)
Illinois product Vincent Valentine is one of four defensive linemen in Nebraska’s 2012 class, and one of two players projected to start their careers on the interior. Valentine and fellow Illinois product Jordan Westerkamp give the Huskers two signees from that state for the first time since 2004. The 6-3, 300-pound Valentine was a second-team all-state, all-class pick in Illinois by the Chicago Tribune during his senior season. Valentine had 35 tackles, including 11 tackles for loss and three sacks for Edwardsville, helping Coach Matt Martin’s team to a 5-5 record and trip to the Illinois state playoffs. Valentine was also chosen as a first-team Class 7A all-state performer by the Illinois High School Coaches Association, and earned first-team All-Southwest Conference honors for the second straight season. During his junior season, Valentine made 33 tackles, while adding two sacks, forcing two fumbles and recovering a fumble. Valentine was also a starter as a sophomore when he racked up 29 tackles, two sacks and had a fumble recovery. Valentine is ranked among the nation’s top 50 defensive tackles by both Rivals.com and 247 Sports, and both services rank him among the top 15 overall prospects in the state of Illinois. Valentine chose Nebraska over Florida and Illinois, and had dozens of other offers including Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin in the Big Ten. Valentine was born on Feb. 23, 1994, and he is the son of Vincent Sr. and Angreha Valentine.

Jordan Westerkamp
6-2, 195, WR, Lombard, Ill. (Montini Catholic HS)
Jordan Westerkamp is a record-setting receiver who joins the Nebraska program after posting amazing statistics during his prep career at Montini Catholic High School in Illinois. The 6-2, 195-pound Westerkamp is the state’s all-time leader in receptions (235), receiving yards (4,618) and receiving touchdowns (68). Westerkamp helped lead Coach Chris Andriano’s team to state titles each of the past three seasons, capped by a memorable performance in his final prep game. In the Class 5A state championship game against Joliet Catholic, Westerkamp had 12 catches for 353 yards and five touchdowns, leading his team to a 70-45 victory. The championship-game effort capped a senior year that saw him catch 91 passes for 1,659 yards and 29 touchdowns. Westerkamp received a number of accolades for his performance, highlighted by being chosen a first-team USA Today All-American. He was also the Illinois Player of the Year by both the Chicago Tribune and ESPN Chicago, the Suburban Christian Conference Player of the Year and an all-state and all-metro selection. In his junior season, Westerkamp caught 89 passes for 1,631 yards and 23 touchdowns, helping Montini to a 12-2 record and a Class 5A state title, including seven catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns in the championship game. His play as a junior earned Westerkamp first-team 5A all-state honors from the Illinois Coaches Association. As a sophomore, Westerkamp burst onto the scene with 51 receptions for 1,156 yards and 16 touchdowns, including a 99-yard touchdown. He had a touchdown catch in the Class 5A state title game, helping Montini cap off a 10-4 season and the first of three straight state titles. Following his senior season, Westerkamp participated in the Semper Fi Marines All-America Bowl in Arizona. Westerkamp is listed among the top 10 players in Illinois by both Rivals.com and 247 Sports, and is generally regarded as one of the top 50 receivers in the country, while Scout.com lists him among the nation’s top 250 overall prospects. Westerkamp chose Nebraska over Notre Dame and had dozens of other scholarship offers, including Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern and West Virginia. Jordan is the son of Robert and Kimberly Westerkamp, and he was born on June 23, 1994. His father also starred at Montini Catholic and collegiately at Illinois.

Corey Whitaker
6-5, 270, OL, Murrieta, Calif. (Vista Murrieta HS)
Corey Whitaker is a talented offensive line prospect who joined Nebraska’s list of commitments in the final week of January. Whitaker is one of two offensive linemen in the Huskers’ 2012 class, and one of two California natives in the class, marking the 14th straight year Nebraska has signed at least one player from the Golden State. The 6-5, 270-pound Whitaker starred at Vista Murrieta High School in California the past two seasons. His play helped fuel a prolific offense that led Coach Coley Candaele’s team to the finals of the CIF Southern Section Inland playoffs each of the past two seasons. In 2011, Vista Murrieta finished with a 10-4 record, however all four losses were by forfeit, and it capped its season with a 35-28 victory over Corona Centennial in the playoff finals. Whitaker’s play helped the offense average 235.9 rushing yards and 37.0 points per game. As a junior, Whitaker paved the way for an offense that averaged 38.8 points per game and better than 200 rushing yards per game en route to a 12-2 record and a berth in the finals of the CIF Southern Section playoffs. Whitaker was a two-time first-team all-league, All-CIF and All-Valley selection, and was named to the 2011 All-Inland team by SouthernCaliforniaPreps.com. Whitaker is regarded as one of the nation’s top 100 offensive line prospects by 247 Sports. Whitaker also drew heavy interest from Oregon, visited Nevada and San Jose State, and had offers from Fresno State and San Diego State among others. Whitaker was born on Feb. 14, 1994, and he is the son of Corey Whitaker and Tammy Reisdorph.

Big Ten pulls plug on fall football amid COVID-19 concerns

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The Big Ten won’t play football this fall because of concerns about COVID-19, becoming the first of college sports’ power conferences to yield to the pandemic.

The move announced Tuesday comes six day after the conference that includes historic programs such as Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State had released a revised conference-only schedule that it hoped would help it navigate a fall season with potential COVID-19 disruptions.

But it was not a surprise. Speculation has run rampant for several days that the Big Ten was moving toward this decision. On Monday, coaches throughout the conference tried to push back the tide, publicly pleading for more time and threatening to look elsewhere for games this fall.

“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. “As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.”

The Big Ten touts itself as the oldest college athletic conference in the country, dating back to 1896 when it was called the Western Conference, and its schools have been playing football ever since. It became the Big Ten in 1918 and grew into a football powerhouse.

The 14 Big Ten schools span from Maryland and Rutgers on the East Coast to Iowa and Nebraska out west. Not only has it been one of the most successful conferences on the field but off the field it has become one of the wealthiest.

The Big Ten, with its lucrative television network, distributes about $50 million per year to its members.

Trump, coaches push for college football as cracks emerge

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President Donald Trump joined a U.S. senator and a number of coaches Monday in the push to save the college football season from a pandemic-forced shutdown.

There was speculation that two of the five most powerful conferences — the Big Ten and the Pac-12 — might call off their seasons. Farther east, Old Dominion canceled fall sports and became the first school in the Bowl Subdivison to break from its league in doing so; the rest of Conference USA was going forward with plans to play.

A Big Ten spokesman said no votes had been taken by its presidents and chancellors on fall sports as of Monday afternoon and the powerful Southeastern Conference made clear it was not yet ready to shutter its fall season.

“Best advice I’ve received since COVID-19: ‘Be patient. Take time when making decisions. This is all new & you’ll gain better information each day,’” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey posted on Twitter. ”Can we play? I don’t know. We haven’t stopped trying.”

A growing number of athletes have spoken out about saving the season with Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence among the group posting their thoughts on Twitter with the hashtag #WeWantToPla. Trump threw his support behind them Monday.

“The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled,” he tweeted.

Old Dominion has stopped trying. The Virginia school canceled football and other fall sports less than a week after Conference USA set out a plan to play a football season.

“We concluded that the season – including travel and competition – posed too great a risk for our student-athletes,” ODU President Broderick said.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh took a different stand, saying the Wolverines have shown players can be safe after they return to school.

“I’m not advocating for football this fall because of my passion or our players desire to play but because of the facts accumulated over the last eight weeks since our players returned to campus on June 13,” he wrote. “I am advocating on August 10 that this virus can be controlled and handled because of these facts.”

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, picked up on the safer-with-football theme in a letter to the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten.

“Life is about tradeoffs. There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe — that’s absolutely true; it’s always true,” he wrote. “But the structure and discipline of football programs is very likely safer than what the lived experience of 18- to 22-year-olds will be if there isn’t a season.”

“Here’s the reality: Many of you think that football is safer than no football, but you also know that you will be blamed if there is football, whereas you can duck any blame if you cancel football,” added Sasse, a former college president. “This is a moment for leadership. These young men need a season. Please don’t cancel college football.”

Players unite in push to save college season, create union

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Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds saw the tweets from Trevor Lawrence and other college football players pushing for the opportunity to play this season despite the pandemic.

Reynolds, one of the organizers behind a players’ rights movement in the Big Ten, didn’t like the way some on social media seemed to be pitting Lawrence’s message against the efforts of #BigTenUnited and #WeAreUnited.

“There was a lot of division,” Reynolds told AP early Monday morning.

Reynolds got on a call with Lawrence and the star quarterback’s Clemson teammate, Darien Rencher, and within a matter of hours the summer of athlete empowerment found another gear.

College football players from across the country united Sunday in an attempt to save their season and ensure they will no longer be left out of the sport’s biggest decisions.

Lawrence, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma State All-America running back Chuba Hubbard, Alabama running back Najee Harris and numerous other players from Florida State to Oregon posted a graphic on social media with #WeWantToPlay and #WeAreUnited.

“We came to the conclusion, We Want to Play, their message might have been conveyed differently but at the end of the day the message wasn’t too far off from what Big Ten United wanted to promote,” Reynolds said. “Which is we all want to play sports this fall. Every athlete, I’m pretty sure, wants to play their sports. They just want to do so safely.”

The #WeAreUnited hashtag was used a week ago by a group of Pac-12 players in announcing a movement they say has the support of hundreds of peers within their conference. They have threatened mass opt-outs by players if concerns about COVID-19 protocols, racial injustice in college sports and economic rights for athletes are not addressed.

#BigTenUnited arrived on the scene a couple days later, a movement that claimed the backing off 1,000 Big Ten football players. Their demands were more targeted, strictly related to health and safety in dealing with COVID-19.

Sunday night, the call with Reynolds, Rencher and Lawrence led to a Zoom meeting — of course — with some of the Pac-12 players involved in “WeAreUnited.”

Washington State defensive lineman Dallas Hobbs got to work on a graphic and now the movement is officially nationwide.

“Just started bouncing ideas off each others’ heads and kind of discussing where we go from here and we ended up coming up with that statement,” said Reynolds, a senior from South Orange, New Jersey.

Under the logos of each Power Five conference — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — the players pronounced their platform:

— We all want to play football this season.

— Establish universal mandated health & safety procedures and protocols to protect college athletes against COVID-19 among all conferences throughout the NCAA.

— Give players the opportunity to opt out and respect their decision.

— Guarantee eligibility whether a player chooses to play the season or not.

— Use our voices to establish open communication and trust between players and officials: Ultimately create a College Football Players Association.

All of this capped a weekend during which the adults who run college sports seemed to be moving toward shutting it all down because of the pandemic.

A day after the Mid-American Conference became the first of the major college football leagues to cancel the fall season, Power Five conference commissioners met Sunday. They discussed mounting concerns about whether a season can be safely conducted with the pandemic still not under control in the United States.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said no decisions on the season have been made, but conceded the outlook has not improved.

“Are we in a better place today than two weeks, ago? No, we’re not,” he said.

Bowlsby cited “growing evidence and the growing pool of data around myocarditis.”

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart and it has been found in some COVID-19 patients. There is concern it could be a long-term complication of contracting the virus even in young, healthy people, a group that has usually avoided severe cardiovascular symptoms.

Also Sunday night, the Big Ten’s university presidents and chancellors held a previously unscheduled meeting, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was not announced by the conference.

Another person with direct knowledge of the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no votes were taken or decisions made about the college football season.

The final call on whether major college football will played this season rests in the hands of the university presidents who oversee the largest conferences.

With doom and gloom hanging over college football, Lawrence, who has become the face of the sport in a summer of strife, tried to push back the tide with a series of tweets.

“People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play,” Lawrence posted. “Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract covid19.”

Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth had a similar message, and the parents of Ohio State football players weighed in, too.

Reynolds wants athletes to have a say in the meetings that are deciding the fate of their sports — starting now.

”All college athletes through unifying and not being afraid to speak our minds and having social media to kind of mobilize, I think that box on a Zoom call is something that is pretty attainable,” he said. “Especially, in the near future.”

After MAC surrenders to pandemic, will other leagues follow?

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In many ways, the Mid-American Conference has little in common with Power Five leagues that first come to mind when fans think of major college football.

There are no 75,000-seat stadiums in the MAC. Million-dollar per year coaches are rare. In a typical season, NFL scouts might find one or two potential first-round draft picks playing at the 12 MAC schools that dot the Midwest. The MAC’s biggest games — #MACtion, if you will — are often played on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Its television deal with ESPN pays per year only a few million more than the $9 million Clemson pays coach Dabo Swinney.

Still, the MAC is one of 10 conferences that competes in the NCAA’s highest level of football, and Saturday it became the first of those to surrender to the coronavirus pandemic and cancel the fall sports season.

So is the MAC an anomaly, done in by its small budgets or is this a dire sign of things to come in college football?

“I won’t try to judge what other folks are doing,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “I know we’re all in the same place. They all have their advisers. They’re going to make judgments based on the information they are receiving.”

Not long after the MAC announced it would explore second-semester seasons for all fall sports, including soccer and volleyball, the Big Ten made its own announcement that seemed ominous given the timing.

Tapping the brakes on football’s preseason, the Big Ten told its schools that until further notice full contact practices cannot begin. All teams will remain in the first two days of what is known as the “acclimatization period,” working out in just helmets. The first Big Ten games of the season are scheduled for Sept. 5.

“As we have consistently stated, we will continue to evaluate daily, while relying on our medical experts, to make the best decisions possible for the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes,” the Big Ten said in a statement.

The MAC’s schools were facing a significant financial burden by trying to maintain costly COVID-19 protocols, while also dealing with the uncertainty that campuses can be opened safely.

A move to the spring, however, could also be budget-buster if it means less revenue from the ESPN deal, which pays each school about $1 million per year, and football ticket sales. The MAC also shares about $90 million per year in College Football Playoff money with four other conferences.

“It would be naive to say that you don’t give thought and consideration to what the financial ramifications of any decision are, but this was a health and well-being decision first and foremost,” Steinbrecher said. “As we sit here today we don’t know what this will mean financially and how the rest of the fall plays out.”

Steinbrecher said the decision effects only fall sports, not basketball or others that begin in the second semester such as baseball, softball and lacrosse.

He added the decision was unanimous among the membership. Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier, supported by NIU President Lisa Freeman, has been a vocal advocate of delaying the season.

“No one wants to have football or sports more than me,” said Frazier, who played football at Alabama in the late 1980s. “Football gave me all the opportunities I have today, but I can’t do it at the expense of people’s lives.”

Eastern Michigan athletic director Scott Wetherbee said he has been feeling a sense of inevitability for two weeks about the MAC canceling fall football, but can’t predict whether this decision trickles up to other conferences.

“Could it? Certainly. There’s certainly a narrative out there that could happen,” Wetherbee said. “No, it wouldn’t shock me if some followed suit. In fact, it would shock me if some didn’t.”

NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline made clear that even though plans for the football season have been adjusted to accommodate potential COVID-19 disruptions like the ones Major League Baseball has had, they are all still aspirational.

“Almost everything would have to be perfectly aligned to continue moving forward,” Hainline said Friday during the NCAA’s weekly video chat on social media.

As the Power Five conferences re-worked their schedules to play exclusively or mostly within their conferences, another of the MAC’s revenue streams dried up.

MAC schools, with athletic budgets in the $30 million range, rely heavily on payouts from road games against power conference teams. Kent State alone had more than $5 million in so-called guarantee games canceled. Whether they can be recouped and when is still to be determined. Without that revenue, the strain became too great of trying to keep players and staff safe during a pandemic.

“Certainly there was a cost attached to it,” Wetherbee said. “But as a league we were prepared to do it.”

The move to try spring football has already been going on in the second tier of Division I.

Nine of 13 conferences that play in the Championship Subdivision, have postponed fall football seasons. The first was the Ivy League in early July.

Now it’s the MAC, which was among the first conferences to limit fan access to its basketball tournament in March as concerns for the virus began to soar across the country. On March 12, the MAC was among many conferences to call off their tournaments hours before the NCAA canceled all of March Madness.

“If you told me in March we’d be here today,” Steinbrecher said, “I’d never have believed it”