LINCOLN — Nebraska has a sweet tooth for state championship quarterbacks.
Senior Taylor Martinez and true freshman Johnny Stanton won titles in California. Redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong won his in Texas. Friday, the Huskers added to the mix 2014 commit Zack Darlington — who last year delivered a title to Apopka in Florida's largest class.
The decision comes with a rare Big Ten bonus: Darlington rebuffed an offer from Ohio State and Urban Meyer. The 6-foot-2, 207-pound three-star prospect — who also held offers from North Carolina State, Virginia Tech and West Virginia, among others — delivered the good news to Husker coach Bo Pelini and offensive coordinator Tim Beck right after delivering the bad news to the Buckeyes. He was the fifth pledge for NU's class and the biggest name of the bunch, providing much-needed momentum as the Huskers head into Big Red Weekend.
“I just felt it was somewhere special,” said Darlington, who visited NU June 7 with his head coach and father, Rick Darlington, for Beck's annual Quarterback Academy. “There's something happening up there.”
Darlington said he knew it even before he traveled to Lincoln, forging a quick, powerful relationship with Beck, whose power spread offense, Rick Darlington said, mirrors Apopka's. Rick Darlington has long studied the Huskers' program, specifically former coach Tom Osborne's offense, so Zack — who threw for 1,725 yards and rushed for 708 last year — was already well-schooled on NU's traditions.
A nudge from Beck during one of their conversations further intrigued Darlington.
“He told me that, even if I didn't pick Nebraska, I should dare to be different,” Darlington said. “That when everybody's telling you to do one thing, remember that it's OK to do your own thing.”
By the time the Darlingtons finished their visit in Lincoln, Zack said, he told his father he was ready to commit and hinted the same to Husker coaches. He went on a mission trip to the Bahamas, prayed during the trip, returned, canceled a planned visit to OSU, and cast his lot with Nebraska.
“I prayed for him to have wisdom, to see the situation clearly,” Rick Darlington said. “And when he prayed on it, Nebraska became the emerging school in his mind.”
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Zack plans to graduate in December and enroll in January, when he'll compete against Armstrong, Stanton and NU's collection of walk-ons for playing time.
Rick Darlington said his son's ready for the competition battles that accompany a “BCS Top 25 program.” Armstrong and Stanton are both four-star recruits with similar skill sets and high school résumés.
“He may be a guy who starts for several years. He may never win the job,” said Rick Darlington, who added Zack doesn't intend to waver even if Beck is courted for head coaching jobs this offseason. “He's not just going there for that. It's not a deal where he came up there and got a bunch of promises. Nebraska's just a good fit for him.”
In return, Rick Darlington said, NU gets a “winner and a leader.” A guy whose intangibles outweigh the tangibles. As Apopka won the state crown last year, Rick said, Zack played with a broken throwing wrist. Apopka nevertheless beat Cypress Bay 53-50 in the title game.
“He cares a lot about his teammates,” Rick Darlington said.
Ranked as the No. 1 player in the Orlando Sentinel's Central Florida Super 60, Zack Darlington will continue to work on all aspects of being a good quarterback, Rick said, including decision-making in the zone read and option game. Apopka's offense employs about as much of that play as Nebraska does.
The Huskers may not be done recruiting at quarterback, either. This weekend, NU hosts Matthew Jordan of Jackson, Ala., for Big Red Weekend. While Jordan — who sat on planes for 11 hours Friday — is being recruited by other schools as a safety or wide receiver, Beck flew to Jordan's spring game to watch him play. Jordan's running skills are reminiscent of Martinez.
After Darlington's commit Friday, Jordan sent out two tweets that seemed geared toward his visit: “I'm not scared of competition,” read one. The other: “I'm not just a 'spread type' guy. I can run any kind of offense that you want me to run.” Jordan has been offered as quarterback by Georgia Tech, which runs the wingbone option offense.
Texas cornerback also picks Huskers
A strong day at Nebraska's Big Red Football school turned into an offer for an under-the-radar cornerback, who flipped that offer into Nebraska's sixth commit for the 2014 class.
Pflugerville (Texas) corner Trai Mosley — a 5-10, 170-pounder who visited for NU's camp Friday — announced on Twitter he was “officially” a Cornhusker. He attended one day of NU's football camp and apparently impressed defensive backs coach Terry Joseph.
“Checked out everything, campus life was great can't wait to come on back, but NOW 'I am Officially An Cornhusker'!!!!” read the tweet. Mosley's Twitter profile picture was a shot of him standing next to the Tom Osborne/Brook Berringer statue outside Memorial Stadium.
Mosley told Huskers Illustrated he received the offer in camp after running a 4.43-second 40-yard dash and a one-on-one meeting with Joseph.
“We really liked it up there. We met with some of the players today and we'll meet more tomorrow,” Mosley told HI. “I think Nebraska's coaches were very straightforward with me. Other coaches would lie and told me they'd offer if I'd visit. Nebraska was straight up.”
Mosley is a two-star recruit, according to Rivals and 247Sports, with zero reported offers before Nebraska. After committing, Mosley reported on Twitter that SMU offered on the spot.
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