LINCOLN — D.J. Foster had his Nebraska offer for more than a year. Mick Stoltenberg had his for all of two days.
The Huskers reeled in both in-state prospects Saturday for the 2014 recruiting class. Foster — the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Lincoln Southeast guard with offers from Florida, Georgia and UCLA — and Stoltenberg — the 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end/tight end from Gretna — committed to NU on the day of its tentpole recruiting event, Big Red Weekend.
Their pledges pushed NU's 2014 commit list to eight. A ninth came later Saturday when Washington D.C.-area athlete Demornay Pierson-El committed to Nebraska over offers from North Carolina, Boston College and East Carolina.
A four-star prospect according to ESPN and a high three-star according to Rivals, 247Sports and Scout, Foster fully expected to visit the Gators, Bulldogs and Bruins in July. But a day of walking around NU's campus — coupled with a few moments with his older brother Trey, a redshirt freshman tight end with the Huskers — changed his mind.
“I was able to figure it out today for myself what I wanted out of a school,” said Foster, who will play guard for NU. “The one thing Nebraska had was relationships. My brother. No other school could match that.”
Foster's Southeast teammate, safety Luke Gifford, is also committed for the 2014 class. And redshirt freshman tight end Sam Cotton — competing with Trey Foster for playing time this year behind starter Jake Long — also played for the Knights.
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Southeast coach Ryan Gottula said he could tell Foster had “very strong interest” in playing at NU, but effectively handled the variety of national offers that rolled in, too. As a junior, Foster played offensive and defensive line for the Knights — often more than 100 plays per game — and is likely to do so again in 2013.
“He's a pretty complete package,” Gottula said. “He's an outstanding pass protector and a very dominant run blocker. He finishes off blocks very well.”
Foster's finishing ability — and sheer size — caught Nebraska's eye even before his junior season. NU offered in April 2012. But Foster still appeared ready to explore options outside the state even as his brother walked on for the Huskers.
So the Huskers used their one phone call to Foster this spring to invite him to Memorial Stadium in early June. There, Foster said, coach Bo Pelini had gathered all of his coaches into his office and pitched Foster — and his family — one more time before Big Red Weekend. Pelini, Foster said, wanted to know if there was some facet of Nebraska's program that lacked what Foster wanted.
“Pretty cool,” Foster said of the meeting. “It was great to see the coaches were so invested.” And though Trey Foster wanted to free his little brother to choose his own school, D.J. knew where he stood, too.
Which is why, D.J. said, Trey was “ecstatic,” when D.J. committed. Pelini, Foster said, was surprised.
“He asked me a couple times just for clarity,” Foster said. “I appreciated that he did that. But I knew it was the right place.”
» NU recruit D.J. Foster
» NU recruit Mick Stoltenberg
» NU recruit Demornay Pierson-El
Stoltenberg, a three-star prospect according to Rivals, did, too. He got his offer Thursday during NU's Big Red Football School while working out for several Husker coaches, including Barney Cotton and Ron Brown. It's expected that Stoltenberg will begin his Nebraska career on offense.
“Wherever they need me and wherever I can make an impact as quickly as possible I'll definitely do it,” Stoltenberg told Husker Online. He attended the Big Red Weekend event all of Saturday and wasn't able to immediately conduct an interview.
Stoltenberg first emerged as a top prospect after starring at a Rivals camp near St. Louis earlier this spring. From there, he got offers from Army, Ohio and Tulsa and traveled to Lincoln to audition for an offer from the Huskers. In a grueling morning session, Stoltenberg worked in a small group and later alone — flanked by Cotton, Brown, graduate assistant Joe Ganz and Pelini — while the rest of the campers took a break on the other side of the Hawks Championship center. His workout had Brown and Cotton nodding their heads in approval. Saturday, Stoltenberg nodded back.
Should the commits hold, it'd be the largest in-state haul since 2011, when Nebraska took four in-state prospects. Other 2014 in-state prospects looking for a Nebraska offer include Millard West defensive end Harrison Phillips and Omaha Burke cornerback Trey Carr.
Pierson-El, a 5-foot-9, 172-pound three-star prospect from Alexandria (Va.) West Potomac High School, had long been on NU's radar as a running back/wide receiver. He ran for 1,658 yards and 26 touchdowns last year for West Potomac, catching 10 passes for 127 yards. Pierson-El said Saturday night Nebraska envisions him in the slot, much like Jamal Turner, where he can “get the ball in space on short passes and sweeps and make plays in one-on-one situations.”
“It was just how comfortable I felt,” said Pierson-El, who had a one-on-one meeting with Pelini to start the day and committed to wide receivers coach Rich Fisher later. “By the end of the night, all my questions were answered. I feel like Nebraska can make me the best me possible. Perfect fit.”
NU, in clear search for solutions at punt and kick returner, will give Pierson-El a chance at both, he said.
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