Who’s coming for an official visit this week
They’re from different parts of the country. All have visits lined up to other schools in future weeks. All have different outlooks on position and playing time.
But this weekend, all four will be Nebraska official visitors as the Huskers begin a January sprint to close out their 2019 recruiting class.
Defensive back DJ James (Spanish Fort, Alabama), receiver Charles Njoku (Wayne, New Jersey) and edge rusher Steven Parker (Dallas) are the visiting high schoolers. Defensive end/outside linebacker Soni Fonua, from Mesa (Ariz.) Community College, will be in Lincoln, as well.
Based on what coach Scott Frost said last month, these prospects match what Nebraska wants to add before the Feb. 6 signing date. With 23 December signees and a grad transfer already secured, the Huskers are looking to fill as many as six spots depending on what happens with two committed but unsigned junior college players in running back Dedrick Mills and offensive lineman Desmond Bland.
“It doesn’t really matter (if it’s a) skill player on offense, D-line,” Frost said. “If we find a kind of player that can help us win games in the Big Ten, we’re going to take them.”
Here’s a look at each official visitor who will be at Nebraska according to recruiting reports, social media posts and World-Herald confirmations:
» DE/OLB Soni Fonua, Mesa (Ariz.) C.C.: Nebraska represents the first official visit for Fonua, who’s originally from Salt Lake City. He has other trips scheduled to Central Florida (Jan. 18), Oklahoma State (Jan. 25) and possibly Kansas (Feb. 1). The 6-foot-4, 264-pound pass rusher is a consensus three-star prospect who logged 51 tackles (16.5 for loss) in nine games last fall. He was explosive enough as a juco freshman to block eight kicks.
Current NU nose tackle Vaha Vainuku is Fonua’s cousin and will be his host this weekend. Fonua told The World-Herald that Vainuku, along with running backs coach Ryan Held, are his primary motivations for the visit.
“That’s my family,” Fonua said of Vainuku. “You really just go wherever your family is. You trust in that and just go with it.”
Fonua, who had no major offers out of high school because of grades, said he’s relishing his opportunities now after working hard in the classroom. He has three years left to play two. He will remain this spring in Mesa — which eliminated its football program following the 2018 season — and join his new school in the summer.
“It’s a huge blessing for me and a huge eye-opener,” Fonua said. “I wouldn’t have this opportunity if it wasn’t for (Jesus Christ). I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. Who knows what I would have been doing if not for football.”
» DE/OLB Steven Parker, Dallas (Texas) South Oak Cliff: Parker’s recruitment picked up late in the season as he learned he’d be a full academic qualifier. The 6-4, 220-pound Parker was the Texas defensive player of the year in 5A, which is the state’s second-largest classification. Despite only playing football for three years, he capped his senior season with 70 tackles (25 for loss, 18 sacks) and four forced fumbles.
“He’s still raw as a football player, but he’s a guy that plays 100 mph every play and doesn’t back down from competition,” South Oak Cliff coach Jason Todd told The World-Herald. “He’s been the emotional leader of our team for the last two years.
“The sky’s the limit. He is a guy I could see playing in the NFL one day.”
Parker, given four stars by 247Sports and Rivals, was committed to Texas Tech for nearly 19 months before backing off when Kliff Kingsbury was fired as coach. Parker’s former coach at South Oak Cliff, Emmett Jones, was on that Tech staff and has since landed at Kansas. Parker will visit KU later this month along with another school, likely UCLA, and already has officially visited Tech and TCU.
Nebraska offered Parker right after the early signing period. An assistant with South Oak Cliff, Domenic Spencer, has been an advocate for the Huskers after playing at Central Florida under current NU coaches Sean Beckton and Travis Fisher.
» WR Charles Njoku, Wayne (N.J.) Hills: The Huskers crave more height and depth at receiver, and a commitment from the 6-foot-5 Njoku would make him NU’s tallest scholarship player at that position. Njoku also has the pedigree for success. One brother, David, is an NFL tight end and another, Evidence, plays receiver at Miami. Nebraska offered Charles Njoku after the three-star prospect with a 35-inch vertical completed a senior year with 1,104 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.
Njoku decommitted from Missouri in November. He plans to visit UCLA on Jan. 18, according to 247Sports, despite not yet holding an offer from the Bruins. The wideout also has a variety of other Power Five offers including Iowa State, Indiana, Syracuse and Boston College.
» DB DJ James, Spanish Fort (Ala.): The consensus three-star recruit and likely college cornerback figures to be a tough get for Nebraska. The 6-foot, 175-poundJames remains committed to Mississippi State and has official visits set to Oregon (Jan. 18) and Iowa (Jan. 25), with another that could follow . One recruiting report said James held off signing in December after a late in-person visit from Alabama coach Nick Saban and an Auburn offer. Florida and Tennessee are other schools to have offered him.
James finished his senior year with 45 tackles, six interceptions, 16 pass breakups and four blocked kicks.