High School: Bradford HS (WI)
Junior College: Highland Community College (KS)
Keels earned second-team All-Jayhawk League honors after recording 20 tackles and 2.5 sacks in nine games, helping Highland to a 6-4 record.
Keels was a focus of offensive coordinators in the Jayhawk league, using his athletic ability to record quite a few quarterback hurries.
The Wisconsin native hit Lincoln during spring semester, to get a jump on his D-1 development. Through the first ten Husker spring practices, Keels was swimming – the level of competition and the grasp of the defensive scheme took some time to get use to. But, over the final week of practices the junior college transfer took a big jump in the right direction.
“He went through some growing pains, some things personally that maybe got him off track during spring practice, but I thought the last couple days have been good for Joe,” Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini told reporters before the Red-White game. “His progress is coming. He's going to be fine.”
To be honest, the level of expectations put on the newcomer in March were probably unfair. Fans were spoiled by last year’s junior college defensive end – Randy Gregory. Keels is not Gregory 2.0. He’s a guy who will be a solid contributor and provide depth at the position.
BRR projection: Keels will likely keep Greg McMullen honest in the fall for the starting defensive end spot opposite of Gregory, but the junior college transfer will fill the role left by the graduation of Jason Ankrah. Watch for Keels to be the top reserve defensive end and get a handful of series when McMullen or Gregory needs a break.
How he ended up in Lincoln:
A Wisconsin commit when he officially visited Nebraska in November of 2013, Keels pulled a changeup by switching to Nebraska in December, just a few weeks before junior college National Signing Day.
Nebraska’s efforts on the recruiting trail to land the four-star product played a major factor. The coaching staff was relentless in their pursuit of Keels. The Huskers made numerous trips to see the JUCO product in Kansas, but the clincher was the head coach making a trip to see Keels’ mom in Wisconsin.
Maybe the most notable thing about his flip to the Huskers was he took his official visit to Wisconsin two weeks after spending time in Lincoln. Usually the freshest visit plays a huge factor in recruiting.