Nebraska's Top Five Players From The 500-Mile In 2016

Who will be the top five players from the 500-miles radius on the Nebraska roster in 2016?

With Nebraska making noise out West in recruiting, the annual 500-mile radius talk when it comes to recruits is pretty quiet. 

Breaking down the Huskers’ class at the moment, only three out of Nebraska’s nine commitments would come from inside the imaginary circle. It’s not that Nebraska isn’t focused on putting time and resources in the 500-miles, offers have been made, stories have been written. But, this recruiting cycle is more about the headlines out West and the potential impact Nebraska could have when it comes to the “Calabraska movement.” 

So how far does the 500-mile radius extend?

In early 2015, Nebraska Director of Player Personnel Ryan Gunderson said this is what the 500-mile radius looks like to the coaching staff.

1.) Nebraska/Dakotas

2.) Kansas (also JUCOs)

3.) Oklahoma/Northern Arkansas

4.) Wisconsin/Minnesota

5.) Iowa

6.) Missouri

7.) Indiana

8.) Colorado

9.) Illinois

“We need to know every single player, every BCS level talent and go to every top level school in that area,” said Gunderson at the time. "You look stupid when you are playing against kids you could have gotten.”

Every year we rank the top five players on Nebraska’s roster from the 500-mile radius. Last year No. 1 was Maliek Collins.

This year the honor goes to….


The Montini Catholic high school (Ill.) product had a long list of suitors for his talent, but he eventually picked Nebraska over Notre Dame

A Semper Fi All-American, Westerkamp is still the Illinois State record holder in receptions (235), receiving yards (4,618) and receiving touchdowns (68).

After a stellar 2014 season where he recorded 44 catches for 747 yards, Westerkamp took his stats to a new level in 2015. The junior had 65 receptions for 918 yards – at times looking like he would become Nebraska’s first 1,000-yard receiver.

We think it happens in 2016.


In the 2013 recruiting class, Nebraska beat out schools like Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Arizona State for Gerry’s commitment. He was the Huskers’ first scholarship signee from South Dakota since 2003. The Mount Rushmore State doesn’t produce many power five D-1 talents, but when they do Nebraska needs to capitalize. It seems only fair with the amount of Nebraska prep players who head north to play 1-AA. 

After a year in Mark Banker’s defensive scheme, Gerry said during the spring his comfort level between last year and this season is night and day. That might be bad news for offensive players in the Big Ten.

Despite taking some time to come around, Gerry recorded 79 tackles (led the team) and four interceptions in 13 starts. He was named third-team All-Big Ten by the conference media. His seven pass breakups were also a team high.


Banderas didn’t have a ton of offers when he committed to Nebraska. Most schools just assumed the legacy player would be signing with the Huskers. It didn’t stop him from being an Army All-American or a four-star prospect.

A senior next fall, Josh Banderas started nine contests in 2015, battling a groin injury. The former Army All-American was still fourth on the team in tackles, with 61 on the year. At 6-foot-2, 235-pounds, Banderas has a NFL body, but is still looking to put together a clean full season. The Lincoln native has appreciated the move to Mark Banker’s defensive scheme and should be even more comfortable in year two.

“It feels more comfortable off the get go with these coaches and the new staff,” said Banderas. “They’re real easy to talk to and get along with and now after a whole year, a whole season, all these experiences and stories we have now, I guess it would be a lot more comfortable and it’s nice not having to start from step a, now we can start from s or whatever and pick it up where we left off.”


You can make the argument the senior punter should be a lot higher on this list. He does possibly have the best shot at sticking the longest in the NFL. He’s also considered an elite talent at his position across the country. But, there are also some that would say a special teams guy is never a top five guy on any list. 

After averaging 44.2 yards per punt and recording 16 punts of 50 yards or more, Foltz was named the conference Punter of the Year in the Big Ten in 2015. In the last decade, only Brett Maher averaged a high punting average.

As a senior in high school at Grand Island, Foltz earned first-team All-Nebraska honors, after recording 84 tackles and four interceptions on defense. He also had nearly 700 yards as a receiver.

5.) projected Brandon Reilly to be the Huskers’ third receiver coming into the year. He might have been if De’Mornay Pierson-El had not got hurt, but 754 yards came out of nowhere. Reilly has the fourth most yards by a Nebraska receiver since joining the Big Ten. A favorite target of Tommy Armstrong, Reilly definitely was better than we first thought.

A standout both on offense and defense at Lincoln Southwest, Reilly passed up offers from Nebraska-Kearney and South Dakota to walk-on at Nebraska.

Honorable All-Mention:

OG.) Jerald Foster, So. – The former high school All-American is slotted to start inside this season and looked like he made a big jump this spring.

LB.) Michael Rose-Ivey , Sr. – The former Kansas City native played in seven games last season, starting three contests. Injuries have slowed his career at this point. He hopes to stay completely heathly this season.

DE.) Freedom Akinmoladun, So.  – Nebraska fans hope the defensive end plays well enough to be on the top five list, but he hasn’t shown enough yet in his career to dethrone anyone this list.

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