Thanks to the west coast invasion though, Husker fans are already starting to get used to hearing about kids they wouldn't have even thought of just a year ago.
Enter, Gene Delledonne.
A sturdy and statuesque 6'5" and 225 lbs., Delledonne is almost the template for prototypical passers in today's game of football. Decent mobility, galloping around at a reported 4.8 pace, Gene will not juke you out of your shoes, but you don't recruit players like this for their ability to break ankles, rather break wills hitting one pass after another.
That's something Gene managed to do quite well last year, averaging around 200 yards a game passing thru 9 games, completing close to 60 percent of his throws. And, while you look at a two to one ratio of touchdowns versus interceptions as good, Gene trumped that quite well, throwing 15 in for touches while getting picked only 4 times on the year.
All this with a team so young, that Gene will have all of his offensive line back but one, which will total 17 returning starters for the "Sals" in 2004. You can imagine that Delledonne is pretty excited for the year. "We just had so many young players." Gene said. "Not a lot of experience and we made the kind of mistakes young players make. It was just kind of a frustrating season."
While Gene looks to put the frustration of the season behind him, one thing he's already not frustrated with is the attention he's getting from schools around the country. The hype just seems to be warming up on the Salesianum standout and for Husker fans, it's sheer irony that the first team that has really been recruiting him is Nebraska. "Their coach got a hold of my coach and asked for film." Gene said. "They saw it, I guess they were impressed and I am going up there this weekend for a visit."
Gene was also informed that upon this unofficial visit, he might come out of if with a very official offer, which would be Gene's first written offer of the season. Though Delledonne did not grow up a Husker fan, he said that he knows what Nebraska is all about. "They are on TV a lot here." he stated. "Plus, you know about their tradition and the fact that they are just one of the powerhouse schools in the country. It's Nebraska. You know. That's kind of all you need to say."
Obviously, the success Nebraska built to become the household name they are as far as collegiate football goes was build on an offense entirely different from what they plan on running this year. Gene said that was another reason he was looking at Nebraska, because new offense and new coaches, that could mean new opportunities abound. "To come in right about when they are starting to do that, that's a great opportunity." Gene said. "You got guys right from the NFL running an NFL offense, it would be hard for any player to pass up."
While Gene is indeed intrigued and even excited about his up-coming visit to Lincoln, he's equally excited about what's in store for him this Summer. Camps, visits and yet more camps and more visits, Gene is hoping to have a pretty full slate over this off-season. "I've got a lot of opportunities this year to make some visits, go to some one-day camps and I am hoping to hit as many as I can." Gene said. "My big goal is to make it to the "Elite 11" camp though.
The "Elite 11" is considered by many to be THE camp for aspiring signal-callers around the country. Some of the prep-level's best senior slingers vie at Nike camps and other camps in hopes they impress enough to be invited to the Summer's hottest showcase of high school field generals around.
Gene's recent experience as a ball boy at that same camp has shown him just some of what it takes to make it there at all. "You have to be one of the best." Gene said. "You go to one of these Nike camps and you can't have a bad day, because that will have a lot to do with you making it there or not." Gene's qualification camp will be the Nike camp at Penn State on May 15th and that will probably be just the beginning of a tour of sorts that will take him darn near coast to coast as he looks at some of the schools he likes.
Of all those schools, the ones showing Gene the most interest at least in terms of letters are Maryland, Ohio State, Purdue, Penn State, Virginia, Michigan and of course, Nebraska. And of those schools, is there any he's hoping will indeed come out with an offer? "Ohio State and Michigan would be nice just because of the offenses they run and Nebraska of course." he said.
And, if the Huskers offer Delledonne after his unofficial this up-coming weekend, one might wonder since they were the first in on him, the most serious at the time and the first to offer, would he even consider committing somewhere this early in the process. "It would be tempting." Gene said. "I really want to explore all my options though. There's a lot I want to accomplish over the Summer, so I can't see making any decisions anytime soon."
Delladonne lists his individual goals this season as 2,000 plus yards passing and 20+ touchdowns on the year.
We'll keep following Gene throughout the off-season and of course, catch up with him after he visits Lincoln for his one-day trip to the Capital city of Nebraska.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619