The importance behind junior college players can't be overstated when you are program that has went from needing a band-aid to a tourniquet. They are "quick fixes" for depth, instant remedies for a lack of experience and every now and then, you just might get one that is so good, it wouldn't matter where he came from, you are just glad you have them on your team.
Nebraska is looking a little like a hemophiliac in need of something to close the wound for the lack of being able to stop the bleeding, because six-losses seasons won't do.
Introducing, the Dodge City Trio. QB, Walter Washington, CB, Donald Defrand and CB Reynaldo Hill. Each of them are outstanding prospects at their position, but together, they make one of the best three in one packages you are likely to see at any level short of the pros.
And for a team that has a talented but confidence-challenged QB, a departing super star CB and a sophomore staring CB at the other side with no real depth on either end to replace them, it's not hard to see how the puzzle looks a lot more complete with this JUCO trio in place.
They know it to.
"Dejuan is leaving." Reynald Hill said. "And, they have a guy on the other side that doesn't have much experience. We (Donald and himself) see a real shot at getting on the field, maybe together."
Any junior college player is expected to contribute right away and as you expect, those athletes out of the JUCO ranks have an equal mindset. Depth charts are a consideration for them and one look at Nebraska's has them drooling at the mouth. "You don't go to schools to sit on the bench." Donald Defrand said. "They (the coaches) look for us to be able to get out there right away and contribute, so we look at those schools that have the most opportunities for that."
Walter Washington sits in a somewhat different boat. Jammal Lord appears to be the incumbent, with a decent grasp on the starting job. This would be a firm grasp if not for his last two games against Kansas State and Colorado. Those two games where he reminded everyone of how far he has to go at least mentally, bring someone perhaps a little more savvy in both aspects of the game rather than just one. It's not unusual territory though, even for Walter. "I went through the same thing at Garden City." Walter said. "My coaches got on me about it and ever since then, I have taken it into every game."
This is the kind of development, both mentally and physically that coaches look for when they recruit players from colleges like Dodge City. They are as ready as they can be without having acclimated to your particular system, whether it be on offense or defense.
So, when the 18th comes, people around the Husker nation will be looking south, east and west to the myriad of junior colleges to see just what the those prospects that NU has in their sights are going to do. So will we, but for now, let's look at the trio in question.
Walter Washington - The NJCAA player of the year at QB, he's a biggun at 240lbs and only being 6'2". But, as he his coach says, his skills can fool you. "Walter to me is the typical option quarterback." coach Rosetti said. "He's elusive for his size, but he can take on a linebacker or even bigger guys if he needs to and get the extra yards. He's got a very, very good arm, so you just can't play him to run the ball. He can hurt you either way."
Walter is looking at a variety of schools, UNLV the most recent to come into the picture. The picture though is squarely on the school who's hat he dawned at the Florida/Georgia game as a senior in high school.
It's all about the Huskers.
Walter hasn't committed though and he's not going to until signing day, or maybe not even then. You see, Dec. 18th may be the magical day to sign, but like high school, it's not the only day, though this could be considered to be what high school doesn't have and that's an early period. One class can mean the difference between signing this month or waiting until February, but Walter thinks he should be good to go. "I hope I can sign then (on the 18th of this month)." Walter said. "That's my plans anyway, but if I have to wait, I guess I will."
As will we.
Donald Defrand - Reynaldo Hill - You might wonder why I am compiling my update on these two. Well, that's because they are that much alike. They are best friends, have about the same style, are about the same size and Donald is only a step faster, if that. Their coach agrees. "Both of those guys are really similar in how they play." coach Rosetti stated. "Donald might be a bit quicker, but they are both great cover guys, have real good size for the position and have the speed to keep up with most anyone."
That's just the tip of what these two have in common. "We're both real physical, but we do things a lot alike to." Reynaldo said. "Man to man is the only way to go and it's about not letting your guy beat you off the line. We both have that mentality that it's just that guy and me out there and our job is to shut him down."
Each is also rated similar in that they are considered to be a couple of the best cornerbacks in the country. Reynaldo and Donald both just got done with a visit to Kansas State, a place where as you might expect, a lot of junior college players end up. "Yeah, we knew what it was about already, so nothing really surprised us." Donald said of the visit. "It was a good experience, but nothing that's going to put it above anyone else."
For Donald, since his visit to Nebraska, it seems to have been just a matter of time. The time where he and his mom can agree that Donald has done enough evaluating that she is pleased with the process and he can go ahead and commit. To where? "Nebraska." Donald said. "I loved my visit there. Once I got there, the players made you feel like you had been there for years. It was more like family than anyplace I had been."
Reynaldo would seem to be the more laid back of the two, so his feelings weren't quite as animated, but he considered his visit to NU a "great time".
So, if this trio is so hip on NU, what's stopping them from making that pledge? At least for Hill and Defrand, the recent changes at NU on the defensive side haven't made them dislike Nebraska any less, but have concerned them with who they get in. "I am watching that real hard." Donald said. "That's going to mean a lot to me, who they get in there."
Who it has to be isn't as important to either Hill or Defrand as where they have been and what they have done it would seem. They aren't looking for a name, just a reputation and a good one at that. "If he's good, he's good." Donald said. "I'm watching it, because it matters. I want to know they get a good guy in there."
And if they do?
"If they get a good guy in there, I'm going to Nebraska." Donald stated. And without confirmation from Reynaldo, that's probably where he would end up as well. Heck, let's just throw the three of them together then, shall we?
Why not? They have. "Yeah, we have talked about it a lot." Walter state of conversations about these three going to the same school. That prompted me to ask which school was the common denominator for all three. "Nebraska." Washington stated.
I don't know about you, but it sounds like Huskers all the way. Only an act of God could keep that from happening, right?
As they say in the Hertz commercial, not exactly.
There is one other thing that Hill and Defrand have in common that seems to be a little less so with Washington...........graduating.
One class. Just one class could separate Hill and Defrand from a great portion of the rest of the Junior College group, because if that one class isn't passed, it's February they have to wait until they can sign on the other date allowed. "Out of 48 people in this class, only 2 are passing." Donald said. "We are hoping, but we are looking past this month."
What if this month is over and gone with this dynamic duo not having signed? Well, though their affection to the Huskers would probably still be there, the playing field just got a little more level.
Donald said he would take the rest of his visits, one to Tennessee, a school that Reynaldo visited and liked a lot. Plus other schools, other chances and other opportunities for either, both or even all to find a niche somewhere else.
It's not what they want and considering their likely intentions of they can sign early, it's not what NU would want either. That's the way the JUCO ball bounces though, so this date becomes significant for not who signs, but who can sign as well.
In just over a week, perhaps a little longer, Hill, Defrand and Washington will find out their early academic fates. Part of those types of struggles are why they had to go the junior college route to begin with. Those struggles continue.
The three musketeers wait, NU waits, NU fans wait and we will wait.
It's not like we have any choice.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619
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