LINCOLN — Nebraska football’s Fourth of July present is another pass-catching option for a squad whose receivers may have struggled more than any other Big Ten team last season.
Missouri City (Texas) Hightower wideout Latrell Neville — a 6-foot-3, 195-pound three-star prospect according to the 247Sports composite — announced on Twitter Saturday he's committed to the Huskers. His timing was similar to two 2014 recruits, Freedom Akinmoladun and Monte Harrison, who made their decisions on the holiday seven years ago.
Unlike those picks, Neville’s decision was hardly a surprise. He’d been trending toward the Huskers since he decommitted from Virginia Tech on June 6. When he announced weeks ago he’d declare his new commitment on July 4, the wide expectation was Nebraska would be the winner.
And the Huskers were for a player who had offers from the Hokies, Auburn, Baylor and Arkansas, among others. His modest stats in 2019 — 30 catches for 276 yards, according to MaxPreps — were related to a transfer to Hightower close to the season and the role coaches chose for him in the slot, where he caught more screen passes than deep balls.
“We used him in the slot and then we used him outside as the jump-ball guy,” Hightower coach Joseph Sam said in June. “He’s got a basketball background, that’s what makes him a really good receiver. He was definitely making the strides we wanted to see in the offseason.
“I think he’s poised for a breakout senior season. I would bet my money that his senior year, he’ll have a better year than most of us think. He’s not trying to figure it out on the fly. He knows exactly what to do in our offensive scheme. It takes somebody a year to get used to it, and after a year, that’s usually when they thrive.”
Neville remained a priority for Nebraska even when he committed elsewhere in April. He committed to Virginia Tech, in part, because Houston’s top quarterback prospect, Demetrius Davis, was also committed to the Hokies. Once Davis decommitted and flipped to Auburn, Neville dropped Virginia Tech as well.
“Them not having a quarterback committed kind of spooked him a little bit,” Sam said. Nebraska has a 2021 quarterback commit in Heinrich Haarberg and is pursuing a walk-on for the class in prep school signal-caller Jackson Burkhalter.
A grandson of R&B legend Aaron Neville, Latrell said Nebraska receivers coach Matt Lubick had been recruiting him harder than others, and his reputation as a coach and developer of players at Oregon was a key factor in Neville’s interest.
Neville also liked the freedom of Scott Frost’s offense, where a receiver can play just about any spot on the field.
“Coach Frost doesn’t limit his playmakers,” Neville said. “He puts his guys where they’re most comfortable and where they make plays. I’d be playing all over the field, and that’s one thing I like to hear, because that’s what I’m accustomed to doing.”
What Nebraska will likely want Neville to do is catch touchdowns in the red zone.
The Huskers have just 11 red-zone touchdown passes in the past two seasons. Only one Big Ten program — Rutgers — has fewer. NU lacked a tall, big-bodied receiver who could catch fade passes or run across the back line of the end zone and pluck passes over the hands of defenders.
Neville has that size, as does another 2021 receiver recruit, Shawn Hardy. In the 2020 class, NU signed Omar Manning (6-4, 220) and Zavier Betts (6-2, 200) and added South Dakota transfer Levi Falck (6-2, 210). The Husker coaching staff also reclassified Chris Hickman (6-6, 215) from tight end to receiver.
Neville becomes the 11th commit in the 2021 class and the first from Texas.
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