LINCOLN — Freedom found a Fourth of July recruiting partner with Nebraska football Thursday. And the Huskers then added a Kansas City-area, two-sport firecracker in an auspicious evening for their 2014 class.
NU picked up its 10th commit for the 2014 class when three-star Grandview (Mo.) tight end Freedom Akinmoladun gave his verbal pledge to Nebraska tight end coach Barney Cotton.
Later in the day, four-star Lee’s Summit (Mo.) West wide receiver Monte Harrison called Husker baseball coach Darin Erstad and NU wide receivers coach Rich Fisher to become the 11th commit. Harrison will play baseball and football in Lincoln.
“I just felt like (Nebraska) was for me,” Harrison said by text message. He’s a 6-foot-2, 195-pound center fielder who batted .457 with six home runs and 33 RBIs in the spring. He also stole 25 bases. “I have a good relationship with Erstad and Fisher. I talked to my mom, and she said it was a good pick.”
The Huskers picked Harrison as a top wide receiver target before they’d finished their 2013 class. NU coach Bo Pelini even attended a basketball game for Harrison, whose brother, Shaquille, started as a true freshman point guard at Tulsa. Nebraska told Harrison — like it told 2011 recruit Bubba Starling — that he could play baseball at NU.
When recruiting Starling — the 6-4 quarterback who opted for a pro baseball contract with the Kansas City Royals and now struggles to hit consistently in the minor leagues — the Huskers presented a detailed plan of how he could juggle the demands of two collegiate sports. Khiry Cooper, a wide receiver and part of Pelini’s first recruiting class in 2008, played both sports at NU. He transferred to Tulsa after the 2011 season.
While Harrison told USA Baseball this June that he was only seriously considering schools that would let him play two sports — Arkansas and Vanderbilt among them — he also had football offers to Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Kansas State, among others. Rivals and ESPN rate him as a four-star while Scout and 247Sports rate him as a high three-star.
Instead of making the football camp circuit, Harrison was one of 144 players competing in Cary, N.C., in USA Baseball Tournament of Stars. He is expected to be picked in the 2014 Major League Baseball draft, though first or second-round projections bandied around the Internet seem less concrete than they did with Starling, whom the Royals selected with the fifth overall pick in 2011.
In football, Harrison fits as a wideout with the frame and agility to make catches in traffic. The Huskers’ other July 4 commit, Akinmoladun, will begin his career at tight end, though some schools — including home state Missouri — were recruiting the 6-5, 240-pounder as a defensive end.
Akinmoladun visited for Big Red Weekend, initially held off on an immediate commit, then pulled the trigger Thursday by calling Cotton, according to Huskers Illustrated. Akinmoladun did not return phone calls or texts from The World-Herald Thursday night.
Huskers Illustrated was the first recruiting service to report the commit.
Akinmoladun picked Nebraska over offers from Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Kansas State and caught 21 passes for 331 yards and a touchdown last year for Grandview. His older brother, Olukayode Akinmoladun, plays offensive line for the University of Nebraska at Kearney. His cousin, Oladapo Akinmoladun, is a sprinter on the NU track team.
“Hopefully I become a great target in the offense,” Akinmoladun told Huskers Illustrated. “I want to be a great target for the quarterback. I expect to grow up, become a man and help out wherever I need to be at.”
Akinmoladun is only rated by one of the four major recruiting services — 247Sports gave him three stars.
With the pledges, the Huskers’ offensive recruiting inched closer to completion. NU now has a quarterback (Zack Darlington), two guards (D.J. Foster and Tanner Farmer), two wide receivers (Harrison and Demornay Pierson-El), a tight end (Akinmoladun) and a flex lineman (Mick Stoltenberg) in the fold. NU desires at least one offensive tackle, one running back, perhaps a center and one more slot receiver for the class. That slot receiver could be T.V. Williams, who decides between Nebraska and Kentucky next Tuesday. The Huskers also have an offer out to Millard West standout Harrison Phillips, who could play on the defensive or offensive line.