Nebraska signed 10 players on Wednesday, but one of the biggest coups of Scott Frost’s early tenure came Thursday afternoon.
Butler (Kansas) Community College linebacker Will Honas signed to play for the Huskers, the school announced, marking a key recruiting win for Frost and company over a pair of Big Ten West rivals.
Honas racked up 95 tackles (10 for loss), three sacks and two interceptions in 11 games for the Grizzlies and is considered by some to be among the very best junior-college linebackers in the 2018 class.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder had become the center of an intra-division recruiting battle, pitting the Huskers against Iowa. Then, on Monday, Wisconsin offered Honas as well, creating a three-way race.
Instead of putting off signing until the February period, which would have allowed him time to visit Madison in January after the current dead period ended, Honas made up his mind and signed with Nebraska. He is expected to enroll in the spring semester, giving NU another early enrollee.
The deciding factor: The way Butler head coach Tim Schaffner sees it, Honas was excited by the idea that former Husker greats like Frost and Barrett Ruud wanted to return to Lincoln to coach.
“We have that same thing going on at our level,” he said. “Will was exposed to guys that played here, won championships here and came back to coach here. ... I think that really impacted him when Barrett showed up the day after or two days after UCF played in the championship game. A lot of people were talking about the NFL part of (Ruud’s career). It wasn’t that. It was that Barrett was such a good player at Nebraska and now is going to be back and will have the chance to be his coach. That’s what means something, or at least it meant something to Will.”
Honas visited the Hawkeyes the weekend of Dec. 9 and the Huskers the week of Dec. 15 after previously taking visits to Kansas State and Arkansas.
Before Butler, Honas played his high school ball at Bishop Carroll High in Wichita, Kansas. He was not heavily recruited then, however, and opted to try to increase his exposure by going the junior-college route.
“He just blew up,” Schaffner said of Honas’ sophomore year. “(What stands out about Honas), is just how thorough and how consistent he was over the course of the season. He finished the season exactly the way he started the season, and that was being a huge impact for our defense. It was pretty much a carbon copy every game. He’s a lot of fun to coach and he played at a high, consistent level all season long.”
Honas is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 1 inside linebacker and the No. 35 player overall in the junior college ranks this year. That gives NU the top-ranked juco player at two different positions in head coach Scott Frost’s first class as Arizona Western Community College running back Greg Bell signed Wednesday.
“We’ve had so many good linebackers and I didn’t want to get skewed in what I’m doing,” said Schaffner, who was Honas’ position coach. “It was listening to our coaches after practices going, ‘Why is he always in the right spot? What is he doing?’ Then, on the third or fourth series of our first game, he took an interception back 85 yards and I felt pretty confident in what we had.”
Honas played in a 4-3 defense under Schaffner and had offers from Division I programs that run both — the Wildcats and Iowa run 4-3s while the Huskers and Badgers operate 3-4s — and will play inside at NU.
“He’s an in-the-box guy,” Schaffner said. “He asked me about that, playing in the 3-4 as opposed to the 4-3, but really with the way offenses are anymore, it’s usually a split-backer box, two-backer box, and so those reads aren’t going to be a lot different. We play a lot of three-man stuff.
“Plus, he’s so dang smart that he’ll pick up whatever they’re teaching him really quickly.”
The Huskers must replace leading tackler Chris Weber and return players like Dedrick Young and Mohamed Barry inside along with freshman Avery Roberts and others. Honas, though, will be expected to compete for playing time right away.