The remainder of Nebraska’s 2020 recruiting class is likely going to have a distinctly defensive flavor, and the Huskers added to it Friday afternoon.
The latest member is inside linebacker Rodney Groce Jr. (Pleasant Grove, Alabama), who announced his verbal pledge to Scott Frost’s program Friday afternoon, days after wrapping up an official visit to Lincoln.
Groce is listed at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds and is considered a three-star prospect by both 247Sports and Rivals.
"First off I wanna thank God for giving me this opportunity. I also want to thank my family and everyone who has helped me throughout this whole recruiting process and believing in me since day one," Groce wrote on Twitter. "I'd like to thank my coaches, especially (Pleasant Grove head coach Darrell LeBeaux) for pushing me everyday to become a better player and a better individual."
Groce told AL.com in the spring that his recruiting profile took off when he got significantly bigger during the offeseason.
"When they started recruiting me, a lot of people were recruiting me as a jack," Groce told the paper. "Then I started getting taller and wider and broad and everything. And I haven't lost any speed, so that really made them more interested. I started blowing up."
Nebraska first offered Groce on May 1, just as the rush was starting. By the end of the month, he had offers from in-state powers Alabama and Auburn, among others. When Groce released a list of his top eight schools at the end of May, the Huskers weren’t on it. Instead, the Crimson Tide and Tigers were joined by Tennessee, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech and UAB made the cut.
NU got Groce to campus this fall, though, on an official visit last week and, despite seeing a blowout loss to Ohio State, Groce was convinced. He picked the Huskers over Alabama, Mississippi State and Georgia Tech, according to an Instagram post on Friday.
Groce is the first player in Nebraska’s recruiting class of 12 prospects that is projected to begin his career at inside linebacker, though it’s a position of critical need and one the Huskers will continue to work in this recruiting cycle. They’ve hosted a bunch on official visits already, from fellow Alabama native Jackson Bratton (Muscle Shoals), a Crimson Tide verbal pledge, who was on campus with Groce last week, to Caleb McCullough (Oxnard, California) earlier this season and a trio over the summer that includes still-uncommitted Choe Bryant-Strother (Atlanta).
Nebraska has something of an Alabama pipeline building on the recruiting trail, too.
Groce joins quarterback Logan Smothers (Muscle Shoals) as pledges in the 2020 class while NU continues to recruit Bratton, Smothers’ teammate, and also Muscle Shoals safety Javar Strong, among others in the state. In 2019, the Huskers landed outside linebacker Jamin Graham (Attalla) and in 2018 they added defensive back Cam Taylor-Britt (Montgomery), who played in 10 games as a freshman and has been a regular starter this fall, and kicker Barret Pickering (Hoover).
Not surprisingly, NU had Taylor-Britt host Groce while Groce was on his official visit. The two played at high schools about 115 miles apart.
Taylor-Britt recently told reporters here that he likes the duty when it’s assigned to him.
“I tell all the recruits that, of course I want you to come here, but the coaches don’t tell me anything to say, I keep it real and genuine. That’s how I am,” Taylor-Britt said then, as he told a story about hosting now-freshman wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson. “I love hosting. You get to know the kids a lot and I love being around them.”
Groce is the latest to join the Huskers. He recently indicated on Twitter that he's on track to graduate in December, meaning he is likely a midyear enrollee who would arrive at NU in January.