LINCOLN — Tight windows. Passers have to throw into them — and Daniel Kaelin had to decide, this week, whether exit one recruiting class and join another. Quarterbacks are often the face of a team’s recruiting efforts, so it was no small choice.
The 2024 Bellevue West signal caller ultimately reverted to what he knew about the state he grew up in and what he liked about the new coaches at the state school. That pointed the 6-foot-3, 205-pound prospect away from Missouri and toward Nebraska.
In the Alumni Center on NU’s campus, the Victory Bell for the teams’ former rivalry resides. Husker coaches could have given it a ceremonial clang Saturday.
"Nebraska is a strong program, and I’ve grown up here around this fan base — going to youth camps, going to games — and I’ve dreamt of playing in a Husker jersey ever since I moved to Nebraska and started playing football," Kaelin said Saturday morning before he announced his commit. He told NU coaches the good news on Thursday.
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"A big piece of that is, I just know what this program means to this state. To have the opportunity to play for this program and the ability to stay home — with my friends and my support system — is big. And I love this staff, and I love the direction of the program."
Specifically, he likes coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield. NU’s new pro-oriented offense “fits my play style,” Kaelin said.
“Coach Satterfield was at South Carolina last year with Spencer Rattler,” Kaelin said. “And he compares my play style to that.”
Kaelin had a prolific season inside at Bellevue West, throwing for 3,186 yards and 36 touchdowns. He had talented receivers — including Dae’vonn Hall and Isaiah McMorris — but Kaelin’s ability to deliver short and long passes attracted more than double digit offers across the last two years. Colorado, North Carolina, Michigan State and Missouri were among the teams intrigued. So was Nebraska.
But Rhule — in a no-brainer decision — had to hotly pursue Dylan Raiola, the five-star quarterback whose dad, Dominic, played at NU and whose uncle, Donovan, coaches the offensive line. For a brief moment, in March, it appeared the Huskers had a real shot of landing Dylan. It was then Kaelin committed to Missouri.
Raiola ultimately preferred Georgia and committed there on Monday. That opened the door for Nebraska, and Kaelin.
“I’d definitely gave it some thought,” Kaelin said. “Because the relationship was never fully shut off. There was a little bit of time when I committed and things with Dylan picked up, but I was the first person Coach Rhule got in contact with when he got to Nebraska. And since then he’s told me what he thinks of me as a player and how much he wants to coach me and be a Husker.
“I liked him a lot before I committed (to Missouri.) And then recently, it’s come to this decision.”
Kaelin becomes the anchor prospect in a Nebraska 2024 class that lacked a signature signal caller.
NU now has that — and Kaelin may come with friends. That'd be Thunderbird wide receivers Hall and McMorris, two blue-chip pass-catchers who are scheduled to visit Nebraska in late June.
“I’m going to be on those guys — I’ve been hitting them up,” Kaelin said of the Bellevue West duo. “That’s going to be a big piece for us. As a quarterback, you’ve got to have guys around you to help you be successful. I want to get as much talent as possible. Especially in Nebraska, them being in-state guys we’re trying to go after, I think that’ll definitely help on the recruiting front.”
Kaelin got his scholarship offer nearly two years ago from then-quarterback coach Mario Verduzco. Since then, he’s seen a ton of schools, taken the starting reins at Bellevue West, and watched Nebraska cycle through a couple offensive coordinators and a head coach.
But he likes where he landed — with a new staff, a new offense and a strong relationship with the head coach.
“He probably had a sense there was a good possibility I would commit,” Kaelin said of Rhule. “When I finally told him, he was really excited.”