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McKewon: Danny Noonan dives into why son Maverick picked Nebraska over Stanford

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Elkhorn South edge rusher Maverick Noonan, son of former Husker Danny Noonan, has committed to Nebraska football.  

LINCOLN — Danny Noonan enjoyed an evening by the pool Friday as he celebrated the commitment of his son Maverick to Nebraska football.

It’d been a long, fun day for the family, traveling to Memorial Stadium for a chat with coach Scott Frost, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander and defensive line coach Mike Dawson.

Frost figured the news was good — who delivers a "sorry, coach" in person? — but Danny noted the volume of the coaches’ reaction.

The Huskers worked hard to land the edge rusher from Elkhorn South. Frost told the Noonans he’d never talked more to a prospect than Maverick, who plays a position of need and value to every college football program.

“I don’t think they could have done anything better than what they did,” Danny said of the coaching trio. “Every move they made, everything that they showed us, every visit we had was spot on. And I didn’t say anything to Maverick.”

What the Husker All-America lineman did for his son is take him on visits the past year-and-a-half. Notre Dame. Iowa. Minnesota. Vanderbilt. Stanford. Ten in all, Danny estimated.

Let the kid see what he wants, take it in, then ask Dad questions. Only then would Danny tip his hand much.

Stanford, for example, was a finalist.

There’s a lot to like about the Cardinal. Accomplished coach. Great academics. The weather — if you’ve been to Palo Alto in late December, you know.

And if a player wants it, Stanford offers relative anonymity.

“It seemed like Stanford and Nebraska were on two opposite ends of the spectrum,” Danny said. “Stanford, Maverick would have been another student. He wouldn’t have been recognized as a football player out there.

"Nebraska, everywhere he goes, everything he says, somebody’s going to know it, somebody’s going to post it, whether it’s good or bad. That’s part of what Nebraska football is. Nebraska fans are great, very involved, very enthusiastic.”

And Nebraska football is this, too: That night game last season against Northwestern. The buzz in Memorial Stadium for what was, at the time, a 2-3 team.

“One of the things you’ll miss at Stanford is you won’t have that pregame excitement where you can hear the fans yelling and screaming,” Danny said. “The place is rocking, and you get that adrenaline rush. You won’t get that at Stanford. You’ll maybe get 30,000 to 40,000 people, if that.”

If Maverick wanted the electricity, he knew which of the two programs to pick.

He already eliminated Vanderbilt and Minnesota from his top group, and by June, he’d chosen not to visit Iowa. Nebraska and Stanford — which landed one of Maverick’s mentors, Harrison Phillips — made their best pitches.

The Huskers won.

In his chat with The World-Herald, Maverick mentioned the coaches, but first noted Dave Ellis, NU’s director of performance nutrition, and head strength coach Zach Duval. Danny played at Nebraska when Ellis was getting his degree from the school. And when Danny worked inside the Husker strength program, Zach was a GA and assistant strength coach.

“They’re both at the top of their field,” Danny said. “No other place in the country can boast the expertise those guys have. We’ve been to eight, nine, 10 places in a year-and-a-half, and you look at the places and you’re like ‘is this it?’ Either the facilities were lacking or the person in those positions were not at the top of their game.”

Don’t underestimate Maverick’s addition.

Yes, he’s a local kid and Husker legacy, but 6-foot-4, 235-pound pass rushers are hard to land wherever they live. And had he not picked NU, it would have represented the biggest in-state recruiting miss of the Frost era.

Instead, he could be Frost’s biggest in-state get — though coaxing Luke Reimer to join NU as a walk-on remains impressive — and an opportunity for Maverick to follow in Danny’s shoes.

“He sometimes gets a little irritated when people ask about me — ‘Oh, are you going to follow Dad?’ things like that — but he’s used to it,” Danny said. “He’s got a laid-back demeanor. I have no doubt he’s going to create his own path.

“He’s a much different player. I was a bull rush guy, inside guy, and he’s a thoroughbred, born to rush the passer, and I wish I could say I taught him that, but I didn’t. He learned that on his own. He’s a great athlete, and he’ll be a great edge player.”

More quick takes as we roll into the heart of summer:

Offensive line concerns persist

Twitter polls don’t tell you everything, but after 1,000 votes for a question I posed to followers Sunday, fans’ biggest concern is the offensive line. By a wide margin — the O-line got 82% while special teams, in second place, had 9%.

Two months out from Ireland, you’d far prefer NU had the seasoned line it enjoyed in, say 2020, than the talented but largely unproven group it has at the moment.

Nouredin Nouili’s seasonlong suspension for a failed drug test makes things more difficult for coach Donovan Raiola. Since Nouili tested positive this spring, his absence won’t function like a fluke, unforeseen injury in late June. Nebraska has known this was coming, declining to appeal the NCAA’s ruling.

NU has options to replace Nouili. Ethan Piper. Kevin Williams. Trent Hixson — presuming Raiola moves someone else to center.

The cupboard isn’t empty, and sometimes, a line’s chemistry lines up right and quickly hits on all cylinders.

Take the 2011 offensive line that featured a couple of former walk-ons (Seung Hoon Choi and Spencer Long) at both guards, walk-on Mike Caputo at center, a junior college left tackle in Jermarcus Hardrick and Marcel Jones at right tackle. That group churned out good wins over Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa and allowed 21 sacks.

Not the most talented line, but those Huskers were effective.

Can Raiola — who lacks the experience of the 2011 offensive line coach Barney Cotton — get five to move as one? He’ll have a month of camp and three games to iron out the wrinkles, since Northwestern, North Dakota and Georgia Southern are likely to represent some of the weakest defensive fronts NU will face all season.

Had Turner Corcoran been healthy this spring, would he have moved to center? Perhaps. Nouili’s absence allows Nebraska to move Hixson from center to left guard and Corcoran to center, keep Bryce Benhart at right tackle. Is that the play?

Benhart looked better in the spring game, and has been a two-year starter at tackle.

Honesty best for Nouili 

Kudos to Nouili for owning his situation. That takes guts in a quick-to-judge culture.

Nouili has NFL potential, and his honesty will be on the scouting profile, so to speak. Nouili also did Frost the favor of not having to talk around the issue with vague hints.

Blackshirts should plan to carry team, again 

You know what? Nebraska’s defense better plan on being really good again.

As good — and perhaps better — than last year. Like allowing 21 points or fewer per game kind of good — which would have been good for sixth in the Big Ten.

The Blackshirts need a break, in the form of some under-the-radar defender becoming an unexpected, pleasant surprise in 2022. Isaac Gifford. Marques Buford. Jimari Butler. Someone.

Chinander’s defense would benefit from a more efficient offense and functional special teams. But the Blackshirts should plan on carrying the team, again, in 2022.

Hoiberg, hoops prediction 

Prediction: There isn’t a NBA draft pick on the Nebraska's team — and the program will be better over the next two seasons than it was in either of the past two, when NU won seven and 10 games, respectively, with second-round talents.

A second prediction is embedded in the first: That Fred Hoiberg is here at least two more seasons. The program will reach a medium Collier temperature in 2022-2023, and in the season after, we’ll see.

The Big Ten will be down this upcoming season and, yes, context matters. Hoiberg’s last two teams caught the misfortune of playing the league at its strongest. Tim Miles’ 22-win team in 2017-2018 played in a four-bid league. Hoiberg’s last two teams played in nine-bid leagues.

The league will be closer to 2017-2018 than 2021-2022, and it’ll make a difference.

Big get for Husker women 

Pay closer attention to a prospect’s offer list — and among those offers, which schools are really interested — over a prospect’s star ranking.

So when Nebraska women’s basketball lands 2023 recruit Natalie Potts, who strongly considered Creighton and Gonzaga, take note. CU and GU recruit smart, versatile players who can move, pass, shoot and win in the NCAA tournament. Both teams have given the Huskers trouble.

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