LINCOLN — Kamryn Babb catches a pass, and on film, it sometimes looks as if he’s on one of those embedded treadmills that dancers use in music videos.
He slides and hops around defenders, who swipe fruitlessly at him as he navigates the field after the catch. The phrase “YAC yardage” was made for him.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Babb — who missed five games because of injury and still caught 45 passes for 784 yards — is the kind of prospect you usually find in Texas or California: a top-100 recruit on the cusp of being a five-star talent.
But he plays at St. Louis Christian Brothers College High School. According to 247Sports, he’s rated the best of a bumper crop of prospects in Missouri.
“Sometimes you think Kamryn’s too good to be true,” said Christian Brothers coach Scott Pingel, who sent Husker running back Tre Bryant to Nebraska in 2016 from Christian Brothers.
The same might be said for the Missouri 2018 prospects. In his signing day press conference, coach Mike Riley made a point of mentioning NU’s need to win more recruiting battles in the 500-mile radius.
He then zeroed in on Missouri.
“I want to make sure that every guy who might be a prospect in Kansas City is on our campus in a couple of months,” Riley said. “Same thing with St. Louis. I think we can do better there. There’s lots of athletes. I think we can find the right guy for Nebraska.”
Jeremy Crabtree has been covering college football recruiting — especially in the Midwest — since the business started booming two decades ago. Now an ESPN senior writer, he has seen talent pools ebb and flow in the region.
For the state of Missouri, he said this is the deepest group he’s seen. And St. Louis is especially flush with talent.
“I fully expect St. Louis will see some schools come through you haven’t seen before,” Crabtree said.
Pingel, who has been coaching in St. Louis for several years, agreed that it’s a strong bunch.
The 2018 class in Missouri is rich in two areas — wide receiver and defensive line.
Among the defensive linemen, St. Louis has two top-100 defensive tackles — St. Louis Chaminade’s Trevor Trout and Parkway North’s Michael Thompson — who have scholarship offers from Nebraska. Both are prototypically sized — Thompson is 6-4, 275, while Trout is 6-3, 295 — and have had good production. Pingel, whose team faced Chaminade, called Trout “a load.”
Other defensive line prospects in the state include Blue Springs defensive end Daniel Parker, who attended one of Nebraska’s summer camps and comes from the same high school that produced current Huskers Carlos and Khalil Davis. Parker was briefly committed to Missouri before backing off that decision; the Tigers, Iowa, NU, Kansas State and Notre Dame have shown the most interest, among other schools. Two other high-level defensive ends — St. Louis Lutheran North’s Ronnie Perkins and Independence William Chrisman’s Daniel Carson — do not have Husker offers, according to Rivals.
At wideout, Nebraska is pursuing two receivers at Christian Brothers: Babb and Cameron Brown, a 6-foot-1, 175 pound player who Pingel said is more of a speed receiver.
“He gets to the second level on routes and he’s hard to run down,” Pingel said.
Another skill player high on the Huskers’ wish list: Mario Goodrich, who played wide receiver, defensive back and kick returner for Lee’s Summit West High School. Goodrich has offers from the area programs — Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Iowa, among others.
Babb, along with Trout and Thompson, is getting the national attention.
“If there’s a ball for Kamryn to go get, it’s his,” Pingel said.
Nebraska will likely be in a showdown with home-state Missouri — which has poured significant resources into recruiting Brown and Babb — and Ohio State.
Yes, another Husker-Buckeye recruiting tilt. NU beat Ohio State for Tyjon Lindsey in the 2017 cycle, though Lindsey spent many months committed to the Buckeyes.
But OSU has some cachet in the state of Missouri thanks to Ezekiel Elliott, the St. Louis native who signed with Ohio State over Missouri and carved out an illustrious three-year career at Ohio State.
Pingel said he’s seen Nebraska and Ohio State already recruit Babb pretty fiercely. And the player is worth it, too. Pingel, who caught an NCAA record 436 career passes at Division III Westminster College, would know.
“I love talking to him about the finer details,” Pingel said.