Friday Night Notes: Mark Whipple and Nebraska's rise, Notre Dame disrupts Michigan lineage, squatting 595, plus more

USA TODAY High School Sports‘ Friday Night Notes is a weekly high school football recruiting recap that looks at the latest news from around the country—from the Class of 2022 to ’23 and beyond.

Look back 30 years ago in the college football world, and you’ll see that part of the battle for supremacy included the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Tommy Frazier, Ahman Green and Lawrence Phillips. Osborne is at the helm. A slew of defensive standouts, Ed Stewart and the Blackshirt dynasties. The overall product made the Cornhuskers a powerhouse contender and a recruiting mecca for high school football’s best year after year.

And though Nebraska has had success since then, nothing has matched the overall dynamics of the stretch back in the 1990s.

Instead, it’s been more of a spiral toward a gray area among college football teams, where coaching woes and atypical records have been more of the norm in Lincoln. From an outsider’s eye, those shortcomings had left the fans, alumni and boosters—one and the same—hoping for a resurgence, for the trend to shift back to when Nebraska ruled. 

And with that, we arrive at a point in time when the 2020s are the new 1990s for Nebraska football.

Where, overall, things… things don’t seem so meh.

While head coach Scott Frost’s latest haul isn’t a 5-star bonanza, there is something notable about landing top in-state recruits. (They aren’t leaving the state? Check.) Casey Thompson and Chubba Purdy highlight a transfer portal group that only adds to the upgrades for 2022 and beyond. 

Surprising? To me, yes. Very much so. And give credit to Mark Whipple, who kicks off Year One as offensive coordinator, for much of that. The former Pitt OC has been around the recruiting game for decades, including the years when Nebraska was tops. So he knows what it takes.

He also knows that recruiting is simply a teaser for the larger work ahead.

“Recruiting, no question, is really, really important,” Whipple told 247Sports. “But a lot of it still has to do with development and the coaching culture.”

Here’s more from the notebook…

Notre Dame lands a Carr

(USA TODAY Network)

As in Lloyd Carr’s grandson, CJ. The 6-foot-2.5 slinger announced that Notre Dame was the “right spot” for him, leaving behind a Wolverines bloodline that also includes his father, Jason.

Not a huge deal, right? (I’ll allow Michigan fans to fib here, no judgment.)

Speaking of retro, early 1990s flare, the recruiting classes the Fighting Irish are displaying for 2023 and now 2024, are impressive.

Read the full story on Carr here.

More than one elite 2023 safety for the Gators?

(USA TODAY Network)

The SEC offenses aren’t downgrading anytime soon, so when the opportunity comes along to land a top defensive prospect, you have to strike (or chomp in this case).

Four-star safety Joenel Aguero listed the Florida Gators as one of four schools he’s considering. Aguero is ranked second among safeties in the class of 2023, so landing the talented defender would be a major plus for new coach Patrick Toney.

Keeping him out of Georgia—another program Aguero is considering—would be a plus-PLUS.

Having him in the same secondary class as five-star AJ Harris (who is set to visit Gainesville June 17)? PLUS-PLUS-PLUS!

Wait. How much did Chase Bisontis squat?

(USA TODAY Network)

My knees ached just reading the answer: 595 pounds.

To put that lift into perspective, the four-star offensive lineman from Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) squatted a quarter-ton. Nearly four Nick Sabans. That’s epic.

If that power continues to grow at the college level, then look out!

And where will that college be? Bisontis has a few interesting teams marked as potential landing spots, with an official visit to Rutgers on the calendar this weekend. Texas A&MGeorgiaLSU and Michigan State are also on the list.

Read how Bisontis’ herculean rep ranks among the mere mortals in the weight room here.

Welcome to Michigan State. Welcome to Michigan State. Welcome to Michigan State. Hello, welcome. Hi there! Etc.

(USA TODAY Network)

It’s so early in the 2023 recruiting cycle, but you can’t overlook what’s happing at Michigan State. Head coach Mel Tucker and the Spartans have commitments from eight recruits so far, including four-star wideout Demitrius Bell out of Blackman (Murfreesboro, Tenn.). And the team hosts 11 four-star prospects this weekend—11!—plus five-star OT Samson Okunlola.

Read more about Michigan State’s 2023 haul here.

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