Husker notes: Noa Pola-Gates, a four-star safety, makes late-night commitment to Huskers at Polynesian Bowl

Husker notes: Noa Pola-Gates, a four-star safety, makes late-night commitment to Huskers at Polynesian Bowl
Noa Pola-Gates chose the Huskers over offers from USC, Arizona State and Alabama, among others. MIKE SAUTTER/THE WORLD-HERALD

On a field more than 3,700 miles from his future college, Noa Pola-Gates finally made public the decision he had a full year to think about.

For Nebraska, it was all worth the wait.

A consensus four-star safety, Pola-Gates chose the Huskers during a televised announcement Saturday night at the Polynesian Bowl from Honolulu, Hawaii. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound prospect from Williams Field High School in Gilbert, Arizona, turned down finalists USC and Arizona State after trimming Alabama from his list last month.

Pola-Gates revealed his decision midway through the first quarter, donning the red hat with a white block ‘N’ held by his mother, Amy. What drew him to the Huskers?

“The fans and the coaching staff,” Pola-Gates said, “and how well-bonded they were.”

Nebraska officially introduced the safety on social media soon after the announcement, meaning Pola-Gates actually inked a National Letter of Intent during the early signing period in December. That means the Huskers signed 24 high school players last month and are up to 26 overall in the 2019 cycle with junior-college running back Dedrick Mills and graduate transfer defensive lineman Darrion Daniels.

Pola-Gates has the third-highest 247Sports composite ranking among Husker recruits behind receiver/running back Wandale Robinson and linebacker Nick Henrich. NU has as many as four more spots available in the class.

When Nebraska extended a scholarship to Pola-Gates on Jan. 17, 2018, the defender had just returned from the All-American Bowl combine and held offers from in-state schools Arizona and Arizona State, along with Memphis. He was among the first 20 players in the 2019 class NU coach Scott Frost and his staff offered.

Good fortune intervened for the Huskers in October. Pola-Gates decided to spend an official visit to Lincoln mainly to support his cousin, Keana Pola, who was on her own official visit as an NU softball recruit. But the hard-hitting safety prospect watched Nebraska and Frost get their first win against Minnesota, then hit it off with his future teammates playing video games late into the night.

Pola-Gates had plenty of other options to weigh too after taking visits to Penn State, Arizona State, Alabama and USC. The Trojans were particularly attractive — his cousin, Isaiah Pola-Mao, plays safety there while his uncle, Troy Polamalu, is a legend at the school.

Nebraska, though, closed strong. Coaches made a lasting impression during their in-home visit in December and didn’t pressure him to declare during the early signing period.

Pola-Gates was a two-way standout at Williams Field but dominated in the secondary across 12 games last fall. He recorded 57 tackles, five interceptions, seven pass deflections and a blocked field goal.

“The physicality that he has is what’s elevated him,” Williams Field coach Steve Campbell told The World-Herald this week. “He has the coverage skills and he’s long, but there’s a lot of guys like that. He has that combined with a love to hit and a love to tackle.”

He joins NU signees Quinton Newsome, Javin Wright and Myles Farmer in the secondary. He also becomes the third Arizona native to choose the Huskers in this cycle after defensive linemen Ty Robinson and Wright.

Pola-Gates’ cousin, Chandler (Arizona) D-lineman Matthew Pola-Mao, will take an official visit to Nebraska next weekend.

Former Husker running back Devine Ozigbo scores touchdown in East-West Shrine Game

Former Nebraska running back Devine Ozigbo ran for 14 yards and one touchdown Saturday in the East-West Shrine Game after what multiple analysts called a strong week of practices.

Ozigbo, who weighed in at 219 pounds, got just four carries and was the No. 3 running back for the West team, which won 21-17 over the East. Pittsburgh’s Darrin Hall — 12 carries, 77 yards — got the lion’s share of the work, while LSU’s Nick Brossette got the start and finished with five carries for 19 yards.

Ozigbo’s touchdown came in the second quarter, after the West had recovered a fumble. Ozigbo scored from 2 yards out. His longest run of the game — 11 yards — came on the West’s following drive, when Ozigbo took a draw play for a first down.

North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick, a graduate of Omaha Creighton Prep, completed 5 of 8 passes for 51 yards and a second-half touchdown. The game’s best passing performance came from Purdue’s David Blough, who threw for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

Ozigbo will now wait to see if he’s invited to the NFL combine — which starts Feb. 26 in Indianapolis — or tests for NFL scouts at NU’s pro day, which takes place the following week.

Other Nebraska-related notes:

» Former Husker quarterback Joe Dailey was named New Mexico’s offensive coordinator on Saturday. Dailey had previously worked at Liberty under former Husker assistant Turner Gill, who retired from coaching after the season. Dailey will work for head coach Bob Davie, who prefers an option-style offense that rushed for 350 yards per game during a 9-4 season in 2016. That average plummeted to 153 yards per game in 2018 as UNM finished its second straight 3-9 season.

» According to Football Scoop, Carl Pelini will become Youngstown State’s head coach after his brother, Bo, decides not to do it any longer. Hence, the older Pelini brother becomes a head-coach-in-waiting for the younger one, who was Nebraska’s head coach for seven seasons.

For the past two years, Carl Pelini was defensive coordinator for Bowling Green — and briefly interim head coach in 2018. While Carl was at BGSU, Youngstown State slumped to 4-7, the worst season in Bo Pelini’s head coaching career. Bo Pelini was openly disgusted with his own team in press conferences.

“It’s like they don’t even like to play the sport,” Bo Pelini said after YSU’s blowout loss to Indiana State. Later he said “maybe I was beamed down from another planet.”

Pelini receives his final severance payment from Nebraska in February 2019.

Riley Kinney, grandson of Jeff Kinney, to walk on at Nebraska

Nebraska’s latest walk-on is the grandson of a Husker legend.

Loveland (Colorado) quarterback Riley Kinney announced Saturday night on Twitter he’d committed to NU as an athlete/wide receiver. Riley’s grandfather, Jeff Kinney, was the running back on Nebraska’s 1971 National title team.

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Kinney was MVP of the Colorado 4A state title game, rushing for 116 yards and five touchdowns. His teammate, running back Zach Weinmaster, is also slated to walk on for the Huskers. 247 Sports rated Kinney as a high two-star. He had an offer from Northern Colorado according to the Loveland Reporter-Herald.

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