If you approached Justin Larmond three months ago and told him that Caleb Tannor, the 4-star outside linebacker who played for Larmond at Miller Grove (Ga.) High School, would sign with Nebraska on National Signing Day, he would have called you a liar.
Funny how things change.
“I would’ve said no way,” Larmond told Land of 10. “That’s just the bottom line. It’s still not really a surprise, because I knew from the minute he visited, in my opinion, [it was] the No. 1 spot for him. Still, after the fact, it’s like, ‘Wow, he’s going to Nebraska.’ ”
Just how did Nebraska win the recruiting race for the nation’s No. 19 weak-side defensive end, per the 247Sports composite?
It all started with timing, Larmond said.
“When he de-committed from Georgia, there was pretty much no one in the race,” Larmond said. “Everybody had moved on. Ole Miss and Nebraska were the first ones to jump back in the water.”
Tannor de-committed from Georgia on Nov. 13. Nebraska offered him on Dec. 28. The work began immediately, trying to convince Tannor and his mother, Felicia, to take a visit to Nebraska. That took place Jan. 12-14. The next weekend, he checked out Florida. It soon turned into a Nebraska-Florida race, Larmond said.
Many recruiting analysts had Tannor pegged for Auburn following his de-commitment from Georgia. Tannor took an official visit to Auburn the weekend of Jan. 26, but he clearly took the Tigers out of contention. Some thought this may have been Auburn’s doing, but Larmond reiterated that Tannor called his own shots.
Larmond had been high on Scott Frost and the rest of the coaching staff even prior to Tannor’s visit. Once he and the Tannors developed a deeper relationship with the coaches, that appreciation took hold. Frost’s decision to coach UCF in the Peach Bowl — a 34-27 win over Auburn, ironically enough — was a huge sign that this group of men were sincere, Larmond said, and was the primary reason Tannor decided to take his first official visit with the Huskers. Felicia Tannor was sold on Nebraska after the official visit, Larmond said.
Tight ends coach Sean Beckton visited with Tannor every week from mid-January until the final recruiting weekend. Beckton, the Huskers’ area recruiter for Georgia, departed UCF, his alma mater and employer, to follow Frost to Nebraska. Once again, Larmond and Tannor saw that as a key sign.
“That was a huge testament for what they’re doing and for who [Beckton] is,” Larmond said. “We talked about that, Caleb and I. Stability is a big thing for us.”
Beckton wasn’t alone in recruiting Tannor. Outside linebackers and special teams coach Jovan Dewitt went to Georgia a couple times, as did inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud. Secondary coach Travis Fisher also made an appearance. Frost was present as well, and the story of the coach helping Felicia Tannor clean up at the school cafeteria where she works has made its own headlines.
The way the coaches’ personalities complemented each other was attractive, Larmond said.
“They all have their own individual lane,” Larmond said. “They all have their own mentality. They all have a piece of the puzzle.”
Most of all, landing Tannor would not have been possible if Nebraska had not presented a plan that he could get behind. The coaches crushed the presentation, Larmond said, even showing clips from the Auburn-UCF game.
“I think what got Nebraska over the hump was how they were going to use him,” he said.
Think of former UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin as a comparison for how the staff wants to utilize Tannor.
Tannor will have the chance to play right away. At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, he may need to bulk up between now and training camp. Larmond said that time period will determine whether he will see the field his freshman season.
“He needs to get bigger and stronger.,” Larmond said. “He’s gotta commit himself. Being a two-sport player, he’s played basketball, he’s never had a true offseason.”
Larmond added that Tannor needs to maximize his potential in speed and agility and must improve as a student of the game, since he will now be competing against top competition and won’t be able to rely on talent alone.
The majority of those future opponents will be Big Ten teams, not SEC squads, the conference in which many felt Tannor would play.
“I’m very positive that he really made the right decision,” Larmond said. “Everything just lined up perfectly.”