Monday, February 16, 2004

Linebacker picks KU late


Joe Mortensen hopes Nebraska's football coaches someday will regret not signing him to a national letter of intent when they had the chance.

Mortensen, an all-state linebacker from Concord, Calif., will have the next four years to create some Cornhusker contrition after signing Saturday with Kansas University following a campus recruiting visit.

Mortensen was the MVP of Nebraska's camp last summer and was the top linebacker prospect at Nike's camp at Stanford. Nebraska coach Frank Solich offered the Clayton Valley High standout a scholarship, but Solich later was fired and was replaced by former Oakland Raider coach Bill Callahan.

Mortensen said the new staff still wanted him, but the Cornhuskers didn't follow through on signing day.

"They backed out and told me they didn't have room for me," Mortensen said Sunday night. "I was really (mad) when that happened. We're playing them this year, and you better believe I'll be ready for that game. They were probably using me as a backup, but I'm happy with where I am now."

Mortensen said he also received scholarship offers from Washington, UNLV, California, San Jose State, San Diego State and Colorado State during his senior season, but by the time Nebraska passed on the 6-foot-2, 235-pounder, those schools had moved on to other prospects.

Kansas, meanwhile, had an oral commitment from Miami Edison's Brouce Mompremier, but the linebacker signed a letter of intent with South Florida instead of KU.

"I really wanted to play in the Big 12," Mortensen said. "I heard a linebacker decommited from Kansas, so I sent them a videotape."

Mortensen, who said he already had met NCAA initial-eligibility requirements, toured KU Thursday and Friday and signed his letter after returning home Saturday.

"It's a big relief," said Mortensen, who had a school-record 171 tackles, 13 sacks, two interceptions and four forced fumbles last season. "It's been a very stressful process. I was lucky to get picked up by a good program like Kansas."

KU announced an 18-man recruiting class Feb. 4, and KU coach Mark Mangino said it was likely the Jayhawks would use a few of their seven remaining scholarships for late signees, while others could go to non-scholarship players already in the program.

One other possibility for Kansas could be defensive lineman Scott Stephenson, who recently was granted his release from Minnesota.

Stephenson told he had been contacted by Kansas, Vanderbilt, Kansas State, Iowa State and Nebraska.

KU strength and conditioning coach Chris Dawson previously worked at Minnesota, a factor that helped the Jayhawks land former Gopher defensive end and Minnesota West Community College transfer Charlton Keith on signing day.

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