Nebraska football, Matt Rhule land Texas 2023 tight end

It seemed like a surefire, no doubt that Texas 2023 tight end Ismael Smith Flores would wind up at Iowa. Instead, the Hawkeyes legacy is going to be a Husker. Smith Flores has committed to Nebraska.

The 6-foot-6, 210-pounder out of Arlington Martin High School is listed as a receiver on his recruiting profile, but he was recruited as a tight end by the Nebraska TE coach. Bob Wager and head coach Matt Rhule.

Smith Flores was coached by Wager at Arlington Martin, where Wager was the head coach for 17 seasons from 2006-22. That relationship helped fuel the Huskers’ recruitment of Smith Flores, who took an official visit to Lincoln over Jan. 21-22 weekend.

That visit served as the backdrop for Smith Flores to soon pick the Huskers, who have pulled off a surprising win over their rivals to the East.

Smith Flores’ parents, Leroy Smith and Laura Flores, both graduated from Iowa. Smith was a Hawkeyes football star who was inducted into the Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019. Smith still holds the Big Ten single-season sacks record (18) for his historic 1991 season and became an All-American defensive end.

Smith Flores’ godfather, Danan Hughes, was a teammate of Smith Flores’ father in Iowa City. Hughes was a star receiver who is still third on Iowa’s all-time receiving list (146 catches with 2,216 receiving yards), and his 21 receiving touchdowns is tied for second on the program’s all-time list.

So, the family connections are as strong as they could get. Iowa was also the first program to offer Smith Flores, coming into the mix in October. He wound up accumulating 10 total offers – including Nebraska, Michigan State, Rutgers, Indiana and Vanderbilt.

The Hawkeyes were the first offer. The Huskers were one of the last, doing so on Jan. 11, about 10 days before he scheduled his official visit to Nebraska.

And yet, Wager, Rhule and Co. were still able to pull out a recruiting win over Iowa and that host of schools – most notably Rutgers, where Smith Flores’ cousin, Deion Jennings, is a linebacker and where he took an official visit over Jan. 14-15 weekends.

How Smith Flores commitment impacts Nebraska

Smith Flores’ commitment is another data point that Wager is already making his presence felt in Lincoln as the Huskers restock the tight end position.

Nebraska already landed former LSU and Georgia TE transfer Arik Gilbert – a former five-star who was the No. 1-ranked tight end and No. 9-ranked overall player in the 2020 class – who is booming with potential and could be a major contributor for Nebraska if he settles some things he is dealing with off the field.

Wager is also making waves in Texas, where he was a head coach for more than two decades and finished with a 206-100-1 overall record across four different programs. Smith Flores is the latest brand of Wager’s influence.

Ian Flynt could be the next.

The four-star Flynt is the No. 10-ranked tight end in the 2024 class out of James E. Taylor (Texas) High School in Katy. The Huskers are surging for momentum with him, too, as he’s coming off an official visit to Lincoln in mid-January. They are battling with Kansas and now Purdue, which offered Flynt on Jan. 16.

Flynt’s father was on Nebraska’s track and field team in the 90s, and Flynt’s sister is currently in the Huskers’ track and field program. So the Huskers will be looking to do what Iowa could not with Smith-Flores – close on the recruitment of a legacy player.

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