Matchup nightmare. It’s a popular football term used to describe a pass catcher who is bigger than the smaller, quicker corner or safety guarding him, but faster than the bigger, heavier-footed linebacker who lines up across from him.
In Garrett Oakley’s case, it’s an accurate description.
At 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, Oakley possesses those matchup-nightmare qualities college football offenses look for. He’s taller than most defenders, therefore he wins jump balls. He can also run past whoever draws him in coverage — he’s clocked in at 4.61 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Oakley is a handful for opposing defenses to handle, and recruiters around the area agree. He’s been offered scholarships from Northern Illinois, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, North Dakota and South Dakota.
In early April, Oakley, who hauled in 31 catches for 455 yards and five touchdowns for Scotus last season as a junior, announced on Twitter that he committed to Northern Illinois. Huskies’ assistant coach Dan Jackson, who spent seven seasons as an assistant at Omaha Burke before coaching at South Dakota State, was an instrumental part to Oakley’s recruitment and still is.
“He’s from here and just has that Nebraska feel to him,” Oakley said of Jackson. “He knows what it’s like to grow up here so he reached out to me. Him and (assistant coach) Jake Menage, we’ve been on the phone probably weekly or every other week for the past couple months. We’re just continuing to build that relationship.”
Oakley was able to take a self-guided visit about a week or two before he committed. He got to chat with members of the coaching staff on FaceTime, including head coach Thomas Hammock. Oakley is a big fan of the coach, who will be in his third season at the helm of the Huskies.
“He’s a great guy and has great energy and leadership,” Oakley said of Hammock. “He’s building that program the right way and I like what he’s doing up there. I got along with all the coaches really well and they’ve done a great job recruiting me.”
Oakley, who finished his junior campaign with 578 total yards for the Class C-1 Shamrocks (4-5), got to see how the NIU staff would potentially use him in their offense. He was shown film of current NIU tight ends — Oakley liked what he saw.
“They’d flex me out and try to get mismatches with me,” Oakley said. “I just like how they’d use me and my speed and length and athleticism on the outside.”
Oakley didn’t just talk with the coaches, though. He got to pick the brains of current NIU players about what it’s like to play in the Mid-American Conference and what’s come to be known as #MACtion on social media.
“I just talked to them about their experience with NIU and how they like it, what their pros and cons were and things like that,” Oakley said.
Oakley has started both ways for Scotus since his freshman year and rarely comes off the field as he’s a special teams contributor as well. He’ll play receiver and tight end all four years while defensively, he was a corner for his first two seasons before moving to outside linebacker as a junior. Oakley racked up 62 total tackles and flashed his hands by grabbing four interceptions in 2020.
The name of the game this summer is to keep improving, Oakley said. He’s excited about the addition of a new strength and conditioning coach at Scotus, Ryan Baker, who he plans to work closely with while in Columbus.
“I’ll be working on my speed and just lifting every day and continuing to go to Warren Academy,” he said. “They do some really good things over there.”
Oakley, a three-star recruit according to 247Sports.com, is one of two Nebraskans in the 2022 class who are committed to NIU. The other is Millard South linebacker Jake Gassaway.