This weekend just past was one of two left before National Signing Day and the Huskers made the most of it, landing a verbal commit on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
First there was Nick Gates, the top offensive line target left on Nebraska’s board. On Saturday, New Orleans, La. wide receiver Glenn Irons committed during his official visit, giving the Huskers a trio of players in this class from powerful Edna Karr High School. And late Sunday represented a 4-star bookend to the weekend when running back Mikale Wilbon announced his decision to attend Nebraska in the manner customary for the time:
— Mikale Wilbon (MW5) (@BornReady5_ATG) January 27, 2014
That prompted wide receivers coach Rich Fisher to respond thusly:
Lets keep the fireworks going….#boom
— Coach Rich Fisher (@rfisher88) January 27, 2014
Wilbon, ranked as one of the 20 best backs in the country, was also one of the top targets left for the Huskers. Originally committed to Vanderbilt, Nebraska swooped in when coach James Franklin left for Penn State and picked up a pretty good player at a position where it only had one player committed. Wilbon was supposed to announce his decision on Signing Day, but may have been feeling the pressure as Nebraska hosted Texas running back Corey Avery over the weekend. It’s doubtful the Huskers would take both of them in this class.
Question Nebraska’s late charge recruiting strategy if you want. It’s certainly somewhat risky, but it seems to have worked thus far for the Huskers. Nebraska just landed two 4-star prospects two weeks before signing day and this isn’t unusual. If you count guys who announced their decision on Signing Day — and there’s a decent argument not to count those guys, but we will here — the Huskers have landed some pretty significant contributors (and presumed contributors) in the last month of the recruiting calendar.
Here’s a partial list: Matt Finnin (top JUCO player in 2013), Terrell Newby, Maliek Collins, Cethan Carter, Avery Moss, Imani Cross, Aaron Curry, Vincent Valentine, Ameer Abdullah, Kenny Bell and Corey Cooper.
Back on the Plains
For a variety of reasons, I’ve been having particularly strong pangs of Big 8/12 nostalgia of late. I’ve written about this before but to quickly recap, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Big Ten move while completely understanding why Nebraska made the switch. The pros were obvious and plentiful. The cons, not so much, but it felt strange to make such a significant change because some felt spurned by the Big 12. That seemed a bit reactionary and I always maintained that Nebraska had very little in common with the massive universities of the upper-midwest like Ohio State, Wisconsin or Michigan. The plains schools? Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa State? Those were Nebraska’s kin.
But they’re not anymore and, occasionally, that still makes me a little sad. Thus it was a surprise to see Oklahoma columnist Berry Trammel devote an entire column to mulling the Huskers’ move. Over the years since the conference switch, Trammel has written that if Oklahoma wasn’t so quick to put the OU-NU rivalry game on the back burner, the Huskers may never have left. It’s an interesting hypothetical to consider.
I agree with much of what Trammel writes here, minus one point:
Oh, I don’t think there’s any doubt that Tom Osborne led the way in Nebraska leaving. He never liked the Big 12. Some say he wanted to go back to the Big Six. But what’s done is done. Does Nebraska have regrets? I’m sure it’s mixed. Football, I would guess, would prefer to be back in the Big 12 North, a division Nebraska could conceivably have dominated just by getting its program back in good shape. Nebraska brass? Probably loved the Big Ten, though the AAU thing might give pause. Nebraska fans? No doubt split, but I’d be guessing more regret than not, because fans love tradition and rivalries. But those were slowly disappearing anyway.
Which point? The one about the Big 12 North. That one was true through 2013, but with the East-West split coming up Nebraska’s in a pretty similar spot starting this year. You have to look long term here to get a sense of expectations and pecking order, but is the Big Ten West so different from the Big 12 North? Nebraska’s still the most successful program in both groups. The next program in either division in terms of all-time winning percentage is Colorado (29th). Then there’s Wisconsin (39th) followed by Minnesota (40th), Missouri (54th), Iowa (60th), Illinois (69th), Kansas (81st), Iowa State (94th), Kansas State (97th), Northwestern (101st), and Indiana (105th).
Like traffic merging from two lanes to one, that’s feels like a pretty equal zipper effect between the old Big 12 North and the new Big Ten West. Of course, there’s still that matter of Nebraska “getting its program back in good shape.”
The Grab Bag
In case you missed it, we’ve got photos and a column by Grant Muessel from the Huskers win over Minnesota yesterday. … Ahman Green on the “Great White Way?” It’s happening this weekend. … An interview with Jeremiah Sirles on his all-star game experience and chasing an NFL roster spot. … Of the non-AQ conferences, the Sun Belt took home the most BCS money this year. … Penn State gets a highly-touted wide receiver to flip from Rutgers. Let the northeast recruiting battles begin.