Are Priorities Shifting in Nebraska Recruiting?
Photo Credit: Greg Smith

Are Priorities Shifting in Nebraska Recruiting?

October 19, 2019

Things change in the recruiting world. Sometimes they change very quickly. Each cycle there is a plan for how your program wants to build the recruiting class. The amount of scholarships available can dictate the number of targets you can take. Your scholarship distribution and style of play lead the way for how many players to take at a certain position. 

Nebraska’s staff came into the job with ideas of how to build the roster. More speed was needed to run the attacking offensive and defensive schemes. As we have already seen, size is also needed. Tight ends coach Sean Beckton answered the question if he learned that he needed more size in this league back in March.

“Yeah, I think so,” Beckton said. “I know Coach [Scott] Frost said that we need bigger guys in the Big Ten but for me actually going through it for a season and seeing how big Ohio State was and how big Wisconsin was and Iowa too. Even Minnesota had some guys that were big up front. Northwestern did too. Michigan and Michigan State, all of those guys were huge up front. For me being a coach coming out of the South, I know SEC football is on the same level but to me Big Ten as far as size, they are bigger here than in the SEC as far as guys up front.”

Based on how the season has played out, what are some positions where priorities may have changed? Let’s take a look.

Wide receiver: Coming into the season I listed wide receiver as a co-No.1 need for this class with linebacker. The reason was I thought the Huskers needed more ready-made playmakers. That would help quarterback Adrian Martinez continue to take the next step. While that is still true, the Huskers need size at the position. It reminds me a lot of what Beckton said about his tight end group. Nebraska will face a lot of physical secondaries in this league. They need more receivers that can handle that. Also, the Huskers lack pass catchers who can win 50-50 balls. That would take some pressure off the quarterback as well. 

Kilgore Community College wide receiver Omar Manning (6-3, 215) is one of the top overall targets remaining. He took an official visit to Nebraska before the season and has not taken any others to this point. Nebraska is also hard at work to flip Georgia commit Justin Robinson. He stands at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. Don’t forget current commit Xavier Betts who stands at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds. Adding another bigger receiver or two with him would be huge for Nebraska. 

Linebacker: The 2019 season has exposed how much Nebraska needs to continue bolstering its linebacker corps. It’s easy to forget that a few regular rotation players were actually recruited for this style of defense. There are converted defensive ends and a safety in the group. One middle linebacker originally played middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense. Garrett Nelson converted to outside linebacker right away. Caleb Tannor could have played 4-3 defensive end elsewhere. He converted into an outside linebacker immediately. 

Because of that and the growing pains that come with it we have seen uneven play from the unit. The ability to read keys and quickly react can be taught by Barrett Ruud and Jovan Dewitt. More time in the defense can help that. What recruiting will have to take care of is improving the overall athleticism in the group. Teams are starting to take advantage of Nebraska’s second level in space. 

Nebraska has some athletic targets left on the board at linebacker. Kaden Johnson, the 4-star outside linebacker from Minneapolis is likely at the top of the group. After him Des Tisdol is a name to watch. Tisdol still needs to visit Lincoln and the Huskers hope to get that done. Choe Bryant-Strother is another player to watch. He took an official visit during the spring and the Huskers remaining in his top group. The Huskers will also continue talking with Alabama commit Jackson Bratton. They have to keep the door open for a potential flip. 

There is always the possibility that new names will pop up at both of these key positions too. Remember that we didn’t learn about players like Charles Njoku, Eugene Asante and others until later in the cycle.

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