Big Red Recon: Debriefing the 2020 Recruiting Cycle for Nebraska
Photo Credit: Ryan Loco

Big Red Recon: Debriefing the 2020 Recruiting Cycle for Nebraska

December 20, 2019

Well, that was fun for Husker fans, right?

There have been many moments in my time covering Nebraska that things appear to be going well on the recruiting trail, then at the last-minute things seem to flip for the Huskers. It then ends in a a lot of disappointment.

Everything pretty much went according to plan for Nebraska during the early signing period. The Huskers concluded a massive run of recruits to essentially put the 2020 group to rest. 

There is plenty to get into now that the early signing period is coming to an end. This has become a yearly tradition for me. I'll shed more light on some things that happened during the course of the recruiting cycle. 

Let’s get to the Recon. 

Husker Commits

Junior Aho‍, outside linebacker, Nice, France

Zavier Betts, wide receiver, Omaha, Nebraska

Marquis Black‍, defensive lineman, McDonough, Georgia

Alante Brown‍, wide receiver, Chicago, Illinois

Jimari Butler‍, outside linebacker, Mobile, Alabama

Alex Conn‍, offensive lineman, Derby, Kansas

Niko Cooper‍, outside linebacker, Memphis, Tennessee

Turner Corcoran‍, offensive lineman, Lawrence, Kansas

Ronald Delancy III‍, defensive back, Miami, Florida

Henry Gray‍, defensive back, Hollywood, Florida

Keyshawn Greene‍, linebacker, Crawfordville, Florida

Blaise Gunnerson‍, outside linebacker, Carroll, Iowa

Nash Hutmacher‍, defensive tackle, Chamberlain, South Dakota

Marcus Fleming‍, wide receiver, Miami, Florida

Jaiden Francois‍, defensive back, Homestead, Florida

Tamon Lynum‍, cornerback, Orlando, Florida

Omar Manning‍, wide receiver, Lancaster, Texas

Eteva Mauga-Clements‍, inside linebacker, Pleasant Hill, California

Sevion Morrison‍, running back, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Will Nixon‍, wide receiver, Waco, Texas

Pheldarius Payne‍, defensive end, Suffolk, Virginia

Jordon Riley‍, defensive lineman, Durham, North Carolina

Marvin Scott III‍, running back, Port Orange, Florida

Logan Smothers‍, quarterback, Athens, Alabama

2020 Needs

QB 0 DL 1
RB 0 ILB 0
WR 0 OLB 0
TE 0 DB 0
OL 0 K/P 0


The Recon:

>> Let’s get the Kaden Johnson scoop first. Throughout the entire cycle, Johnson was pretty quiet about his recruitment. It was widely speculated that while he liked Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Oregon State fine, he really wanted an LSU offer. The LSU offer was never coming. Minnesota—which he did visit multiple times this season—ultimately backed off in favor of guys that were fully invested in rowing the boat. At one-point Wisconsin had pulled back a bit. Nebraska stayed on him and here is where things get confusing.

From what I’m told about the Nebraska side of things, the Huskers became unhappy about Johnson’s slow-playing of the process. Nebraska’s spots were getting tight down the stretch and the Huskers needed to know what he was going to do. Also, there were questions about his overall athleticism. What I hear from the Johnson side of this is that they didn’t like how many junior college outside linebackers the Huskers were bringing in. They questioned Nebraska on if that changed the plan for Kaden and weren’t satisfied with the answer. 

The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle but for a recruitment that didn’t have much said publicly, there was a lot of drama behind the scenes. Ultimately, we will find out how his career plays out in Madison.

>> When JUCO inside linebacker Eteva Mauga-Clements came on the scene for Nebraska, a lot of fans were wondering why a guy with that little attention suddenly was getting the full-court press from Nebraska. They saw his offer list and didn’t get it. After watching his film, it didn’t make sense that he would not have more interest. He did have more interest though. Mauga-Clements’ coach told me that he had interest from a lot of the Pac-12 with offers from USC, UCLA, Utah and Oregon State. There was also SEC interest, mostly notably from LSU, which just didn’t have room for him in its class after the season it put together. 

>> The story of what went on with Jaiden Francois is now out there pretty widely but in case you haven’t seen it, let’s recap. The plan all along was for Francois to have the Miami hat on the table and stand up to reveal a Husker shirt underneath the other shirt he was wearing. He and his family were very happy with that. Then someone on the Miami side told him that Travis Fisher was leaving to go somewhere else after everyone was signed. That caused Francois (understandably so) to be very upset. He left the gym a couple of times talking to a number of people, including Coach Scott Frost and Fisher who had to reassure him that was false. He went through with his plan to pick Nebraska and will enroll at Nebraska in January.  This really speaks to the bond Fisher has with his guys.

>> The Huskers landed a handful of their top targets during this recruiting cycle. The biggest target of all was offensive tackle Turner Corcoran. Because of his talent and rating, he continued to get a lot of recruiting attention during the season even after he committed to the Huskers. In fact, Kansas State wanted to send coach Chris Klieman in home last week. Corcoran told him no and that he was solid with Nebraska. Kansas State sent him an NLI anyway. Ohio State also continued to pursue him throughout the cycle. Corcoran now joins the Huskers as the “cornerstone” of the class, according to Frost.

>> Remember when Logan Smothers committed to Nebraska and the Huskers were his only Power 5 offer? It certainly didn’t end that way. There were many, many schools after the longtime “cube” commit. The SEC, ACC and Pac-12 were all represented. So was the Big Ten. Ohio State recruited Smothers hard until the end, wanting him to take an official visit and flip to them. In the end Nebraska’s early relationship won out and Smothers couldn’t be happier to be a Husker. 

>> On the other side of flip pursuit, what happened with Jackson Bratton? The Alabama signee came out for an official visit for the Ohio State game and even talked about coming back for an unofficial visit to see Lincoln again. That second visit never happened but the Huskers gave it a great shot. Most assume that the Tide’s success was the big reason Bratton isn’t a Husker. While that didn’t help Nebraska, it really came down to how far from home Lincoln is. That combined with being a lifelong Tide fan hurt the Huskers. If you want an example working out for Nebraska, think about when Cam Jurgens took that official visit to LSU. His heart was always with Nebraska because he grew up loving the Huskers along with all of his family and friends. It is tough to walk away from that. 

>> The Huskers took a gamble when they moved on from JUCO linebacker Jamoi Hodge. They did so in the hopes of landing Keyshawn Greene. That confidence paid off and while it is the unfortunate side of recruiting, you make that trade every time if you are Nebraska. It also helped that they knew Mauga-Clements would be in too. 

>> It is unclear at this time if Nebraska will still have JUCO outside linebacker Junior Aho in the class. I think he is an intriguing athlete and could be a good addition to the team. Nebraska has two spots remaining this cycle with him in the fold. By Aho not signing until February and not having taken an official visit it gives Nebraska some flexibility there. Again, it’s the ugly side of recruiting but it has to be done to maximize the roster. 

>> Since Nebraska is mostly done with 2020 recruiting, expect a heavy focus on 2021 in January when the contact period opens back up on Jan. 17. Nebraska will host a Junior Day in January as well. With the strong 500-mile radius year that 2021 is, there may be some big names and priority targets on hand for that event. Nebraska already has a great start to the 2021 recruiting class and have several Husker leans for that cycle at this point in time.

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