The letters from commits-turned-signees started rolling through before some of us even woke up. As early signing day opened, Nebraska signed 19 kids from its Class of 2021. Once the fax machine cooled off and the coffee jitters settled, Husker head coach Scott Frost met with the media to talk about the group, how it came together, and a bunch of other stuff.
Here’s all of it in one nice, tidy place:
>> You have to start off by giving props to the recruiting team that helped make everything possible. Frost did just that. This year, with COVID-19 forcing a dead period that has spanned months and months and months, Nebraska hasn’t been able to host visits, it hasn’t been able to show off the gameday atmosphere (a major selling point) and it hasn’t even been able to put coach and recruit in the same room in some instances.
And yet, Nebraska signed another top-25 class according to 247Sports.
“I’m really impressed with the work our staff did, considering the fact we couldn’t go on the road recruiting, we couldn’t get kids to come here,” Frost said. “I think we signed a really good class, a lot of pieces that are going to fit together with what we have. I think it’s going to be the key to getting us over the top.
“One of the biggest selling points in coming to Nebraska if you’re a player, especially far away, is coming and seeing the games and seeing the fans and meeting the people and experiencing all that. The guys had to work hard to get it done without the benefit of those things.”
Credit goes, Frost says, to his Director and Assistant Director of Player Personnel, Sean Dillion and Ryan Callaghan, his Director of Football & Recruiting Admin, Trent Mossbrucker, his Director of High School Relations, Kenny Wilhite, and the whole team over in the Husker creative department, led by Orah Garst, who helped set up virtual visits and create social content that went around the class and the period.
Maybe they learned some new tricks that will stick around even after the social-distancing rules of the COVID era fade. Maybe the distance simplified things from an evaluation standpoint. (Frost did call this more of a regional group; the 500-mile radius played a big, big role in the ’21 group.)
“I still feel like I know them all really well, but there’s several I’ve never been in the same room with,” Frost said. He likely won’t miss that aspect of the cycle.
>> What bonds this group? They’re all in a group chat and they all profess to being rather tight with one another. What kept it together despite the forced distancing?
“I think their bond in talking to each other and their determination to turn Nebraska into a winner probably held the class together really well,” Frost said.
>> Frost says roster management is “kind of a moving target right now” as Nebraska tries to get clarity on scholarship limits moving forward and seniors who wish to return for another year, but he doesn’t expect Wednesday to cap the class.
“I do expect to add at least one, probably more than that by February,” he said. “We always like to keep a spot or two in our back pocket in case a special player turns up that we might be able to get to add to the team at a position of need. Love the group we have, I don’t expect that we’re done.”
>> Let’s just go down the line of guys Frost directly talked about. We’ll start with 3-star quarterback Heinrich Haarberg (6-foot-6, 200 pounds).
“Been impressed with him since the first time I watched him,” Frost said of the Kearney Catholic passer. “Love his size, love his arm strength, his overall athletic ability. I think with some training he has a chance to be a really, really good quarterback for us. We’ve got to add him to that group and get to work with him.”
“Really like talking to him. He’s committed to being good and determined and I think he’s got a ton of raw material to work with to make him a good player.”
>> Next, we’ll move to the running back spot. Nebraska took one this cycle after two last year. Depending on what senior Dedrick Mills chooses to do, Nebraska could have a running back room next year that feature five players and five freshmen in the eyes of the NCAA.
Gabe Ervin, a 6-foot, 200-pound runner from Buford, Georgia, is the newest.
“He can do everything that we need a running back to do,” Frost said. “He’s big enough to run physical, he’s fast enough to potentially give us some more big plays, he catches the ball out of the backfield. His senior tape was really good. His junior tape was really good but his senior tape I was super impressed with.”
>> How about the pass-catchers now? Nebraska signed three wide receivers and three tight ends this cycle.
On 3-star Texas native Latrell Neville, Frost said: “Latrell and I have really bonded. He’s a great kid to talk to. He and I have several acquaintances, kids that I’ve coached from down in Houston … that know him and talked to him about their experience with our staff and Coach Lubick and I. He’s still playing and I think he has a chance to be special.”
On 3-star Georgia product Shawn Hardy, Frost said: “When you talk to him, he’s not just a great athlete and football player, he’s a brilliant kid. I was talking to him about his homework the other day and he was trying to explain something to me that I didn’t understand.”
And on 3-star Florida wideout Kamonte Grimes, Frost said: “Kamonte Grimes is a kid that’s just a twitchy, big, exceptional athlete. Basketball player, great track and field marks, huge upside. (We’re) super excited about him.”
Those three guys all have something big in common: they’re big. Neville and Hardy are both 6-foot-3, and Grimes is 6-foot-2.
“Receiver is another position where we’ll take a special athlete no matter what his size—we certainly have and have some that aren’t real big that are exceptional players—but this group of receivers is gonna give us some length, some catch radius, some physicality, and they’re all really twitchy athletes too,” Frost said.
Sheer size at the skill positions has been an area Nebraska has quickly pivoted its plan on since arriving in Lincoln. Last cycle and now this one, Frost has targeted guys with huge catch radiuses.
Nebraska also secured a walk-on pledge from Creighton Prep wideout Alex Bullock, who Frost called one of the best talents in the state this year.
>> As for the tight ends, there was a question as the year wore on as to whether Nebraska would take two or three. The third would be Norris’ James Carnie, Nebraska just took its time to pull the trigger on offering a scholarship.
“But watching his senior year, man, he runs so well for a guy his size,” Frost said of the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder.
With Jack Stoll a senior, and Austin Allen, Travis Vokolek, and Kurt Rafdal all juniors, there was certainly space to bring some young blood into Sean Beckton’s room.
Talk of the talent in this class will likely start and end with Beckton’s top target: 4-star Thomas Fidone.
“Thomas, specifically, probably has as much potential as anybody I’ve ever recruited just when you watch his tape and look at his frame and his speed and just the talent he has,” Frost said. “We’re anxious to get to work with him and I think he’s gonna be versatile enough we can do quite a few things with him.”
And to round out the group, Nebraska is bringing in the 6-foot-6 Creighton Prep tight end AJ Rollins, “a kid with just huge upside and untapped potential with his size and athletic ability,” Frost said.
“Randy’s super twitchy. When you watch him, he covers ground fast, he strikes on the move, he’s violent,” Frost said. “Seth and him, Mikai, all the other linebackers that we recruited, I think they’re gonna be capable of playing multiple positions for us. That’s going to be valuable and help them get on the field faster.”
>> We’ll close out with another in a line of Travis Fisher-led defensive backs with upside: 6-foot-2 Omaha Westside safety Koby Bretz.
“I’m really excited about Koby Bretz,” Frost said. “He’s a kid we didn’t offer right away, and watching him his senior year I thought he was about as good as any football player or safety we looked at. His size and athletic ability give him a chance to be really good.”