While Nebraska's coaching staff is hard at work trying to put a capstone on the 2019 recruiting class, it has also been laying the groundwork for 2020. As recruiting analyst Greg Smith noted on Tuesday, a lot of that labor has been happening in Alabama of late.
Nebraska has now offered scholarships to five 2020 Alabama verbal commits. Four came on Monday and every prospect is from the state of Alabama: WR Dazalin Worsham, DT Jayson Jones, DB Malachi Moore, LB Jackson Bratton and DT Jah-Marien Latham.
Bold move battling the Tide for players that are in their backyard and already committed. As much fun as that might be for Husker fans, going up against the Nick Saban aura, I'm as interested in the state of Alabama itself.
Relatively speaking, it hasn't been a bad recruiting ground for Nebraska over the years, just an infrequent one. From 1973 through the 2019 class that signed in December, the Huskers landed 14 players from Alabama. That includes three in the last two classes under Scott Frost.
For comparison that's more signees over that span than the Huskers have had from Georgia (12), but less than Oklahoma (17). Alabama is about middle of the pack in terms of states that have produced Huskers since the start of the Tom Osborne era. Twenty-one percent of all the Nebraska classes since then have included a player from Alabama. For the Huskers to have landed three from the state in the past two years is notable, but to have one already in the 2020 class (QB Logan Smothers) and five new offers out feels like doubling down.
What do we know about recruiting Alabama? For the 2016 Hail Varsity Yearbook I did a deep dive (and lots of geotagging) on blue-chip recruiting by state. Focusing on Rivals 250 players since 2004, I wanted to answer a few different questions. How often do top-ranked recruits leave the state or the region? Do certain states or regions produce more players of a particular position? There was a lot there.
You can read that story here if you're interested. I haven't updated the data set since then––hope to this offseason––but it's a large enough set that I doubt things have changed significantly in the past three years. Here's what I could tell you about recruiting in Alabama after the 2016 class had been signed.
1. It's talent dense, which you probably already knew. Alabama ranks 24th among states in total population, but it ranked seventh in the percentage of Rivals 250 players it produced (3.4 percent). Florida, Texas, California, Georgia, Ohio and Louisiana were the only states with a higher percentage.
2. Good luck pulling players out of there. Between 2004 and 2016, 93 percent of the Rivals 250 prospects in Alabama signed with an SEC school and 86 percent chose an in-state school. That latter number includes, UAB, Troy, South Alabama, etc., but with Rivals 250 recruits we're mostly talking about Alabama and Auburn.
3. Relative to its total production of Rivals 250 prospects, Alabama produces a lot of linebackers––6.54 percent of all the blue-chip linebackers over that span. The difference between that number and Alabama’s number for all positions, 3.15 percentage points, was the highest in the country when I initially did this analysis.
4. Linebacker was one of the only positions where Alabama was more dense than usual. Defensive end and players listed as athletes were also slightly above average, but most of the percentages here were a few players away from swinging from a deficit to a surplus or vice versa. I'd want the updated data set to know a little more about those other positions, but I feel safe in still saying that Alabama is the land of linebackers based on the past dozen years.
What's it all mean for Nebraska? We'll see. It definitely means that the coaches have some players they particularly like down there because typically going to Alabama to try and convince Alabama kids to come to Nebraska is not the path of least resistance, but most things worth doing aren't.
The Grab Bag
- Nebraska volleyball signees Kenzie Knuckles and Madi Kubik were named the Gatorade Players of the Year in their respective states.
- Jacob Padilla looks at the keys to Nebraska basketball’s win over Indiana.
- Derek Peterson offers a recap of all of the early entries to the NFL Draft in the Big Ten.
- Some interesting special teams data here if that’s your thing.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.