JUCO DT Tony Fair Has the Highest of Praise for Scott Frost
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Hot Reads: Why the 2018 Class Might Be a Launching Point

February 14, 2018

At this point, you may have moved on from how you felt about Nebraska's 2018 recruiting class, but how did you feel about Nebraska's 2018 recruiting class ranking? Rivals had the class ranked 21st, 247Sports composite 22nd.

Did that feel about right to you? Pretty good for a first class? Pretty good given the coaching change? About where Nebraska always lands?

It was maybe all of those things at the same time. And I know some people already have their anecdotes about how none of this matters, in the same way that others have their ready-made proof that these rankings matter quite a lot. Both always leave me a little unsatisfied. The truth, as usual, is probably more complicated.

But that's not the point today. Team rankings are the only score-keeping method we have, so it's how we keep score. That being the case, I'm always interested in what the score says, I just wish it was better documented historically (something I wrote about in the new issue of Hail Varsity).

You can find reliable rankings for most of the 21st century, and that's the jumping off point for this piece from Jason Kirk of SB Nation: Which teams are the best "all-time" recruiters? All-time, in this case, means from 2002 on.

Based on average class rank over that span (26.1), Nebraska ranks 21st nationally. That puts it in a class with the likes of Penn State, UCLA, North Carolina and Ole Miss. USC is the top school during that time period and the rest of the top 20 looks about like you'd guess it looks – Ohio State and Michigan lead the way for the Big Ten, but this is mostly an SEC and ACC affair.

Recruiting rankings existed before that, of course, they were just harder to find, less codified and more regional. The gurus of the pre-internet era – Max Emfinger, Tom Lemming, Joe Terranova, Allen Wallace, et al – were always up for a February call from a reporter looking for an easy story. That's good on one hand. Those stories, which I've probably spent too much time tracking down over the years, are really the only record for pre-internet rankings. It's bad on another because, depending on when said reporter spoke with said guru you can get a wide range of rankings for the same class from the same person, not to mention the variance between an expert located in Texas versus one in Michigan. But, again, it's the only information we have.

So what do the early years of Nebraska recruiting tell us about the Huskers? Not surprisingly given Nebraska's stature at the time time, things used to be a little bit better. From 1987 to 2001, I've located 54 individual rankings for Nebraska recruiting classes. That's everything I've found before the start of SB Nation's measurement period above. Average class rank there: 14.7. (Exercise caution here. I believe that there was probably a bias towards good teams of the era, and that's simply based on the difficulty in ranking a bunch of recruiting classes without the benefit of a reliable camp circuit, game film or the internet.)

From 2002 on I've got the Huskers with an average rank of 24.1, a little bit higher than SB Nation's tally but not a huge difference. It basically puts the Huskers in the same tier.

What does any of that mean for Scott Frost's first class? I think the 2018 group will end up being something of a starting point for Nebraska going forward. To put it more plainly, I bet that ranking will be better in the years to come. Not by a huge amount. I'd be shocked if the Huskers were a consistent top-10 recruiter over the next 10 years, but I bet they can improve enough to make a difference. Oregon, for example, came in 18th post-2002. That would be enough to get it done in Lincoln, I think, and I'm confident it's a marck the Huskers could reach.

Two main reasons for that: One, winning always helps, and I think the Huskers are going to start winning pretty soon. Two, the other thing a Nebraska staff has to do is believe it can get the guys it wants. There are unique recruiting challenges here. Bo Pelini, in my opinion, was all too aware of them and it affected the way Nebraska recruited during that era.

Mike Riley and company had a "you want to see challenges, try Corvallis" approach and that alone was good for some incremental gains in recruiting even when the results on the field didn't follow. The current staff has a similar frame of reference that helps here. It also has buzz and some results to back it up.

That's an encouraging blend of factors, and I think it will produce results, both real ones and the February ones, even if Frost doesn't care about the latter.

With the 21st- or 22nd-ranked class in the country, Nebraska's haul was about average for Nebraska. All things considered, that's not a bad place to start.

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