Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Huskers Face Increasingly Competitive Races for In-State Talent

May 31, 2022

Stop by a high school football game on a Friday night in Nebraska and you will see many future college football players. The state has been on a roll producing players to play football at the next level. When it comes to Power 5-level talent, things have picked up too. There are nine players projected to attend Power 5 schools after high school from Nebraska in the 2023 recruiting class. Seven Nebraskans went on to play at a Power 5 school last recruiting cycle.

It’s not just about the number of players that are going Power 5 from the state. The offers are coming in from all over the country. It’s now common for SEC and Pac-12 schools to come into Nebraska and put an offer down for a Nebraska prospect. The latest example of this is Archbishop Bergan athlete Kade McIntyre. His latest offers include Tennessee and Oklahoma along with Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. There is something different going in. Bergan coach Seth Mruz offered his thoughts on the factors that contribute.

“I think it’s harder to be a diamond in the rough now. There’s so much exposure everywhere with Hudl highlights, and just all it takes is one phone call,” Mruz said. “One guy stumbles across you on Twitter to see your highlight film and then all of a sudden, boom, it blows up. That’s all it is. The recruiting departments of these universities are so large now that they have assistants to the assistants that are scouring film and finding these kids.”

Mraz sees the number of players rated as three- and four-star prospects growing in the state for the 2023 class. He thinks that trend will continue for the next two cycles, too. There’s great depth of talent in the Omaha metro with the individualized training that can be done. Kids are also getting exposure going to different camps throughout the year. The elite programs around the country are taking notice of that and offering players without hesitation.

Programs around the country are also taking notice. There have been changes in how schools evaluate over the last few years.

“COVID forced people to grow a lot I think in terms of how they do things,” Mruz said. “They had to get outside of their comfort zone and you didn’t necessarily just have to do as much ‘regional recruiting’ or feeling like you’re going to be pigeon-holed into a certain area. You find out a more efficient way of doing things. I think that’s what we got when with COVID everybody was sitting at home, they’re like, ‘Okay, well now I can try to evaluate everybody and try to find the best of the best.’

The opportunities for Nebraskans to leave the state are piling up quickly. After the out-of-state offers come, so do the visits to those programs. That allows these players to see what it is like in other parts of the country. It can be appealing to do something different. It can be a nice change of pace to go to Oregon, Auburn or a school out of the region. The landscape is changing quickly.

“I think kids are feeling comfortable with going different places,” Mruz said. “Nebraska only has so many spots that they can fill and they have different needs. They have different focuses sometimes, so kids are not just going to settle for walk-ons or whatever now because they can go get free school. That’s just making kids branch out a little bit more. That’s what makes schools like Iowa, Minnesota and those guys coming in here bolder, they’re not afraid to offer anymore because they’re not afraid to lose out on kids.”

With social media it’s a smaller world out there. The camps that Mruz referenced also allow kids to meet others from different areas of the country. When Mruz was a kid, going to Omaha was a big deal even though it was just 30 miles away from Fremont. Now he’s got players that go to Omaha weekly for training.

“Kids aren’t as homebody anymore. They’re not stuck being the old Nebraska kid,” Mruz said. “They see themselves as a bigger citizen of the world. They’re not afraid to go to Arizona or Florida or New York or wherever anymore. I think they feel like they can fit in anywhere. It’s not just ‘oh, I’m just Midwest kid.’ I think you’re seeing the kind of domino effect of that.”

All this adds up to Nebraska needing to fight more than ever to keep local talent home. It’s not enough for the Huskers to be the in-state school. Real connections need to be made early with prospects since their options are growing by the recruiting class. These developments are great for the young players in Nebraska who are getting more exposure each year. There are many Nebraskans getting free college and that’s the ultimate goal.

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