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Mailbag: A Special Early Signing Day Recruiting Edition

December 19, 2019

With the early signing period opening Wednesday, we thought it best to save the mailbag this week for Thursday to allow for more of a reactionary piece to the news of Signing Day and Nebraska’s 2020 class taking shape.

So, here’s this week’s mailbag, all full of 2020 class analysis and other recruiting goodness.

What player/position are you most excited about and what player are you most sad we missed on or position you think still needs work? (@InDaWilderness) 

Greg Smith: I’m most excited about Omar Manning. He’s the best player in the class IMO, was at a huge position of need and can open things up for others. The player I’m “most sad” they missed out on is inside linebacker Jackson Bratton. Flipping Logan Smothers’ teammate from Alabama was always going to be hard but Bratton was the best inside linebacker I saw on film this year.  

Brandon Vogel: This marks back-to-back classes at Nebraska where I’ve been really high on the group of defensive backs they’re bringing in. Henry Gray should be one of the cornerstones of the class in the years to come, and, a little more off the beaten path, I really like Ronald Delancy III. Toughest miss? I’ll go the basic route and say its Kaden Johnson. Good player, obviously, but knowing what he probably becomes in Wisconsin’s defense adds a little extra to it. 

Derek Peterson: For the sake of diversity (Omar Manning has potential to be huge for Nebraska), I’ll say I’m most excited about outside linebacker Blaise Gunnerson. Because I am most excited about the Iowa native. His combination of size (6-foot-6, 250 pounds) and athleticism (did you see him at FNL…?) makes him a really exciting option in Erik Chinander’s 3-4 defense. I think he’s a steal, I think he’s undervalued and I like his motor.

Jacob Padilla: I’m most excited about this year’s haul at wide receiver, not just because of the talent level but because of the diversity of the class in terms of skill sets and body types. They got two bigger-bodied receivers in Omar Manning and Zavier Betts, two do-it-all gadget types in Alante Brown and Will Nixon and a burner in Marcus Fleming. Oh, and four those guys are 4-star recruits too. As for the disappointment, I’ll go with Kaden Johnson as well, both because he’s a good player and because now Nebraska will have to play against him every year like Brandon said.

What was the biggest "win" of the entire class? (@InDaWilderness) 

Erin Sorensen: I think it depends on how you define a win in recruiting, because there are a lot of wins in this class. Turner Corcoran, for instance, is a big win. Nebraska needs guys like Corcoran but when they’re as highly rated as he is, other programs will do everything they can to get them away. Same thing with Jaiden Francois, who we saw the drama unfold around yesterday. If the rumors are true, Miami made a last-ditch effort to get him to commit at the 11th hour but Nebraska held on. I think Omar Manning is a win, because the Huskers desperately need some big-bodied receivers. Henry Gray, also a win, because he committed, shut down his recruitment and started peer recruiting like crazy. That was a big deal. So, all of that to say, I think you could make the case for several guys in this class being the big win. How about we just give it to Travis Fisher? 

BV: It’s Greene for me, but Manning was a close second. 

DP: I think Nebraska was in pole position to grab Manning and a few of the other big-time signees, but Greene seemed to be an opportunity presented and seized by Frost and Co. He’s my pick here. 

We have 12 early enrollees by my count (my math could be off) and out of those 12, who is a lock, in your opinion, to see the field right away? I am intrigued by Alante Brown. (@Go_Big_Red) 
AND 
Which non-early enrollee are you choosing to make an immediate impact on the field right away? I like Marvin Scott III. (@Go_Big_Red) 

ES: As long as he stays healthy, Omar Manning. Nebraska needs him to make an immediate impact too. 

GS: I have the early enrollee number at 9. (Smothers, Corcoran, Gunnerson, Gray, Brown, Francois, Lynum, Mauga-Clements, Riley) I would feel most comfortable calling Eteva Mauga-Clements a “lock” to contribute in some way next season. Many of those guys have a shot to see the field though. Manning is everyone’s answer to that which is correct. The secret is out on Marvin Scott III after Frost called him the most physically ready to play guy in the class on Wednesday. He’s a good pick but give me Zavier Betts. 

What are your thoughts on all the JUCO recruits? Is it enough to fill in all the gaps left by the 30 or so players that have left in the last three years? (@nebraskicker) 

ES: Enough to fill all the gaps? Probably not. We’ll still have to really look at depth through spring, especially with any potential attrition. But the Huskers took a big step forward toward filling those gaps with some of the players they snagged on signing day. 

GS: I think it was necessary to fill gaps too. They aren’t all the way there yet but this class helps in a big way. 

Mike Babcock: I’ll leave the recruiting questions to the experts, though I will say, making a sweeping statement here given my time watching this, the fewer junior college recruits a team has to take, the better, though Bill Snyder built a program with junior college recruits. Nebraska has had some great ones; Mike Rozier spent one season at Coffeyville to get his grades in order; Lavonte David set the school record with 152 tackles his first season at Nebraska and ranks fourth in career tackles despite playing only two seasons; Demorrio Williams was a game-changer; Zack Bowman was a 5-star, and on and on. Plus, they were good guys. But it’s best to have players from freshmen on, rather than quick fixes (which Rozier was not, he had three very productive years at a time when few true freshmen played for the Huskers). Looked it up, in four seasons, Bill Callahan recruited 29 junior college players. In addition to Bowman, Andre Jones also was a 5-star junior college defensive back in Bill’s 2006 class. 

I see Darion Green-Warren hasn't signed yet. Did he send an LOI to Michigan and he’s announcing at the All-America game? (@TheWeeksy) 

GS: He sent a signed letter somewhere and will announce at the AA game. Most believe it was to Michigan. 

With walk-ons, new recruits, and the current roster, what will Nebraska be at for numbers in 2020? (@TheWeeksy) 

BV: The roster at Huskers.com as of today lists 149 players, which doesn’t include Legrone, Hunt or Stalbird at this point. From that you’ll lose 22 seniors, so that puts them down to 127. Figure 26 new scholarship players for this class (24 signed yesterday) plus the 19 walk-ons so far announced and you’re up to 172 to start 2020. I’m guessing that by the time next fall rolls around the roster is around 160, maybe a little over. 

Are there any commitments or future recruits we should be concerned about becoming academically eligible? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

ES: Zavier Betts. His high school coach has said he’s working to get his academics in order so he’ll be ready to sign, but we’ll see. 

(UPDATE: As of 1:30 p.m. CT on Thursday, Bett’s high school coach had confirmed his academics were in order and he would sign on Friday, Dec. 20. He was originally expected to sign in February.)

GS: Since Frost acknowledged it on Wednesday, keep in mind that Omar Manning still has some work to do. Everyone is hopeful on both Betts and Manning. 

With new recruits signed, do we see further attrition in the coming months (after the winter conditioning period or spring)? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

ES: I think so. I don’t know how much, but I would be shocked if some more names don’t ultimately enter the transfer portal. 

BV: There will definitely be attrition. That’s not based on any particular player or players I think will be gone, more just a generally safe assumption. 

Frost said the staff felt the need to bolster the wideout room, and looks like they accomplished it. He also said he expects a few of those guys to impact next season. Besides Manning (duh) who else do you think he and the staff hope to get on field next season? (Sal_Vasta3) 

GS: I am an early card-carrying member of the Alante Brown fan club. He is enrolling early, is already pretty physically ready and can do a little bit of everything. He’s going to get a nice jump on Marcus Fleming and Will Nixon in the battle to play early.  

BV: With Fleming’s speed, I could see him make a push more quickly than might be expected. Though, maybe it is expected given that he’s fast. 

DP: Hey, I just wrote about the wideouts. As for my own personal opinion, I think it’s more likely we see the redshirt freshmen trio of Darien Chase, Jamie Nance and Demariyon Houston than it is we see serious snaps for the Fleming-Brown-Nixon trio.

JP: If Zavier Betts can take care of business in the class room and make it to Lincoln and if he can learn the playbook quickly enough, the coaches are going to have a hard time keeping Zavier Betts off the field even without him enrolling early. He’s a physical freak.

Can you explain blue shirts and whatever the agreement is with Hahn? How does a team account for scholarships now and in the future? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

ES: Sports Illustrated did a nice writeup on the differences between grayshirts and blueshirts yesterday in their mailbag, so I’m going to go ahead and link that because it’s a good review. But for the sake of our mailbag, I’ll explain it quickly here. A blueshirt is essentially a “non-recruited player” that walks on to a program and pays their own way until practice begins and they’re placed on scholarship. In Isaac Gifford’s case, he’ll walk on in January and pay his own way at Nebraska in the spring and summer. He’ll then be placed on scholarship in the fall and that scholarship will then count toward Nebraska’s 2021 numbers. By doing this, Frost can guarantee a player he likes and wants on his team without taking more scholarships than he has available right now. Ta-da. 

GS: Erin had a good explanation of the rule. I talked to Hahn the day he announced his commitment and if you haven’t had a chance to read his feelings on it, check that out here

What exactly happened with Francois? (@V1K1NG_HUSK3R) 

GS: Here is the story as I understood it yesterday after talking to a couple people: The plan all along was for him 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 Frost and Fisher who had to reassure him that was false. He went through with his plan to pick Nebraska and Fisher added his two cents.  

https://twitter.com/CoachTFisher/status/1207320680955551744 

DP: What a bush league move.  

How prevalent is negative recruiting the final 48 hours, and even on signing day? That Francois drama was a lot. (@Sal_Vasta3) 

GS: Derek and I were discussing this yesterday. We all know negative recruiting happens. To see it play out that way in real time and on video was something that won’t be forgotten any time soon. It’s pretty prevalent and there were quite a few Husker commits that experienced this during this cycle.

JP: On the Francois situation, assuming the rumors are true, I just don’t understand what Miami was thinking the upside of that kind of negative recruiting was. Say he believes them and signs with Miami intead. How’s he going to feel about Miami’s staff when he sees Travis Fisher on the sideline for Nebraska when the season opens? That doesn’t seem like a great way to build trust with players.

Of all the signees, which one surprised you the most that the Huskers picked up? (@dwilliamsj) 

GS: Inside linebacker Keyshawn Greene is my pick here. It has more to do with the situation versus how good he is. If Nebraska is able to consistently pull players like him from states that aren’t close, they are cooking. Greene could have gone anywhere in Florida but fell in love with Nebraska and has a great relationship with Fisher. His signing is a big deal. 

What makes this staff different in terms of development once on campus, we’ve seen higher rated classes produce mediocre records in the past. (@kevin50081724) 

GS: We don’t know yet. It’s only been two full recruiting classes with this staff. They also redshirted a huge chunk of the 2019 class. I will say this: Nebraska’s staff had a better reputation as developers than recruiters before they came to Nebraska. Now we’ll see if that’s true. 

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