Nebraska Cornhuskers wide receiver Samori Toure (3)
Photo Credit: John Peterson

Nebraska Recruiting: Hope and Honesty in the Transfer Portal

July 13, 2022

Recruiting never stops and it’s easy to miss the top stories day-to-day. Hail Varsity recaps all things Nebraska recruiting news, analysis and more so you never miss a thing.

In news that came as no surprise, running back Markese Stepp entered the transfer portal on Tuesday. The former USC transfer was in a group with six scholarship running backs at Nebraska in 2022, and his usage in 2021 didn’t exactly indicate he had a lead on any other contender. So, he’s off in search of a better situation.

Jacob Padilla has more on the Huskers’ running back situation in his weekly column, but one line in particular jumped out: Stepp’s 2021 “numbers (45 carries, 3.9 yards per carry, two touchdowns in seven games) lined up with what he did in his final season at USC (45 carries, 3.7 yards per carry, three scores in five games).”

Based on that, you could fairly say Nebraska got exactly what you could’ve expected when it landed Stepp based on his past performance. How often is that the case?

After looking at all of the Huskers’ incoming transfers since the portal opened in fall of 2018, I think you could fairly say “more often than not.” At least that’s been the case at Nebraska.

Kanawai Noa was a solid second or third receiver at California (3.7 receptions per game, 13.4 yards per catch) and was basically that in his one season at Nebraska (1.7 receptions per game, 14.4 yards per catch). Tight end Travis Vokolek, in his last season at Rutgers, averaged 1.3 catches per game for 11.5 yards per catch. In two seasons at Nebraska, he’s averaging 1.2 receptions per game for 10.9 yards per catch. Connor Kulp made 70.3% of his field goal attempts at LSU, 68.8% at Nebraska (though that was broken into one excellent season and one rough one).

I won’t list everyone for the sake of expediency, but of the 12 portal transfers who have already played at Nebraska, there isn’t a strong outlier in the group. Guys that didn’t play a ton at their previous stops haven’t played a ton in Lincoln so far either. It has mostly been what-you-see-is-what-you-get, and in some cases that’s good, in others maybe a slight disappointment.

To put it another way, there hasn’t been a Kenneth Walker III yet and it’s probably not fair to expect that. Walker rushed for 579 yards, exactly, in each of his two seasons at Wake Forest, then exploded for 1,636 at Michigan State in 2021.

The Huskers’ two biggest wins from the portal, in my opinion, are Darrion Daniels and Samori Touré. Daniels was an all-conference defensive lineman at Oklahoma State (1.6 tackles per game, 0.24 TFLs per game) and was either slightly better at Nebraska or had the type of senior season you’d expect from a player who’d already proved his worth (3.1 tackles per game, 0.32 TFLs per game). Touré was one of the best receivers in football regardless of level, and he looked that way at Nebraska on fewer catches per game but at a higher yards per catch. Good in, good out.

Linebacker Chris Kolarevic might be a unique case. He was a starter at Northern Iowa (8.4 tackles per game) and is a rotation player for the Huskers (2.2 tackles per game), but I’d still say Nebraska got what it was expecting.

Transfer recruiting hasn’t surpassed high school recruiting yet, and probably never will, but it keeps gaining market share. Based on the Huskers’ history with the portal so far, how should we view its 14 additions for 2022, a group 247Sports rates as seventh-best nationally?

Perhaps contrary to how transfers are perceived, particularly if they come from a blue-blood program, it seems wise to expect much of the same. Over 30 games at Texas, Marcus Washington averaged 0.8 receptions per game and 14.6 yards per catch. Trey Palmer averaged 2.1 receptions and 11.3 yards over 19 games at LSU. Is it reasonable to expect more, or simply hopeful?

We’ll start to find out in 45 days, but this isn’t meant to be doom and gloom. It’s more of an attempt to set fair expectations, and there’s good news on that front.

If the theory here is “expect more of the same most of the time,” Casey Thompson’s numbers over two seasons are really solid (and his 30-9 TD-INT ration is just plain good). I would expect Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda (3.6 receptions per game, 15.6 yards per catch) to find a role at wide receiver. He has the best incoming numbers of any of the transfer receivers. Defensive lineman Devin Drew would make my “likely successes” list based on his production at Texas Tech. Based on the performance of good FCS players at Nebraska so far, keep a close eye on defensive back Omar Brown.

And, punter Brian Buschini, another FCS star, might be the surest thing of the entire group. Punting travels (or at least it should).

There’s also a group of transfers you have to put in the too-soon-to-know category, including defensive back Kaine Williams, cornerback Tommi Hill and quarterback Chubba Purdy.

Nebraska has done well to address its most immediate needs and bridge some experience gaps. That’s what the portal affords teams now, but, due to the fact that it’s still relatively new or maybe just brand recognition in many cases, hope always seems a little higher with transfers than past performance might dictate.

It’s good to hope. Maybe one or more of Nebraska’s new additions will be vastly better in a new situation. It can and does happen. (Almost by default, one of the new receivers almost has to have a career year.) It just hasn’t happened in Lincoln yet, which doesn’t mean the Huskers haven’t had wins in the portal. Getting what you expect probably is a win, and maybe that’s enough for 2022.

Recruit Watch

>>2024 athlete Boo Carter from Chattanooga, Tennessee, has already accumulated 30 offers, including one from Nebraska.

>>2023 wide receiver commit Barry Jackson Jr. shared this hype video.


>>A closer look at Nebraska’s running back rotation post-Stepp transfer.

>>It’s time to start making plans for Fan Day.

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