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Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Recruiting: How Are The Big Ten’s Other First-Year Coaching Staffs Recruiting?

July 16, 2023

Nebraska’s recruiting serge this summer pushed the Huskers into the top 20 of the national rankings. Their standing could further improve with the potential commitment of Preston Taumua later tonight.

But Nebraska doesn’t play in a vacuum. So where do the Huskers’ contemporaries in the Big Ten, especially that of first-year coaching staffs, stand at the moment?

The short answer is high. Luke Fickell took over at Wisconsin and the Badgers are No. 20 in the rankings as of Sunday afternoon. Wisconsin just gained its highest-rated recruit of the 2024 class on Friday in 4-star running back Dilin Jones from Olney, Maryland. The Badgers’ class also includes 3-star safety Kahmir Prescott, 4-star edge Anelu Lafaele and 3-star linebacker Thomas Heiberger, who were all recruited by Nebraska at one point. Wisconsin’s 2024 class consists of 20 commitments with four each from Illinois and Pennsylvania. The class includes just two native Wisconsinites and no one near Cincinnati, where Fickell just coached.

First-year head coach Ryan Walters has Purdue’s 2024 class in the top 25. Walters was previously the defensive coordinator at Illinois. Among the Boilermakers’ 20 commitments in the class come four from Texas. That includes 4-star receiver Keonde Henry (Lake Dallas), 4-star quarterback Marcos Davila (Midland Legacy), 3-star defensive lineman Caleb Mitchell Irving (Dallas Parish Episcopal) and 3-star defensive back William Nettles (Mesquite Dallas Christian). Nebraska coaches stopped into Dallas Parish Episcopal in January after offering Irving and Nettles visited Nebraska after receiving an offer.

PJ Fleck and Minnesota, meanwhile, is also in the top 30 rankings. Fleck enters his seventh season in Minneapolis but with the most coaching churn since his arrival. The Gophers will have a new quarterback coach, running backs coach, tight ends coach, defensive line coach and defensive backs coach. Greg Harbaugh Jr., formerly tight ends coach, moved up to quarterbacks coach and will share offensive coordinator duties with returning co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Matt Simon. Noteworthy in the Gophers’ 2024 class are 4-star safety Koi Perich and 3-star defensive lineman Riley Sunram. Nebraska recruited both of them heavily before their pledges to Minnesota.

A late-June and July push from Iowa have the Hawkeyes at No. 30 as of Sunday afternoon. The Hawkeyes have 19 commitments including Creighton Prep 3-star tight end Michael Burt. Illinois is further behind at No. 40. That includes commitments from 3-star Omaha Central offensive lineman Caleb Pyfrom and 3-star Cross County tight end Tanner Hollinger.

Recruit Watch

Two standouts heavily recruited by Nebraska announced commitments elsewhere late in the week. Malik Esquerra, a 3-star safety from Killeen, Texas, committed to Texas Tech on Saturday. The Tech coaching staff, led by Joey McGuire, actually pointed Nebraska coaches to Esquerra ahead of a satellite camp in June. Ernest Campbell, the champion sprinter and 3-star receiver from Refugio, Texas, committed to Texas A&M. Campbell wowed at the championship track meet in the spring by running the 100 in 10.22 seconds.

Three-star edge rusher Adam Kissayi, who canceled his official visit to Nebraska because he committed to Minnesota, officially flipped his commitment to Clemson this weekend. Kissayi is a native Floridian who made 33 tackles, 13 TFLs and 8.5 sacks last season.

Nebraska 2024 commitment Braylen Prude was named one of the top-50 Houston-area recruits this upcoming season by the Houston Chronicle. He was one of the June camp standouts that committed to Nebraska shortly after. The Shadow Creek defensive playmaker is the son of Ronnie Prude, who played in the NFL after 52 games at LSU. That included the Tigers’ 2003 national title season.


>> Juwan Gary is healthy once again and ready to make an impact for the men’s basketball team. Hail Varsity’s Jacob Padilla crunched film and looked at what Gary’s return to the lineup does for the Huskers.

>> Former Northwestern and Colorado head coach Gary Barnett gave his first on-the-record comments regarding Pat Fitzgerald’s firing to Chris Schmidt on Hail Varsity Radio last week. Barnett’s entire segment, which also goes into his history stomping out a culture of hazing in a team he inherited, can be watched on the Hail Varsity YouTube Channel.

>> The Nebraska Road Race was canceled for the first time in its 11-year history on Sunday morning due to poor weather. While the decision surely brings disappointment for those involved, the money raised and the memories tied to the event endure.

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