Nebraska Cornhuskers firework for the Tunnel Walk before taking on Purdue.
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Nebraska Recruiting: How Does Transfer Portal Era Impact Walk-On Recruiting?

May 16, 2022

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


The questions never stop in the recruiting world. No matter what time of year it is, there is always something to talk about so we take reader and listener suggestions on questions. I then answer the questions in a quick video. This week’s topic comes from Craig Casper in the YouTube comments. We always say that your questions can come from a variety of places and appreciate the conversation on YouTube.

“It seems like we should discuss the 85-scholarship issue. Keeping scholarships available also impacts the walk-on program because those have been an enticement to walk on at Nebraska. Maybe that’s a recruiting question, what do you think the long-term ramifications of the portal are on the walk-on program?”

The Huskers have a deep tradition of walk-ons coming to the team, earning playing time and then a scholarship. It’s one of the team’s most-known traditions. It’s one that coach Scott Frost has embraced since his arrival in Lincoln. The Huskers have always supplemented scholarship talent on the team. Where the team has brought those players to Lincoln from has changed over the years.

The Huskers have brought in players from the high school ranks like normal. Yet, there are players who transferred in as walk-ons. Frost noted the talent of the overall group back in the 2021 recruiting class.

“With each walk-on class there are several in each group who by the time they leave Nebraska, I fully expect they will earn playing time, maybe be starters and probably earn scholarships,” Frost said. “Alex [Bullock] is certainly one of those guys. I think he’s one of the best players in the state this year and I think he can play multiple positions. We’re lucky to get that kind of talent. I know those guys are coming to come in with a little chip on their shoulders and be motivated to help us win. They’re going to compete. There’s a lot of talent in this group of walk-ons so if those guys come in with that attitude, we’re going to give them the same opportunity everybody else has to earn playing time and if they do, we’ll take care of them financially.”

The problem for the walk-on programs is that the landscape of college football is changing rapidly. That is reflected in the number of walk-ons added to the program each year Frost has been coach.

  • 2018-20
  • 2019-21
  • 2020-22
  • 2021-12
  • 2022-4

The 2022 class was one of the smallest in recent history. One of the major reasons for the decrease in walk-on class size is related to the portal. It’s easier for Nebraska to pick up scholarship players during the offseason. Any scholarships now being saved after a recruiting class are going to transfers. Coaching staffs are cutting back on high school prospects in some cases to have more spots for transfers. That happened for Nebraska in the 2022 recruiting class. Players that walk on now have an extra layer of competition for the spots.

Another factor to watch here is roster size. The Huskers normally have 150 or more players on the team. Frost may find that lowering that number makes the team more manageable. A lot of things in college football are evolving right now. There are unintended consequences of the one-time transfer rule. One trickle-down effect is less opportunities for walk-ons. There is good news for these players. They have an easier ability to leave to go on scholarship elsewhere because they don’t have to sit out either.

This topic is like many others in college football right now. It’s in flux as the landscape of college football changes this summer.

Recruit Watch

>> Nebraska 2024 linebacker target Christian Jones was offered by Wisconsin on Monday.

>> Kansas City 2024 offensive lineman Andrew Sprague visited Lincoln over the weekend.

>> Missouri 2023 lineman Tyler Gant committed to Northwestern over the weekend.

ICYMI

>> The Husker softball team is headed to the Oklahoma State Regional for the NCAA Tournament.

>> Former Huskers shared stories and memories at the ‘Day by Day: The Rise’ premiere.

>> The Huskers Big Ten Tournament hopes took another shot after a wild loss against Illinois on Sunday.

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