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Nebraska Recruiting: Re-Evaluating the Huskers’ 2018 Class Four Years Later

February 15, 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.

College football and its roster management is nothing short of chaotic now. Between the transfer portal (and that one-time transfer rule), the early signing day in December, the introduction of name, image and likeness and the ripple effect of coaching changes, it can be a lot for any one program to keep up with.

Nebraska plans to stay as flexible as it can through the chaos, which coach Scott Frost recently addressed during his February signing day press conference.

“It doesn’t really matter what I think how comfortable I am, that’s the game and we have to play it,” Frost said about the transfer portal in particular. “We’re going to lose kids. Every school is losing kids. Some they don’t want to lose, and some that they might want to lose. You used to try to plug any holes you have on your roster with junior college kids and now there’s 1,000 kids in the transfer portal that you got to sort through.

“It’s going to change our structure a little bit. We’re going to have keep track of a lot more things and kids that could potentially leave and those type of things to gather information. That’s the way it is now so we’re going to do the best we can with it.”

The Athletic unveiled a new “Recruiting Revisted” piece on Monday, which looks at recruiting classes four years after the fact. This one—written by Max Olson—focused on the 2018 class. The Athletic previously looked back at the 2017 recruiting class, with the Huskers checking in at No. 70 out of 70 classes that were re-evaluated. One year later, it’s not much better for Nebraska: the Huskers registered at No. 69, last among all Power Five teams.

It’s a little startling when you consider the Huskers were rated 23rd nationally and first in the Big Ten West for that 2018 class at the time. However, Nebraska had just gone through a coaching change which certainly plays a role in time as a new staff develops what its identity is. What The Athletic set out to do was understand what teams were able to do with that recruiting class in four years time. It’s worth a read for Nebraska fans.

Instead of diving in to what exactly put Nebraska where it is on the list four years later, let’s take a look at other programs that went through high-profile coaching-transition classes in 2018. That would include:

Florida (14th in the re-rank)

UCLA (20th)

Arizona State (28th)

Tennessee (29th)

Oregon (35th)

Texas A&M (63rd)

In similar fashion to Nebraska—the Huskers saw 19 of its 29 signees in the 2018 class transfer, fail to qualify or dismissed from the team—the Aggies also saw high turnover from the 2018 class. Texas A&M had 17 of 26 signees either quit or transfer from the team. The Aggies 2018 class was originally ranked 17th nationally.

One of the more interesting cases listed above is Florida. The Gators’ 2018 class was originally ranked 14th nationally and it remained at the No. 14 spot in The Athletics’ re-ranking four years after the fact. One of Florida’s top signees was tight end Kyle Pitts. He stuck with his commitment that year, which he made three months before Dan Mullen replaced Jim McElwain. He went on to be an All-American and Pro Bowler.

Florida did see attrition from that 2018 class, of course. Ten Gators ended up leaving, but that’s not all that shocking (especially when you consider it was a transition class). Things were good for Florida too, at least for three years. The 2021 season saw the firing of Mullen, who ended his career at Florida with a 34-15 record in four seasons. His replacement—Billy Napier—is Florida’s fourth head coach in eight seasons.

As for Nebraska, things have calmed down a bit since those 2017 and 2018 classes. As The Athletic’s Mitch Sherman pointed out, 15 of Nebraska’s 27 signed recruits from the 2019 class are still with the program. Of that, at least 14 look to help Nebraska in the re-ranking of that 2019 class.

Frost is clearly putting an emphasis on the transfer portal at this point. He’s even thinking about adding a position to his staff that is fully dedicated to watching it and evaluating players. It makes sense, too. The Huskers had nine Division I transfers enroll in January alone, including quarterbacks Casey Thompson (Texas) and Chubba Purdy (Florida State). Those new faces should help counteract some of the attrition Nebraska has seen from the early classes of Frost’s tenure.

As always, it’ll be interesting to see it play out in the fall. It’ll also be interesting to continue to re-evaluate the classes as the years go by.

Recruit Watch

>> Westlake High School defensive end Colton Vasek shared on Monday that he had received an offer from Nebraska. Vasek is from Austin, Texas, which means running backs coach Bryan Applewhite is involved in his recruitment.

>> Another Power Five for Gretna quarterback Zane Flores. He also picked up an offer from Kansas State recently.


>> Whether’s he’s wrestling another high schooler or pulling a live badger out of a hole in Montana, O’Neill’s Ty Rainforth is one of a kind.

>> The second season of Adrian Martinez’s podcast debuted on Tuesday and he spoke about a number of experiences during the Huskers’ 2021 season. That includes his broken jaw, staff changes and more.

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