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A little over a year ago, for the March 2021 issue of Hail Varsity, I decided to build an attrition probability model for Nebraska football recruiting. If that sounds fancy, I assure you it’s not. I’m not smart enough to build elegant mathematical models, but that’s never stopped me from trying.
Anyway, for this admittedly crude model I looked at every scholarship signee at Nebraska in the Big Ten era (2011–present), focusing on three factors—distance from Lincoln, length of commitment, talent rating—to see what impact they had (or didn’t have) on eventual attrition. Distance and talent showed what I figured they would. The farther a player had to travel to Lincoln from his hometown, the more likely he was to finish his career elsewhere. Also, the most talented prospects by 247 rating (those with the most options) and the least talented by the same measure (those that were perhaps recruiting reaches) also left at a higher rate. (Note: I do not count players leaving early for the NFL as attrition.)
The days-committed category, however, wasn’t quite so neat and tidy. Instead of a linear trend of being-committed-longer-is-better, or even the opposite, Nebraska’s attrition as a function of how long a player was pledged to the program identified a sweet spot for minimizing attrition—the summer before a player’s senior year. Those committed for longer than that left at a slightly higher rate, and those that committed during the fall left at a notably higher rate. If you want to simplify and break that into two categories, players in the 2011–20 classes that committed to Nebraska at least 100 days before signing day left the program at a 39.3% clip. Players that committed with less than 100 days before signing day left the program at a 51.4% clip.
The baseline attrition rate for that span (2011–20) was 45.5%, and my ugly math projected an attrition rate of 40.1%, so a little off but in the neighborhood. Looking back at the numbers above, you could project that Nebraska has a slightly better chance of hanging onto its hard-earned recruits if it can get them committed before the fall.
Which brings me to the 2023 class as it currently stands. Erin Sorensen and I talked about this in yesterday’s recruiting video, and she wrote a little more about why the Huskers are ahead of their typical pace at this point. And Nebraska definitely is. The Huskers have 14 commits on July 12, four more than the previous high of the Scott Frost era at this point in the year (10 in 2019).
What does that “get” Nebraska? From a quality perspective, the 2023 class is so far right in line with the typical Husker class. The average 247 rating for a pre-Frost signee is 0.8698, it’s 0.8799 during the Frost era as a whole and it’s 0.8787 in the 2023 class at this point.
The real value of being ahead, in my mind at least, is the slightly increased likelihood Nebraska will be able to keep these players in the program. As of today, the attrition probability model projects an attrition rate of 36.1% for the 2023 class. That number will go up, of course, as the Huskers add more players closer to signing day, but however large this class ends up being, the bulk of it will have been “locked in” at a lower attrition rate.
If this all feels too far off into the future to be of much use, I get it. Here’s a more practical example. That 2019 class, the last time Nebraska had double-digit commits by July 12, is the backbone of the team in 2022. You’ve got five near-certain starters on defense from that group—Garrett Nelson, Nick Henrich, Ty Robinson, Myles Farmer and Quinton Newsome—as well as key names on offense like Rahmir Johnson and Bryce Benhart and a couple of players who probably need to contribute for Nebraska this season (Mosai Newsom, Ethan Piper).
That group, which came of college football age in the transfer portal era, has largely held together. Its attrition rate of 36% (which could still go up) beats the total rate of the 10 classes before it (45.5%). Even knowing this rough-around-the-edges model probably underestimates attrition slightly, the projection for the 2019 class was 38%. Thanks to getting players in early, it was expected to be a low-attrition class by Nebraska standards.
A lot can still change, but the Huskers are putting another one of those together so far for 2023.
>>About those average recruiting rankings for this Nebraska class.
2023 RECRUITING RANKINGS:
(B1G West by AVG)
1. | 87.87 – Nebraska
2. | 87.76 – Iowa
3. | 87.22 – Northwestern
4. | 86.48 – Wisconsin
5. | 86.29 – Purdue
6. | 86.13 – Minnesota
7. | 85.30 – Illinois
— Blackshirts (@blvckshirts) July 12, 2022
>>Not a recruit, but a current player. Thomas Fidone, working back from injury, sees your tight ends ranking and has thoughts.
So much motivation in one picture… I know where I belong. https://t.co/XzGqO2SJB5
— Thomas Fidone II ²⁴ (@ThomasFidone) July 12, 2022
>>Fred Hoiberg really loves him some Derrick Walker (and some notes of Nebraska’s search for a new assistant).
>>Running back Markese Steps has entered the transfer portal.
>>Our list of most intriguing Huskers marches on with No. 5 on the list, defensive lineman Ty Robinson.
>>QB Chubba Purdy’s foot is feeling better, which is almost certainly good news.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.