Mike Riley is going to put on a brave face when he is asked about the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He is going to say that one or two missed prospects won’t sour him on the players he did get. He will say that Jan. 7 won’t define Nebraska’s 2017 recruiting class. Mike Riley will say that because sometimes head football coaches have to lie.
Nebraska entered the U.S Army All-American Bowl, some call it the recruiting Super Bowl, with a chance to land four top-ranked targets in Jamire Calvin, Chuck Filiaga, Darnay Holmes and Foster Sarell. Going into the day, many expected Nebraska to land at least one of these prospects and as many as three before the day was over. When the dust settled, Nebraska had landed none of them.
Calvin, a wide receiver recruit that Nebraska had been chasing for just under a year, shockingly chose Oregon State so that he could continue his collegiate career with his high school teammate, Arex Flemmings. This was the first gut punch of the day for Husker fans, as Calvin had been considered a “silent commit” to Nebraska since his official visit for the Fresno State game. This was also a blow to Nebraska’s “Calibraska” movement, which has been sitting at two commits since April of 2016 despite being an extremely catchy marketing campaign.
Filiaga, an offensive tackle recruit that Coach Mike Cavanaugh had been working for over a year and hosted on Dec. 13, liked the Huskers but ultimately chose Michigan. Filiaga’s commitment gave Michigan its sixth top-100 recruit according to 247sports’ ranking. Nebraska is still searching for its first.
Holmes, the golden goose of Nebraska’s 2017 recruiting efforts, had shown Nebraska plenty of attention over the past year, visiting Lincoln six times. Despite his familiarity with Nebraska and his relationship with Husker commits Tristan Gebbia and Keyshawn Johnson Jr., Holmes chose to stay at home and commit to UCLA.
Finally, Sarell, the number one prospect in the nation, chose Stanford in the final commitment of the day. Coach Cavanaugh had been recruiting Sarell since his freshman year of high school, but his efforts couldn’t sway Sarell from picking Stanford and attending his dream school.
Four big swings, four big misses for the Nebraska coaching staff, who now need to rebound and add 10 more commitments to their class by February 1. The one silver lining in this situation is that Nebraska does appear to have some backup plans in place this year as opposed to the 2016 class.
At wide receiver, Nebraska still has hope that it can land 4-star recruit Joseph Lewis, though USC is pushing hard to keep the talented prospect in Los Angeles. Nebraska also appears to hold the lead for Texas prospect Gavin Holmes and is in the mix to host Ohio prospect Lynn Bowden.
At offensive tackle. Nebraska recently offered Lincoln East prospect Chris Walker. The 6-6, 280 pound Walker emerged as the best offensive line prospect in the state during his senior season. Walker is currently committed to Wyoming, but he is planning to officially visit Nebraska on January 20. Also, Nebraska may be readying themselves to take a run at current Minnesota commit Blaise Andries. Andries was interested in Nebraska early, but committed to the Gophers and former Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys. Andries has stated that he is solid with Minnesota, but anything can change in the weeks leading up until signing day.
Finally at cornerback, Nebraska has zeroed in on Deommodore Lenoir and Greg Johnson as their top two targets. Both are California natives that were originally committed to Pac-12 schools. Johnson visited Nebraska for the Oregon game while Lenoir is planning his official visit for January 20.
The fact that those backup plans are in place are a good sign. It signals that Nebraska has learned from the Desmond Fitzpatrick saga of last year. But for all the good work that Nebraska has done in establishing its backup plans on the recruiting trail, it doesn’t change the fact that their remaining targets in the 2017 class are backup options.
Nebraska had a shot to land four great players Saturday, instead it will have to hope it can replace them with four good players. Normally there is nothing wrong with landing good players in a recruiting class, but Nebraska is now sharing a conference with three of the best recruiting schools in the nation. When you have to compete with Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, good simply isn’t good enough.