The Huskers had a number of important official visitors in town this weekend, including a trio of in-state prospects in what is shaping up to be an incredible 2023 cycle in Nebraska.
Last week, Nebraska offered Fremont Bergan athlete Kade McIntyre, making him the eighth in-state player from the 2023 class with a Husker offer. Add Gretna quarterback Zane Flores — an Oklahoma State commit — to the mix, and that’s potentially nine Power Five players in the class.
If Nebraska has ever had that many in a single class, it was well before I started following recruiting. In 2021, eight players received Power Five offers (though one of them ended up signing with Wyoming). In 2020, seven players landed at Power Five schools.
The in-state talent has arguably never been better. What has that meant for Nebraska?
The Huskers have landed commitments from three of the eight in-state products they’ve offered this cycle — Pierce tight end Benjamin Brahmer, Lincoln Southeast offensive lineman Gunnar Gottula and Omaha Creighton Prep offensive lineman Sam Sledge. In addition to McIntyre, the Huskers are also recruiting Lincoln East athlete Malachi Coleman, Elkhorn South pass-rusher Maverick Noonan, Scottsbluff offensive lineman Brock Knutson and Lincoln High athlete Beni Ngoyi.
Gottula, Coleman and Noonan were all part of the official visit contingent on campus this weekend.
However, before we go forward, let’s turn back the clock to the 2018 recruiting cycle, Scott Frost’s first in Lincoln — although he didn’t get much time to work with it after taking over. That year, Frost and his new staff retained the commitment of Cam Jurgens (then, a tight end) but wasn’t able to flip Wisconsin commit Bryson Williams a defensive tackle from Lincoln Southeast.
In 2019, Frost’s first real cycle as Nebraska’s head coach, the Huskers went five-for-five on in-state kids (Nick Henrich, Chris Hickman, Garrett Nelson, Ethan Piper and Garrett Snodgrass) and also landed Luke Reimer as a walk-on (though he didn’t stay one long).
In 2020, only three in-state players received FBS scholarship offers, and the Huskers offered two of them. They landed Zavier Betts but los Xaver Watts to Notre Dame. They recruited Isaac Gifford as a blueshirt candidate, and he quickly landed on scholarship after arriving on campus. Papillion-La Vista South tight end Will Swanson ended up at Kansas Sate, but Nebraska didn’t offer.
The talent picked up again in 2021, and after two straight losing seasons the cracks started to show up. The Huskers missed out on two of the top three players in the class (Omaha Westside cornerback Avante Dickerson went to Oregon while Bellevue West wide receiver Keagan Johnson went to Iowa) but did land five players in total: Teddy Prochazka, James Carnie, Heinrich Haarberg, Koby Bretz and AJ Rollins.
Finally, the Huskers missed out on the top four players in the state (according to 247Sports Composite) in the 2022 cycle as Omaha Burke linebacker Devon Jackson picked Oregon, Omaha Central offensive line DeShawn Woods picked Missouri before landing at Wyoming and Bellevue West tight ends Kaden Helms and Micah Riley-Ducker chose Oklahoma and Auburn, respectively. The Huskers did land Ernest Hausmann and Jake Appleget then flipped Gage Stenger from Kansas State with a late commit. Columbus Scotus tight end Garrett Oakley did end up with Kansas State, though Nebraska didn’t offer him.
In total, I counted 36 players with FBS offers from the past six cycles. Nebraska landed 20 of them while five remain uncommitted (and hold Nebraska offers). Beyond Oregon and Kansas State with two commits apiece, the rest of the players who left the state are scattered all over the country — Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Auburn, Iowa, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Wyoming each have had one commitment from a native Nebraskan.
Of the 20 commits, eight have come from the Omaha Metro area, five have come from Lincoln and seven have come from outside the two major cities. As for the 11 players that have chose to go elsewhere, nine of them are from the Omaha Metro area with just one from Lincoln and one from the the rest of the state. The Huskers have done a good job landing players from all over, but the bulk of the players they’ve missed on have come out of Omaha.
For what it’s worth, only one of the uncommitted targets in this 2023 cycle is from Omaha while two are from Lincoln and two from elsewhere in the state.
Looking at the players from those six cycles as a group, the position at which Nebraska has provided the most talent is tight end with nine of them (that includes Jurgens who moved to center midway through his freshman year). Offensive line and linebacker come in second with six apiece. Nebraska hasn’t produced a single Power Five scholarship running back recruit since Jaylin Bradley in 2017.
So what has all this in-state talent meant for Nebraska on the field? Not a ton just yet. Jurgens turned into a three-year starter and second-round NFL draft pick, and he’s the only in-state recruit Frost brought into the program who has garnered All-Big Ten honors (and he was just a third-teamer). Henrich, Reimer and Nelson have developed into starters and each of them could have all-conference potential heading into 2022. Prochazka figures to be a starter and potentially a very good one assuming a full return to health.
The other eight players who have already spent at least one season in Lincoln are still trying to earn their way into the rotation outside of special teams (though Piper did start for a time before losing his job). That doesn’t include Betts, who has left the team.
However, none of the players who signed elsewhere have garnered all-conference honors yet either, though Keagan Johnson had a very good freshman season for the Hawkeyes. That will be put to the test here in the next few years as we see the classes of 2021 and 2022 grow and develop.
Even if you exclude walk-ons, Nebraska products make up nearly a fourth of Nebraska’s scholarships, twice as much as the next-highest total. Frost has missed on a handful of highly-regarded in-state players, but he’s landed a lot more and that group could play a large part in shaping where the program goes from here.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.