With less than a month to go until National Signing Day, we’re taking a close look at the current status of Nebraska’s 2017 recruiting class. We recently evaluated the offense and now it’s time to break down the state of the defense.
With the Huskers needing to add strength in the trenches and speed in the defensive back seven, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on defense. What players are the Huskers looking at to complete each defensive position in the 2017 class? Let’s take a look.
Defensive Line (Commits: 3, Open Spots: 2-3)
John Parrella endeared himself to Husker Nation early in his tenure, mainly due to his relentless effort on the recruiting trail. Parella will need to continue that effort in the final month, as the defensive line group suddenly looks much less stable. Parrella currently holds two defensive tackle commits in Deontre Thomas and Deiontae Watts. While both are solid commits, Parrella is still looking for one more defensive tackle in the 2017 class.
Tyler Shelvin is the dream recruit for this class, but the massive Louisiana native is unlikely to flip from the home state Tigers. Nebraska does have an official visit from Shelvin scheduled for Jan. 13 and Parrella will need to bring his A-game if he wants to have a chance at landing him.
The other defensive tackle prospect that Parrella has zeroed in on is Damion Daniels, a Dallas, Texas, native. Daniels visited Nebraska for the Fresno State game and the Huskers have been considered the leader ever since. One team to watch for though is Ole Miss, who will host Daniels on Jan. 13.
At defensive end, Nebraska currently holds one commit in Guy Thomas, but his commitment is unlikely to stick now that Florida State is beginning a push. That means Nebraska needs to find at least one more defensive end to cover its bases. The dream scenario would result in Nebraska swiping Robert Beal away from Georgia, but the more likely scenario will be Nebraska finding a pair of new targets in the final weeks before signing day.
Confidence Level: 3. Shelvin appears to be nothing but a pipe dream for Husker fans, and Daniels’ commitment can no longer be considered a sure thing. Add that to an uninspiring list of defensive end targets and you have a very shaky position group for the first year coach.
Linebacker (Committed: 3, Open Spots: maybe 1)
The 2017 season will mark a new beginning for Trent Bray’s linebacker corps, as we will get to see if Nebraska’s linebacker signees over the past three cycles are as good as advertised. Bray currently has three commits in his 2017 class, headlined by Delaware native Avery Roberts. Roberts was one of the most coveted linebacker recruits in the nation, with Bray beating both Penn State and Oklahoma for his commitment. Roberts will be an early enrollee, where he will battle with Dedrick Young for the starting WILL position.
Joining Roberts in the class is Willie Hampton and Andrew Ward. While neither are instant impact recruits, both are tremendously athletic prospects that bring impressive potential to Nebraska. While Nebraska is technically full at the linebacker position, Bray is still in the mix for one final linebacker signee in Isaac Slade-Matautia. Matautia, a Hawaii native, has been pursued by Nebraska for over a year, finally taking his visit to Nebraska on Dec. 13. Nebraska is currently battling with Oregon for the talented Hawaiian;s signature. Matautia’s commitment could be vital to Nebraska, as Andrew Ward may be an academic casualty by next fall.
Confidence Level: 10. Bray is playing with house money right now, as he already has a full recruiting group. Landing Slade-Matautia would be icing on the cake.
Defensive Back (Commits: 0, Open Spots: 2-3)
You could argue that Brian Stewart was the MVP of Nebraska’s 2016 class, but he has been quiet during the 2017 cycle. Nebraska still has three open spots available, with Greg Johnson and Deommodore Lenoir emerging as its top targets. Johnson was an Arizona commit, but he decommited soon after Arizona’s defensive back coach Donte Williams left to become the new cornerback coach at Nebraska. The Huskers are considered the leader at this point, but both USC and Notre Dame are in hot pursuit. One thing working against Nebraska is that USC holds a commitment from Johnson’s younger brother Marcus.
Lenoir was a longtime Husker target, but he committed to Oregon early in the regular season. Nebraska was given another shot at Lenoir when Mark Helfrich was fired. As a result, Nebraska will be hosting Lenoir on Jan. 20, with the Huskers competing with North Carolina for the talented Los Angeles prospect.
The final target in Nebraska’s 2017 class is a sleeper from Oklahoma. Kamren Curl, a 6-2, 180 pound prospect out of Muskogee, Okla., recently named the Huskers as one of his top schools, along with Arkansas, Ole Miss, Oklahoma and TCU. Curl visited Nebraska on Nov. 12 for the Minnesota game and enjoyed what he saw. Kurl projects at both safety and cornerback, making him a valuable piece of the class if Stewart and Williams can close on him.
Confidence Level: 8. Landing Williams was a game changer, as he is one of the finest recruiters in the country. Johnson has been considered a Husker lean for over a month now, and Lenoir has had a relationship with Nebraska for a longer period than he has with North Carolina.