Attrition is a fact of life in college football in today’s landscape.
The explosion of players in the transfer portal shows that. The number of players the Huskers have brought in via the portal this offseason also shows that. Still, there is a balance that must be struck to build a program set up for long-term success.
High school recruiting and development still matter. The ability to identify and develop prep players is still the most reliable way to build a team. Even in the transfer portal era. That’s especially true at a school like Nebraska that needs to be good at development. There isn’t an unending line of high 4-stars and 5-stars trying to get to Lincoln at the moment.
That’s why when you land players to be excited about at wide receiver, it has to count. Coach Scott Frost said Thursday that third-year wide receiver Zavier Betts is currently not with the team. The door was not closed immediately on a return. If Betts doesn’t return he would be the 10th high school wide receiver recruited by Frost to leave the team. The four who haven’t left the team are Alante Brown, Latrell Neville, Kamonte Grimes and Shawn Hardy. The last three are all 2021 recruits.
That’s 71% of Frost’s high school receivers leaving the program early.
That figure explains why Nebraska hasn’t found continuity in the receiver room. There were many excited fans and coaches to land many of those players. Wan’Dale Robinson, Darien Chase, Marcus Fleming and Betts were all 4-star prospects. The rest of the players were 3-star players. They were all hand-picked to help run the high-powered attack that Frost was bringing from UCF.
There are a variety of reasons that those players did not finish their careers with the program. The reasons are wide-ranging. Legal issues, not making it to campus due to grades or simply deciding to transfer are a few. No matter the reason, Nebraska hasn’t gotten enough out of its high school recruits at the position.
Nebraska tallied 136 receptions from the 14 high school wideouts recruited by Frost––123 of those catches were from Robinson and Betts.
The Huskers have had to find ways to supplement those losses along the way. Kanawai Noa transferred to Nebraska in the 2019 recruiting class. Omar Manning was the No. 1 junior college wide receiver in the 2020 recruiting class. Samori Touré and Oliver Martin transferred into the program the next recruiting class. Those players combined for 104 catches for 1,756 yards and 10 scores. Manning and Martin are still with the team and can add to those totals in 2022.
Nebraska is on its third wide receivers coach under Frost. Mickey Joseph is the most accomplished of the trio that have held that position since 2018. Joseph knows how to get the most out of his players. He coached several players that went to the NFL. JaMarr Chase and Justin Jefferson are currently lighting up NFL scoreboards.
Joseph is known as a high-level recruiter and a demanding coach. The Huskers will need both skill sets to get the receiver room on track. We saw him help Nebraska sign class of 2022 recruits Janiran Bonner and Decoldest Crawford. Victor Jones Jr. was already in the class when Joseph arrived.
We got a glimpse of how demanding he can be this week. He’s got players’ attention.
“That’s my style, that’s what I play with,” Manning said. “I want a coach to be in my ear telling me what I did wrong or right. On every play he talks to us. That’s what I like and that’s the coaches I like to play for.”
The Huskers are working to find balance. Traditional recruiting and development need to be a bigger part of the equation. Transfers can still supplement the talent at wide receiver. There is a new coach leading the charge which is key. So is maximizing the talent the team lands from the prep ranks.
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.