They Said It: Northwestern-Nebraska
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Time for the Huskers to Seal the Deal in Recruiting

November 30, 2016

The Nebraska coaches have hit the recruiting trail, which means all we can do now is wait. The Huskers have a pretty good recruiting class so far for 2017, consisting of 15 total commits to date. But a troubling trend has taken place over the last couple of months. It’s a trend the Husker coaches are hoping to fix on the recruiting trail this week.

To get a better understanding, let me ask: What do Andrew Van Ginkle and Jaylon Johnson have in common? Both are talented prospects in the 2017 class who could have gone anywhere they wanted, but that’s not the answer I’m looking for. Instead, it’s much simpler. Both were high-profile prospects that Nebraska was in the final group for but couldn’t reel in.

This issue isn’t something that has only affected head coach Mike Riley and his staff, as Nebraska’s penchant for finishing second for top recruits was established during the Bo Pelini tenure. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Andrus Peat and Kalen Ballage all visited Nebraska and had the Huskers in their final group of schools. They all chose to attend school elsewhere.

The players that replaced them in Nebraska’s recruiting class? Walker Ashburn, Paul Thurston and Larenzo Stewart all either left the program before their careers’ finished or didn’t attend Nebraska at all. The inability to sign top-tier prospects contributed to Nebraska’s struggle to be more than 9-4 and contributed to Pelini being shown the door.

Riley and his staff had one primary job in 2015 and that was to hold together a class that was on the verge of collapsing after Pelini’s termination. As for 2016, the expectations were much different but the results weren’t much different.

Let’s take a look at the 2016 recruits Nebraska just missed out on:

  • Desmond Fitzpatrick: Nebraska’s fabled “silent commit” of the 2016 class. He decommitted from Louisville, became a silent commit to Nebraska, leading the Huskers to turn away other wide receiver prospects, such as Zach Farrar and Kalija Lipscomp. Fitzpatrick then recommitted to Louisville with a Ferris Bueller themed video.
  • David Reese: Visited Nebraska for the Michigan State game in 2015, decommitting from Michigan soon after. Nebraska appeared to be the leader throughout Reese’s late recruiting stage, but the Florida Gators swooped in and won the battle for the early enrollee.
  • Maurice Chandler: One of the top junior college cornerback prospects last season. Visited Nebraska in late November and named Nebraska one of his top two along with Arizona State. However, he eventually committed to Arizona State because he didn’t like Nebraska’s cold weather.
  • Tremayne Anchrum: One of the top offensive line prospects in the southeast and one of Nebraska’s top targets at offensive tackle. He had Nebraska as his top school following a visit for the Huskers’ season opener and was believed to be a silent commit to Nebraska for most of the cycle. Instead, he eventually committed to Clemson after watching the Tigers defeat Florida State.
  • Isaiah Simmons: Nebraska was believed to be Simmons’ top choice throughout his senior football season. However, both Michigan and Clemson made a run at Simmons once his season was complete and Nebraska found itself pushed out of the picture by the recruiting heavyweights. Simmons eventually committed to Clemson.

Those five players alone could have taken Nebraska’s 2016 class from good to great, but the Huskers were not able to close the deal. With the 2017 class taking shape, it appears that history may be repeating itself.

Nebraska lost out on Van Ginkle and Johnson, while longtime ‘Calibraska’ targets Darnay Holmes and Rahyme Johnson look like bigger long shots with each passing day. Nebraska got off to a tremendous start to its 2017 class but with only two months left until signing day, it’s not looking so good anymore. The commit number hasn’t changed and the Huskers’ top-target list keeps shrinking.

Maybe I’m just being pessimistic and Riley will land 10 studs to finish out the class. However, it’s difficult to look at the recent activity on Nebraska’s board and not be concerned. If Nebraska wants to reach the point where it can legitimately compete for the Big Ten championship and eventually a national title, then the Huskers need to finish the deal and reel in top targets.

With that in mind, Nebraska is still in the mix for quite a few top recruits’ commitments. Joseph Lewis, arguably the top wide receiver prospect in the nation, is a Husker lean. Nebraska also has a few running back recruits and offensive line prospects on the short list, but the goal now is convincing them all that Lincoln, Nebraska is where they want to be. The Nebraska coaching staff has shown they’re capable of getting a recruit to visit. The question now is whether or not the staff can get those same players to commit.

I’d personally love to see Nebraska go on a run and land Damion Daniels, Chevin Calloway and Lewis. This would prove that the Nebraska coaching staff is not only capable of identifying top talent but also capable of securing it for the Huskers. In a world where silver medals don’t exist, Nebraska’s history of coming in second needs to end. I’m hoping Riley and his staff can buck the trend before it continues.

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