The 2017 recruiting cycle is officially in the books, with the Huskers finishing with an impressive 20-man haul. With the group now signed and delivered, the questions truly begin. For instance, which of the new signees will see the field immediately and which recruits need a redshirt season? To answer that, we took a look at each signee from the 2017 class and made the call on whether or not they’ll see the field as true freshman or spend a year in the weight room first.
Tristan Gebbia: Redshirt
Nebraska finally enters spring ball with some quarterback depth and Danny Langsdorf will have three scholarship quarterbacks and an intriguing walk-on to work with. This depth means that Langsdorf doesn’t have to rush Gebbia on to the field, allowing the talented quarterback prospect some time to progress. Gebbia is a smart and accurate passer with a deceptively strong arm but at only 180 pounds, he needs to spend a year in the weight room before he will be ready to play.
Jaylin Bradley: Redshirt
Reggie Davis enters spring ball with three solid running back options that have experience: Tre Bryant, Devine Ozigbo and Mikale Wilbon. This depth means that there is no need to rush Jaylin Bradley on to the field next fall. Bradley was fantastic at the Class A level in Nebraska, but he will likely need a redshirt season to add strength and adjust to the speed of the collegiate game. At 6-0 and 185 pounds, Bradley has a very slender build for a running back, so a year in the weight room would be extremely beneficial to him.
Ben Miles: Redshirt
You could make the argument that Miles was the top fullback prospect in the nation in 2017 and the 6-1, 215 pounder brings impressive physicality and versatility to Nebraska’s backfield. However, Miles doesn’t need to be rushed onto the field and the main reason why is Luke McNitt. McNitt, a former walk-on from Kearney, earned his scholarship following the 2016 season due to a solid performance as Nebraska’s fullback. McNitt’s presence allows Davis to take his time with Miles and let him add weight and strength to his frame.
Austin Allen: Redshirt
There may not be a more intriguing signing in Nebraska’s 2017 class than the 6-8 Allen. Allen, who received football offers from UCLA and UCF while also drawing division I interest on the basketball court, can eventually become a matchup nightmare for Nebraska in the redzone. But Allen is not ready to play right away, as he has a very slender build at 6-8 and 220 pounds at this point, meaning he needs a year in the weight room before he is ready to play. Allen is also a bit rusty when it comes to football, as he missed the majority of his senior year due to a knee injury.
Kurt Rafdal: Play Him
Nebraska is essentially starting over at tight end in 2017, as Cethan Carter, Sam Cotton and Trey Foster all graduated in 2016. This leaves Nebraska with an unproven group of young tight ends, with Tyler Hoppes, Matt Snyder, David Engelhaupt and Jack Stoll all needing to step up in their expanded roles. That gives Rafdal a golden opportunity to see the field as a freshman. He brings impressive size and a polished receiving skill set to Lincoln. The one area that Rafdal will need to prove himself it is run blocking, which was an area where he struggled at times last fall. If Rafdal proves that he can hold his own as a blocker, there should be nothing keeping him from seeing the field in 2017.
Jaevon McQuitty: Play Him
Keith Williams’ receiver class began when McQuitty committed to Nebraska on March 12, 2016 and he will see the field early in his Nebraska career. McQuitty brings a polished receiving skill set and impressive speed to the Nebraska receiving corps and he can find a role early behind Stanley Morgan Jr. in 2017. McQuitty also helped himself by enrolling at Nebraska early, allowing him to take part in spring drills and find his role this spring.
Keyshawn Johnson Jr.: Play Him
Nebraska saw three wide receivers graduate after the 2016 season, meaning that the three new signees will need to grow up quick in Nebraska’s offense. Johnson’s commitment gave Nebraska huge boost for 2017, and his polished receiving skill set and solid hands will help him see the field early. Johnson will also take part in spring drills, which will help him find his role on Nebraska’s offense this spring.
Tyjon Lindsey: Play Him
Lindsey is the most talented offensive signing in the 2017 class and Nebraska simply can’t keep him off the field next season. Lindsey brings speed and explosiveness to Nebraska’s receiving corps that hasn’t been seen since Kenny Bell graduated and he will also provide a much-needed boost to Nebraska’s kick and punt return units.
Brenden Jaimes: Redshirt
Matt Sichterman: Redshirt
Broc Bando: Redshirt
Chris Walker: Redshirt
If there were a season in which Nebraska would have played a true freshman on the offensive line, it would have happened in 2016 when the line was crippled by injuries. Despite seeing every starter except Dylan Utter miss time, Nebraska didn’t burn the redshirt of any of its freshman linemen. This gives Nebraska impressive depth entering 2017, as Matt Farniok, Bryan Brokop, Boe Wilson and John Raridon entering their redshirt freshman seasons. This allows Mike Cavanaugh to take his time and redshirt his four offensive line signings in 2017.
Deontre Thomas: Play Him
Holding on to Deontre Thomas was one of the more underrated recruiting victories for John Parrella, as the defensive line prospect was getting significant interest from Notre Dame and Oklahoma entering signing day. There is a reason for this, seeing as Thomas brings fantastic strength and quickness to the Nebraska defensive line. The switch to a 3-4 scheme will likely push Thomas out to defensive end because his 6-2, 270 pound frame doesn’t project to him playing nose guard.
Deiontae Watts: Redshirt
Watts was an impressive recruiting victory for John Parrella, considering the 6-3, 300 pound Watts chose Nebraska over offers from Texas A&M and Oklahoma. Watts brings exciting potential to the Nebraska defensive line, but he would be well served to redshirt in 2017 and add strength to his frame and polish up the rough spots of his game. Redshirting would also allow Watts to save a year of eligibility and truly become a nose tackle while also helping the logjam at nose guard sort itself out.
Damion Daniels: Play Him
Daniels was a huge signing day victory for Nebraska, as Parrella landed a true nose guard prospect for Bob Diaco’s defense, beating out LSU, Texas and Oklahoma State in the process. Nebraska didn’t have a true nose guard on their roster prior to the 2017 season, making Daniels commitment even more important entering 2017. I don’t think Daniels will start in 2017, but he will see extensive playing time behind Mick Stoltenberg at the pivotal point of Nebraska’s defense.
Willie Hampton: Redshirt
Hampton is a bit of a forgotten recruit in the 2017 class, since he committed to Nebraska on March 10 and quietly stayed solid to the Huskers throughout the cycle. Hampton brings impressive athleticism and tantalizing potential to Nebraska’s defense, but he is still raw at this point and needs a redshirt season before he will be ready to compete for playing time.
Guy Thomas: Play Him
Nebraska is in desperate need for edge rushers on defense, especially considering the Huskers inability to pressure the quarterback in 2016. Holding on to Guy Thomas gives Nebraska an impressive edge rusher that fits very well at the outside linebacker position in Nebraska’s defensive scheme. Watch for Thomas to immediately enter competition for the starting outside linebacker spot along with Tyrin Ferguson, Quayshon Alexander and Collin Miller.
Avery Roberts: Play Him
Roberts was one of the most highly regarded linebackers in the entire 2017 class, eventually choosing Nebraska over offers from Penn State and Oklahoma. His impressive talent, combined with him enrolling early at Nebraska, makes him a likely candidate to see the field early in Lincoln. Roberts should immediately enter the discussion for a starting inside linebacker spot along with Chris Weber and Dedrick Young.
Andrew Ward: Play Him
I would argue that Andrew Ward is the most underrated signee in the 2017 class, as he was all over the field at Muskegon this past fall. Ward brings blazing speed to the linebacker position, something that will make him a tremendous presence on coverage units as a true freshman. Nebraska’s lack of depth at inside linebacker also plays a role in this decision, considering Nebraska currently only has four scholarship inside linebackers entering the 2017 season.
Elijah Blades: Play Him
Blades was the final piece of Nebraska’s 2017 class and the highly-rated prospect was arguably Nebraska’s biggest recruiting win of the entire cycle. Blades, a physical specimen at 6-3 and 180 pounds with 4.4 speed, simply has too much talent to keep off the field, as he will find a role on special teams while also fighting for reps in Nebraska’s secondary.