Tom Osborne described 1994 as “one of the more difficult recruiting years we’ve had,” a fact related to having played for a national championship according to Dave Gillespie, Nebraska’s recruiting coordinator at the time.
Gillespie, who left to coach at Kansas in April of 1994 before returning in 1998 as a coach on Frank Solich’s staff, might’ve been right. If so, however, the 1995 recruiting class belied the fact.
The Huskers reportedly had commitments from 24 scholarship recruits before leaving for the Orange Bowl and their national championship matchup with Miami. “Seven or eight” had committed without visiting campus, Osborne said. “It was bizarre and difficult to explain.”
The difficult part had been making sure players held to their commitments while Nebraska prepared for the Hurricanes. Several commits had gotten “hammered pretty good,” said Osborne.
That’s because the Huskers “got players we had ranked very high and really wanted,” he said. “The early commitments were a big boost, actually, to our football program.”
Twenty of the 26 recruits announced on letter-of-intent-signing day would earn at least one letter and 10 earned four, including placekicker Kris Brown and rush end Chad Kelsey, both of whom played without redshirting, as did I-back Ahman Green and linebacker Terrell Farley. Green left after his junior season by way of the NFL Draft. Farley was a junior college transfer, the only one in the class.
Kelsay and Green were among seven in-state recruits, which also pleased Osborne. The previous year, only three Nebraskans had been among the scholarship recruits. The only in-state recruit of note in the 1995 class to turn down Nebraska was Creighton Prep’s Tim Ridder, who would earn four letters at Notre Dame playing tight end and offensive tackle.
Osborne said the Husker coaches rated Green “the best running back in the country.”
Green and linebacker Tony Ortiz from Waterbury, Connecticut, were Parade Magazine All-Americans, as well as being among 10 in the class on the SuperPrep Magazine All-America team and 21 on the Blue Chip Magazine All-America team. The National Recruiting Advisor ranked the class fifth nationally. SuperPrep ranked it 11th.
He didn’t care about rankings, Osborne said. “The biggest scam in the country is the people who pay all kinds of money for recruiting news. We took a lot of kids who were ‘blue-chippers,’ can’t-miss guys, who didn’t pan out. We took a lot of players the other way, too.”
Husker coaches drew a line, said Osborne, and identified “excellent recruits, people we would take if they accepted.” The 1995 recruiting class included only players above that line.
Two were quarterbacks: Frankie London from Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Jeff Perino from Durango, Colorado. Both redshirted. London saw limited action as a back-up quarterback for three seasons, then moved to wingback. Perino missed the 1997 and 1998 seasons because of three major knee surgeries, serving as a student assistant coach in 1998. The NCAA allowed his reinstatement in 1999.
The starting quarterback job in 1996 and 1997, of course, went to another 1995 arrival, though not a letter-of-intent signee. Scott Frost transferred from Stanford and also sat out the season.
The NCAA had reduced recruiting classes to 25, and Nebraska exceeded the limit by three because Shevin Wiggins and Eric Warfield counted against the total. They had delayed enrollment after signing letters of intent in 1994. But Osborne said three of those who signed—he didn’t identify them—in 1995 would likely have to delay enrollment, bringing the official number down to 25.
Recruiting in 1995 was the “strangest and most bizarre” in his 23 years as coach, Osborne said.
Playing for a national championship seemed to have no effect, negatively anyway.
Next up: Where things stand going into 1995 opener at Oklahoma State.
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.