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Nebraska Football

Hot Reads: A Great Time for Rapid Roster Overhaul

June 20, 2018
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If you follow the college news ticker closely, perhaps you saw yesterday that Tennessee added a pair of graduate transfers to new head coach Jeremy Pruitt's rapidly changing roster in Knoxville: Alabama center Brandon Kennedy and Michigan State running back Madre London. London's transfer has been known, though not officially announced, for months, but Kennedy's came about as sort of a test case of the SEC's restrictive policy prohibiting graduate transfers within the conference without a waiver. (The NCAA eliminated that prohibition last week on a national level, though conferences are still free to institute more restrictive rules.)

Add those two to former Stanford quarterback Keller Chryst and five junior college signees in the 2018 class and Pruitt has eight players brought in to challenge for playing time right away. (That's before you count any true freshmen in the 2018 class.) That number –– eight –– jumped out at me.

A friend of mine mentioned it in a recent email regarding Nebraska's own rapid roster "churn" in the early months of the Scott Frost era. The Huskers also have added eight ready-to-play players, two immediately eligible transfers (Vaha Vainuku, Breon Dixon) and six junior-college transfers. That matches the roster attrition to this point if you include Keyshawn Johnson Jr.'s unsurprising departure in December.

If eight doesn't seem like a big number to you, think of it in terms of a two-deep. As my friend noted in his email, that's 44 available spots. If just the eight transfers land on the two-deep Nebraska's list of key contributors is already 18-percent new and you don't really have to stretch too much to get there.

This isn't science, more of scribblings on a bar napkin (metaphorically, I'm not at bar as I write this this morning, though with the World Cup going on I guess if I were maybe there's a reasonable explanation), but I quickly wrote out a gut-reaction two-deep just to see where the new additions fell.

I think linebacker Will Honas, running back Greg Bell, wide receiver Mike Williams and linebacker Breon Dixon are all realistically on the two-deep now. That's half of the transfers. Defensive backs Will Jackson and Deontai Williams have reasonable chances to get there just based on Nebraska's numbers in the secondary. (Just ask Travis Fisher). The two stretches for me are Vainuku (cracking the d-line two-deep could be tough) and Woodyard (who will certainly play and contribute, but I'm not ready to put him in the top-six wide receivers yet). But let's say they do get in there for the sake of argument.

Based on the remaining holes on my hastily assembled two-deep, there's still room for more than a few true freshmen. Adrian Martinez is definitely in there at quarterback, and I think Will Farniok (center) and Miles Jones (wide receiver) are, too. Cameron Jurgens at tight end behind Stoll? Wouldn't surprise me at all. What about linebacker Caleb Tannor or safeties CJ Smith and Cam Jones? If just two of them make it, you're up to six true freshmen on the two-deep and I think at least two could.

While I wouldn't call it the most likely scenario, it doesn't seem far-fetched that the Huskers could have a two-deep that's 32-percent new at some point this fall (eight transfers, six true freshmen). When you look at how Nebraska's done it, and how Tennessee appears to be trying to do it, it seems like a trend we might see more of in the near future, particularly for power programs who are trying to "right the ship." (I wouldn't put Florida, Florida State or Texas A&M in that category right now, for what it's worth.)

The interesting thing is that if a quick roster overhaul is the goal, there's never been a better time to attempt it. The number of football graduate transfers nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017. Freshmen enrolling early was already on the rise, but the addition of a December signing period could make it even easier (or at least more appealing). Sprinkle in some junior college additions and if a new coach wants to flip his roster quickly, it's never been easier to do than it is right now.

Nebraska is one school that seems to be taking advantage of that.

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