Photo by Paul Bellinger
Nebraska Football

Love or Hate: Stars on Paper, Stars on the Field and More

July 5, 2019
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It’s Friday. Let’s get to it.

Cleaning Up

Nebraska sits at No. 63 in the 2020 class rankings on 247Sports. Iowa is at No. 20, Kansas is at No. 31, Kansas State No. 32 and Iowa State No. 34. Kansas! The Husker class currently ranks 12th in the Big Ten, ahead of only Rutgers and Illinois. What’s going on here? It’s July. 

At this point last season, Nebraska had 10 commits. Currently, it has seven. So a little behind the rate from last season, but I don’t think there’s anything to worry about at this point in time. Would Nebraska like to have hit on Malik Reed or a couple of others? Absolutely, but the quality, from top to bottom, of the Husker class right now is reason enough to keep from getting too worried about the trail.

Just focusing on team rankings first, volume factors in a great deal here. Iowa and Kansas each have 21 commits. The lowest total in the top-25 is 13, which a couple teams are tied for. If we just looked at the average score of each member of the class, the Huskers would be 15th nationally. 

Now to the stars. I don’t think Husker coaches care about stars. They don’t influence whether a kid gets an offer or not. Look at Logan Smothers, a 3-three quarterback from Alabama who got a Nebraska offer before he got practically anything from anyone else. Nebraska’s staff knows what it wants, knows what to look for and knows what fits, and if a kid checks all the boxes, everyone on staff trusts their evaluations above everything else. Smothers could rise throughout his senior season. 

A lot of the currently-committed kids could. Blaise Gunnerson is a 3-star kid everywhere you look. But your average, everyday 3-stars don’t garner the attention or produce the electricity Gunnerson did during that Friday Night Lights camp he took part in. As he kept pushing his way into more and more reps, the rest of the camp seemingly faded away behind him. Everyone was watching — and awing (is that a word?) —at the Iowa native. I would stake my job on him getting bumped up. 

Turner Corcoran is the 32nd-ranked player in the country according to the 247 composite. The top 29 guys are all 5-stars, and the lowest composite score from that group is a 0.9844. Corcoran is currently at 0.9828. If Corcoran wasn’t playing in Kansas — let’s drop him into, say, the Mississippi high school scene — he’d be a 5-star. And still, he could very well become a 5-star before his senior season is over. 

It’s not time to worry about recruiting. Now, last year’s class had 14 guys publicly ’N’ by the start of the season; if we get into late August and the numbers are still in the single digits, then we can start talking about what’s going on. 

A Closer Look at that Schedule

Sporting News’ Bill Bender released his preseason All-America first- and second-team selections on Wednesday. There’s a lot of Big Ten love. In fact, only the SEC’s eight first-team selections was better than the Big Ten’s seven first-teamers. Fourteen guys in total made the two teams from the Big Ten, and four of those first-team guys were on the defensive side of the ball. Six of the first-team guys belong to teams on Nebraska’s 2019 schedule. 

It underscores a point I’ve been thinking about for a while: this is second-best football league in the country and assuming that Nebraska is going to win nine games and go to the Big Ten championship game because this is Scott Frost and he went unbeaten in his second year at UCF is putting the cart way before the horse. 

Even looking at a preseason All-Big Ten team like the one Phil Steele put out, there isn’t a ton of Nebraska flavor on the list, but the names that are on there are household names and Nebraska’s going to be facing a lot of them. So when I see a page that predicts Nebraska to go 11-1 in the regular season with its only loss at home to Ohio State, and then avenge that loss with a Big Ten championship game win, I start thinking “okay, it’s time to slow the roll a little bit.”

While I’ve already said at multiple points in time throughout this offseason I don’t like preseason polls or watch lists or, in this case, all-whatever lists, something like Bender’s evaluation of the college football talent pool and Steele’s evaluation of the Big Ten talent pool can offer much-needed context. 

Yes, fit and organizational harmony and roster continuity are all things that can’t be overlooked when talking about team sports, but those things on their own aren’t enough to beat top-end talent just because. In this day and age, it’s really hard to just line up across from another football team and outwork the other guys if they’re four inches taller and 50 pounds heavier and however-many-seconds-in-a-40 faster. 

Nebraska will face the best receiver in football when it plays Colorado, one of the Big Ten’s best defensive linemen when it plays Ohio State, the Big Ten’s best interior linebacker when it plays Northwestern, the best athlete in the Big Ten when it plays Purdue, the best running back in football when it plays Wisconsin and one of the best edge rushers in the conference when it plays Iowa. Having the best quarterback in the league is why I’m bullish on the team’s outlook this season, but it isn’t going to be a cakewalk. And as we get closer and closer to the season and the excitement builds, it’s important to remember that.

Good News for Tommy

Former Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong just won Rookie of the Year for 2018. 

No, this is not the NFL, it’s the Indoor Football League, a 10-team league. And in Armstrong’s first season with the Nebraska Danger, he led a 7-7 record and fifth-place finish. Armstrong threw 37 touchdown passes (fourth-best in the league). He also threw for 128.5 yards a game.

Good for Armstrong. Soapbox moment: the NFL needs a feeder league the way the MLB has the minors and the NBA has the G-League. Guys need an opportunity to continue their career and the NFL would be wise to invest in and support a developmental league that would keep more quality players around. 

Stranger Things

Don’t look now but Nebraska’s creative department is pumping out some incredibly high-end video content. First we had a video documenting the Huskers’ recent beach vacation that wasn’t really a vacation and more an hours-long-ass-kicking-and-team-building-experience. 

Now we have what amounts to a Year 2 trailer. And it’s pinned to the release of Season 3 of Netflix’s hit sci-fi series Stranger Things. And it’s awesome. Another major shoutout to Orah Garst in the creative department.

We’re almost there.

Calling Canton

The petition to get Roger Craig into the Hall of Fame is a little over halfway to its goal. Sign it now, if you haven’t yet. Craig not being in the Hall is strange, considering he’s the first player in NFL history to log 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season and to this day he remains the only guy not named Marshall Faulk to do it.

You can also read Mike Babcock’s Yearbook story on Craig here

 
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