Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini has come under serious and well-deserved scrutiny after a few humiliating losses in 2012.
As Husker Nation demanded answers, many pointed to a perceived lack of athleticism that was leaving Nebraska, particularly on defense, a few steps behind their opponents.
While other solutions may have been considered in previous years, Pelini has been steadily running out of Bill Callahan prospects and has increasingly depended on teams comprised more of his own recruits. This has left many fans convinced that this was the real problem.
And why not?
On the field, Pelini’s formerly touted defensive schemes were seemingly confusing his own players more than his opponents. Key defensive players like Alonzo Whaley and Cameron Meredith appeared out of their league as the UCLA and Ohio State offenses ran around, through and over them.
Meanwhile, off the field, there was little good news coming on the recruiting front. Most major recruiting news outlets had Nebraska’s 2013 recruiting class holding steady in the 30s, if not 40s, in the nation.
All signs seemed to point toward a coach milking the last bits of success out of the recruiting crops yielded by his predecessor.
But this diagnosis may have prematurely and unfairly labeled this latest recruiting effort by Bo Pelini and his corps of assistant coaches.
Starting in late December, Nebraska football embarked on a recruiting rampage. Beginning with wide receiver Dominic Walker’s commitment on December 30, the Big Red captured six commitments in three weeks, including two defensive tackles and the ever-impressive California running back Terrell Newby.
The Huskers have now climbed into Rivals.com’s top 20, well within the range of competent recruiting by Nebraska standards.
After all, No. 1 recruiting classes would be wonderful, but that is simply not going to happen at a place like Nebraska. And the good news: It does not have to.
Let’s set the “Do you remember how many stars Joe Ganz was?” or “Remember what Marlon Lucky was rated?” arguments aside for a moment. Simply put, a program obviously needs talent to succeed. But arbitrary star ratings assigned by recruiting services are nowhere near assurances of on-field production.
Nebraska was, is and will continue to be a football program built on the success of two, three and four-star prospects. Superstars are great, but coaching up classes like this one has been the cornerstone of the Huskers’ historical successes.
Say what you want about Bo Pelini’s sideline demeanor, his management of assistant coaches and his game-planning. But his latest recruiting class is on par with Nebraska standards and will be perfectly capable of producing the results Husker fans have come to expect.
The players are coming. Now all Nebraska needs is someone to adequately coach them up to their potential.