Nebraska football fans, like all sports fans, are competitive. If the Children of the Corn see their team rated outside the top 25 in recruiting rankings, they feel like they’re losing to higher-ranked teams such as Michigan and Ohio State.
It’s tempting for fans of a program like Nebraska to dismiss recruiting out of hand. It’s all guesswork, goes the argument, and who really knows how good a player is going to be once he shows up on campus?
And while there are some anecdotal reasons to find solace in that argument (see Beck, Harrison), it may not hold water when looking at the broader picture. Matt Hinton of Yahoo Sports has done yeoman’s work, demonstrating the best predictor of success on the field is success from recruiting rankings. Sure, they aren’t perfect predictors. But the higher rated a player is, the more likely he is to be successful.
So does that mean a bad recruiting rating for Nebraska means a bleak future on the field? Fret not, fearful Children, there are reasons to remain hopeful.
Dr. Tom Never Needed Great Rankings
This is easily the most common refrain used by Nebraska fans to solace themselves about poor recruiting rankings. Brandon Vogel from HailVarsity.com looked back and compiled Nebraska’s recruiting rankings from 1987-2012. Here’s what he found as the average national recruiting ranking, broken down by coach throughout that period.
Tom Osborne (11 classes, 29 data points): 14.90
Frank Solich: (6 classes, 27 data points): 20.19
Bill Callahan: (4 classes, 24 data points): 18.00
Bo Pelini: (5 classes, 19 data points): 23.89
So, while Osborne’s classes were the best of the four (and in fairness, some of those were during Nebraska’s 60-3 run from 1993-1997), the fact remains that Nebraska’s recruiting remains relatively on par throughout the observed period. So if Nebraska was getting good enough players to win three national titles in four years, it should have enough talent on the field now to win big.
Bill Callahan Came In Selling Recruiting, Look Where That Led
Take a look at who came in second in terms of recruiting ranking success. Yep, Bill Callahan recruited the doors off of Frank Solich and Bo Pelini (at least to date). How do their performances on the field match up?
Pelini (to date)
So, the coach with the best recruiting rankings (Callahan) had by far the worst record on the field. The guy with the worst recruiting rankings (Solich) had the best record on the field. Sure, the sample size is small and doesn’t take into account how Solich inherited Osborne’s program. But if you’re looking for reasons as a Nebraska fan not to be bummed out by a poor Nebraska recruiting ranking, here’s some statistics to keep you warm.
Bo Pelini Is Making His Recruiting Mark
So, should Nebraska fans be worried about NU's recruiting rankings?
There’s an implicit assumption in this article’s premise—that Nebraska is struggling with recruiting. This year’s class may put the lie to that assumption. Rivals.com has ranked Nebraska’s 2013 class at 14, while ESPN’s Recruiting Nation ranks NU’s haul at 23.
Nebraska has commits from an Elite 11 quarterback in Johnny Stanton, two of the top running back recruits in Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor and one of the most coveted junior college defensive end prospects in Randy Gregory. Most recently, according to Sam McEwon of the Omaha World-Herald, Nebraska has stolen 3-star defensive end prospect Dimarya Mixon from an SEC school (Missouri).
Further, Nebraska’s offense under coordinator Tim Beck is starting to turn heads nationally. With a relatively soft schedule in 2013, Nebraska could put up some astronomic numbers, catapult Taylor Martinez into Heisman consideration and make Lincoln an attractive destination for top-shelf athletes around the country.
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