Nebraska Football: The Good and the Bad of National Signing Day
Nebraska football fans rode a roller-coaster week before Wednesday’s announcement of the 2013 class on national signing day. Overall, Nebraska filled out its class and was rated in the top 25 by the three major recruiting services.
So there was a lot for Nebraska fans to be excited about in looking at NU’s new crop of players. But, as always, there were some concerns as well. Let’s take a look at what was good and what was bad for Nebraska for 2013’s national signing day.
Unless otherwise specified, all references to star rankings of prospects are from 247Sports.com.
Good—Attracting Offensive Stars
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It appears that Nebraska’s offensive success under coordinator Tim Beck is starting to attract attention. In this class, Nebraska signed 4-star and Elite 11 quarterback Johnny Stanton, and two 4-star running backs in Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor. That’s definitely a good sign for Nebraska going forward.
If NU can continue its offensive growth, look for Nebraska to be a destination of choice for more 4-star (and maybe 5-star?) offensive prospects going forward.
Good—Addressing Positions of Need
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Nebraska’s weaknesses coming into 2013—offensive tackle, defensive line, running back after Braylon Heard’s transfer—were pretty obvious to most observers. For the most part, Nebraska addressed those needs very effectively.
For offensive tackle, Nebraska signed two 3-star prospects in Chongo Kondolo and Dwayne Johnson, both of whom can reasonably be expected to push for playing time in 2013. Four-star offensive tackle prospect David Knevel looks promising, but given his lack of experience appears to be more of a long-term project.
For the defensive line, Nebraska’s highest-rated recruit is junior college defensive end Randy Gregory, who looks to plug in immediately at defensive end and provide a pass-rushing threat for the Blackshirts.
Nebraska also signed five other 3-star defensive line prospects (A.J. Natter, Ernest Suttles, Dimarya Mixon, Maliek Collins, and Kevin Maurice), which should help bolster depth throughout the line in the coming years.
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Right around the Big Ten title game—where Nebraska got its collective head handed to it by Wisconsin—the NU recruiting class was looking shaky. Nebraska had been rebuffed by a number of high-profile targets, and questions were being asked about whether NU would be able to even fill out its class.
But Bo Pelini and his staff hit the trail hard in December and January, and that hard work paid off. Not only did Nebraska fill out its 2013 class, it did so with a haul that may have the best potential of any class Pelini has brought to Lincoln.
As broadcaster and Nebraska’s 1996 Orange Bowl MVP Damon Benning pointed out on Twitter, Pelini and his staff are developing the knack for closing on recruits.
Say what you will about NU's staff, they can close. Out of the last 30 officials on campus, 19 committed. All bias aside...
@damonbenning (February 6, 2013)
Hashtag impressive, indeed.
Bad—Leaving It Late
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Yeah, something can be good and bad at the same time. Sure, it’s great that Nebraska closed so well to finish out the 2013 class. But the fact that Nebraska needed to close out the class well should be a cause for concern.
Leaving recruiting to the end can put a school like Nebraska in a bad spot if it is unable to close on targets, and that has the potential to result in a poor class which can hamstring a program for years to come.
Sure, it makes things exciting as signing day draws near. But I suspect most Children of the Corn would be far more comfortable with a well-stocked class in December and a dull January.
Bad—the Neglected Edges
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While Nebraska’s 2013 class is impressive overall (one particularly smart and handsome analyst gave it an A- grade), it is not immune from criticism. The weakest area of the class is on the edges for both sides of the line, at wide receiver and cornerback.
Nebraska’s wide receiver depth for the next couple of years is pretty solid. But that depth dries up pretty quickly after 2014. In this class, Nebraska’s only dedicated receiver is 3-star prospect Kevin Gladney.
Pelini said that 3-star athlete Tre’vell Dixon will start at wide receiver, helping to boost that depth. But given Nebraska’s issues in the secondary, and the immediate depth at receiver, I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to expect a shift of Dixon to defense this spring or fall.
Cornerback is also an area that was not addressed with strength in this class by Nebraska. Three-star prospect Boaz Joseph is the only dedicated corner in the class, and many of the athletes signed this year (Drake Martinez, Dixon, and Nathan Gerry) seem to fit more as safeties.
Nebraska does have Auburn transfer Jonathan Rose who looks likely to play corner, and a number of players in the logjam at safety who could move to corner. But for a position with so many questions, it’s not unfair to be disappointed at the lack of instant-impact corner talent signed in this class.
Bad—Keeping Up with the Big Boys
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Nebraska’s class of 2013, arguably Pelini’s best class, was ranked nationally at No. 17 from Rivals.com, No. 23 from ESPN’S RecruitingNation.com and No. 23 from 247Sports.com. Taken in isolation, that sounds pretty good.
But look at where Nebraska’s competitors in the Big Ten finished in class rankings. Ohio State’s class was ranked No. 2 by Rivals.com, No. 3 by ESPN’s RecruitingNation.com, and No. 2 by 247Sports.com. Michigan’s class was ranked No. 5 by Rivals.com, No. 6 by ESPN’s RecruitingNation.com, and No. 5 by 247Sports.com.
Yes, recruiting rankings are no guarantee of championships—just ask Mack Brown or Jimbo Fisher. But as demonstrated brilliantly by Matt Hinton of Yahoo! Sports, recruiting rankings are excellent predictors of which players are most likely to be successful on the field. The more highly-rated prospects you have on your team, the more likely they are to become great players. The more great players you have on your team, the more likely you are to win. Simple transitive property at work.
So Pelini and his staff should be commended for the great class signed in 2013. But Nebraska still has a ways to go if it wants to compete for conference and national titles with Ohio State, Michigan, and the other elites of college football.
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