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Nebraska Football Recruiting: Why Early Commitment Trend Hurts Huskers

LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 17: Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini eyes his troops  before their game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Memorial Stadium on November 17, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images
Andrew SteierContributor IIINovember 5, 2016

The Nebraska Cornhuskers’ 2014 recruiting class is off to a slow start.  No surprise.

As ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg points out, the Big Red’s 2014 class currently falls well behind their primary Big Ten competition.  Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Ohio State and Northwestern all have tallied at least six commits already.  The Huskers, meanwhile, just signed their second.

And this is hardly unique for Nebraska. This marks the third consecutive year Bo Pelini’s staff has failed to secure more than four commits by this date.

Although this traditional slow start for the Huskers did not hurt them too much in the 2013 class, the growing trend that has high school (and sometimes grade school) students committing early will increasingly hurt Nebraska.

This is because early commitments restrict just what Nebraska relies upon in its recruiting: a deep knowledge of the offering school.

When players make commitments early in their high school career, they often do not have as much information on which to make their decisions.  Recruits often base their decisions on location, what they already know about the program and family history.

While family history is obviously unalterable, the other preconceptions recruits have will do Nebraska no favors.

The Huskers rarely capture the spotlight like a USC, Miami, Ohio State, Michigan or really anybody in the SEC.  And Lincoln, Neb. does not quite have the natural draw of southern California or Florida.

Add in the lack of many quality in-state prospects and the perfect storm arises against the Huskers in the recruiting race.  And the only remedy is a long courtship, not the early commitment that is becoming more and more common.

Nebraska’s coaching staff needs time with its prospects.  It needs to bring high schoolers to Lincoln, build relationships with them and let them feel the energy of Husker Nation on fall Saturdays.

Sure, the University of Nebraska has the facilities, the coaching staff and the monstrous stadium.  But so does everyone else.

What brings players to Lincoln are the intangibles.  It is Pelini’s coaching style, the emphasis on academic excellence and the instant celebrity status that players acquire even before arriving (Johnny Stanton).

But none of these more subtle yet equally valuable qualities of Nebraska’s football program will stand out to 16-year-old prospects from Cincinnati when Ohio State comes calling.  Bo Pelini and his staff need time and, more specifically, official visits to win over recruits.  And the increasing number of early commitments is only hurting their efforts.

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