Question the Huskers' recruiting strategy all you want. Plenty of people do.
In fact, Bo Pelini's strategy does seem a bit backwards in comparison to other programs. Most fans are used to other coaches (especially in the SEC) recruiting heavily early on, which allows the final weeks to seal up loose ends. For Nebraska, it's the other way around.
The late charge in Pelini's recruiting strategy is risky. Fans have every right to feel uncomfortable about it as it can often feel like a bit of a gamble.
However, it works.
The list of players Pelini gets to commit in January and ultimately sign on national signing day is actually impressive. Brandon Vogel of HailVarsity.com recently took a look at the type of players on this list:
If you count guys who announced their decision on Signing Day — and there’s a decent argument not to count those guys, but we will here — the Huskers have landed some pretty significant contributors (and presumed contributors) in the last month of the recruiting calendar.
Here’s a partial list: Matt Finnin (top JUCO player in 2013), Terrell Newby, Maliek Collins, Cethan Carter, Avery Moss, Imani Cross, Aaron Curry, Vincent Valentine, Ameer Abdullah, Kenny Bell and Corey Cooper.
That's definitely not a list to disregard. It also makes sense why that list is so long.
As the Lincoln Journal Star’s Brian Christopherson pointed out, a dozen of Nebraska's 26 recruits in 2013 committed in January. The current class has had six of the 23-man class commit over the last month.
Even more impressive, four of those committed in a four-day period.
But securing the number of recruits needed, regardless of when they commit, does not guarantee success. However, everyone seems to have a different perception on what success means.
If someone were to view it from a recruiting rankings standpoint, Pelini wouldn't be doing so well. The best a class has ranked for the head coach was No. 15 in 2011. Other than that, his classes tend to rank in the mid-to-upper 20s.
Compare that to former Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan and it definitely appears as if Pelini isn't measuring up. Callahan's classes were ranked No. 13 (2007), No. 20 (2006) and No. 5 (2005) in the three years before Pelini came to campus, per Bleacher Report's Andrew Coppens.
The challenge is whether or not recruiting rankings can be the full measuring stick. On one hand, there's strong evidence that the rankings do affect a team's national prominence five years down the road, as discussed by Bleacher Report's Amy Daughters. On the other hand, there are plenty of outliers.
A good example of this is Missouri.
@erinsorensen Missouri won with less ranked recruiting classes than Nebraska. Recruiting is important, but does not tell the whole story.— Scott Pastell (@ScottPastell) January 30, 2014
Using the five-year rule from Daughters, Missouri was ranked No. 25 in 2008, per Rivals.com. Over the years that followed, the Tigers ranged from the mid-20s to the mid-40s in rankings. However, the team finished at No. 5 in the AP Poll this last season.
Recruiting rankings are only worth so much. They tell a small portion of a bigger story. A team could have every top recruit but still fall short. There are plenty of factors other than recruiting that play into whether or not a team wins championships.
Plus, there are plenty of people who believe the success cannot be immediately measured based on recruiting rankings. Many feel the star rankings mean little, as they don't properly tell the full story of a player.
Instead, it's a player's development that matters most. However, a player's growth during his college years cannot be measured on national signing day.
Is Nebraska's recruiting strategy working?
Pelini is a big believer in player development, though. Two examples of that are wide receiver Kenny Bell and I-Back Ameer Abdullah. Both were 3-star recruits and both proved they were much more valuable than that ranking over the course of their careers.
And both Bell and Abdullah were late commits.
The fact is that for Pelini and Nebraska, the late charge in recruiting has worked. He has gotten the type of players he likes and believes the Huskers need. From there, it's up to the coach to develop the men he has recruited into winners.
Fans will continue to question how Nebraska should recruit. Many would like to see what the coach could do if he took the same effort put forth in January and extended it to June and July before the season.
Could Pelini switch up his scheme and start recruiting more up front? He definitely could. It wouldn't hurt anything in the long run.
However, from where Pelini stands, he likely doesn't believe he needs to fix what's working.