Nebraska football fans are anxiously awaiting how the Cornhuskers’ class of 2014 will take shape. Currently, Nebraska’s class is No. 35 nationally and No. 6 in the Big Ten, according to 247Sports. With 26 recruits currently in the class, we now have enough data to draw some conclusions on what we have learned about Nebraska now and in the future given what we have seen from this year’s cycle.
Unless otherwise noted, all measurables, composite and star rankings, and class rankings from 247Sports.
Like last year, Nebraska’s class was looking a little sketchy in the middle of January. And, like last year, Pelini and his staff finished the recruiting process with a flourish. In the last two weeks, Nebraska has picked up commits from eight players, including two 4-star prospects and one (Nick Gates) that has the highest composite score of any non-junior college prospect in Nebraska’s 2014 class.
Pelini’s style of leaving it late may not make for a comfortable recruiting process for fans to watch, and certainly carries with it some risks. But at least recently, it also seems to be paying off dividends.
A certain smart and particularly handsome analyst recently wrote that the loss of defensive end prospect Darius Slade was a bigger decommit for Nebraska than the much-heralded junior college defensive tackle prospect Terrell Clinkscales. As we look at Nebraska’s recruiting plan following the two decommits, it appears that analysis has borne out.
Since Slade’s decommitment, Nebraska has picked up commits from defensive end prospects Blake McClain (3-star prospect, 87 composite score), Sedrick King (3-star prospect, 82 composite score), and DeAndre Willis (2-star prospect, 79 composite score). No commensurate defensive tackle commits were made during that period.
Clearly, between Slade’s decommit and the loss of Avery Moss for the season (if not altogether), defensive end was an area Nebraska targeted as the 2014 recruiting class closed.
Nebraska thought it had its quarterback for the 2014 class wrapped up early with a commitment from dual-threat prospect Zack Darlington (3-star prospect, 87 composite rating). But Darlington suffered a concussion in his senior season, and after previously suffering from concussions his future playing football has been questioned.
To Pelini’s eternal credit, he has said he will honor Darlington’s scholarship even if he doesn’t play a snap for Nebraska (as reported by Nick Bromberg of Yahoo). But if Darlington ends up not being able to play, that would leave Nebraska’s class without a quarterback in 2014. We have seen in the last few years how the lack of depth at quarterback can cause huge problems for the team as a whole.
Enter AJ Bush, a dual-threat quarterback (2-star prospect, 79 composite score) who was one of Pelini’s late commits to the 2014 class. By signing Bush, Nebraska at the very least gives itself an insurance policy and another quarterback on the roster should Darlington’s injuries keep him from the field.
Over the last few years, there has been much pearl-clutching amongst Nebraska losing talented running backs. The departures of Aaron Green and Braylon Heard, both highly-touted recruits who left Nebraska after getting insufficient playing time, led some (like this dope) to wonder if Pelini needed to change his ways.
Apparently Pelini isn’t worried about it. Right now, Nebraska looks to have solid depth at I-back, with senior Ameer Abdullah, junior Imani Cross, sophomore Terrell Newby, and redshirt freshman Adam Taylor looking to compete for playing time next year.
Depth chart congestion? Concerns about transfers? Apparently for Pelini with regards to that question, it’s what, me worry?
A late flurry of activity has reassured Nebraska fans about the 2014 class, at least to some extent. But the fact remains that Nebraska’s recruiting under Pelini has not been consistently in the nation’s elite.
Yes, Tom Osborne’s classes were not consistently elite and he did OK. Yes, Nebraska’s recruiting is relatively equivalent to Michigan State, the current B1G champion. Yes, Bill Callahan made his name with recruiting, and we all know how that turned out.
But the fact is, particularly in the modern era, recruiting is a critical component to success in college football. In his ground-breaking College Football Matrix, Dave Bartoo has isolated successful recruiting, as reflected by aggregate recruiting rankings, as one of the three variables that can predict success for college football teams in the long run.
As the wise light bulb commercial observed, if you argue with math, you will lose. And as Bartoo has demonstrated, recruiting success is very likely to translate to success on the field. Currently Nebraska sits at No. 35 nationally for its 2014 recruiting class. If Nebraska has not lowered its standards and is expecting to compete for conference titles, that recruiting simply must improve in years to come.
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