As things came apart for Nebraska under Frank Solich, fans generally pointed to recruiting as being a major problem driving the team's "gravitation to mediocrity". While last season's recruiting class ranked higher than most of Solich's, a lot of the players were recruited initially by Bill Callahan's staff. The upcoming class then will become a first chance to see what Pelini's staff can recruit with a year to prepare.
Already, I've heard questions about the three recruits who have committed so far and whether they're good enough to build a dominant team with. Let me address these guys one by one.
Cole Pensick is a no-brainer. Putting aside the hype comparing Pensick with Baker Steinkuhler, Pensick is clearly one of the top high school players in Nebraska and he plays a position of need. Any NU coaching staff would have offered him, so there should be no question there.
Thaddeus Randle, the defensive tackle prospect from Texas is a bit undersized at 255 lbs., but with a redshirt (which is usually the case for linemen) he's got over two years to bulk up before burning any playing eligibility. Add to that Pelini's stated preference for speed over size and there's every reason to believe that he'll be a solid or potentially standout player for NU. And again, he addresses a critical need for the Huskers.
Linebacker Shawn Bodtmann, the player that prompted questions to the BRN staff, might require a bit more faith. In addition to the offer from Nebraska, Bodtmann had offers from Syracuse and Army. The Army offer may have set off some alarms because it's not a destination of choice for top recruits. If the Army thought they had a shot at Bodtmann, perhaps that means they didn't expect him to get offers from top programs. Syracuse is a bit better, but it's hardly USC.
But Bodtmann (along with his Dad) is said to be a Husker fan. In terms of changing the culture of the team (as Pelini vowed to do), Bodtmann should bring the passion of an in-state kid. He's reportedly a top student and a weight room junkie. He also plays alongside a five star offensive tackle prospect that's also been offered by NU. And Living in Pennsylvania, Bodtmann gives NU a foothold in an area they haven't recruited in quite some time.
I think of Bodtmann's upside as a combination of former linebacker Corey McKeon and former I-back Dan Alexander. Physically, he's no bigger than McKeon (and likely not much faster), but in terms of his effort in the classroom and weight room, he might look a lot more like Dan Alexander. Sure McKeon, was never better than an honorable mention all-conference player, but Alexander was all conference athletically, academically, and in terms of his citizenship. Fans may debate the worthiness of McKeon, but what Alexander brought to the team in terms of leadership and contributing to a winning culture were exactly what you want.
Maybe Bodtmann won't propel the Huskers to the top of the recruiting rankings, but he very well could start for a quality team like the 1999 and 2000 squads that Alexander started for.
With twenty-two or more players yet to commit, there's no reason to hit the panic button yet. Give the coaches the benefit of the doubt, that they are getting good kids. If Bo Pelini can make a serviceable starting Big 12 cornerback out of Pat Ricketts, he can surely make defenders out of his own recruits.