Nebraska Football: Cornhuskers' Coaching and Recruiting Finally in Balance?
As Husker fans impatiently wait for the resurgence of the Big Red Machine, fourth-year head coach Bo Pelini and his revamped staff tirelessly work to get the engine running on all cylinders.
One area that has recently accelerated is recruiting.
Despite a relatively disappointing 2010 season, Nebraska managed to sign arguably its best class since 2005, which included the legendary Ndamukong Suh.
Pelini and his staff have not stopped there, however. Throughout the spring and summer, they seem to have gained more confidence on the recruiting trail.
With that confidence has come an ambitious approach, targeting many high-profile recruits and challenging the nation's top teams in the process despite having a very limited number of scholarship offers for the 2012 class.
Among those most aggressively targeted by the Huskers this season are 5-star offensive tackle Andrus Peat, quarterback/athlete Devin Fuller, quarterback Anthony Alford, defensive end Greg McMullen, offensive guard Evan Boehm, and tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, according to the recruiting big board at HuskerLocker.com.
Each of the players listed is among the top 180 high school players in the country according to Rivals.com, and all seem to have at least moderate interest in the Big Red.
Will Bo Pelini sign his best class yet for 2012?
Andrus Peat is the younger brother of 2010 signee Todd Peat Jr. and arguably one of the top five high school players in the nation.
Peat, who many believe is Nebraska's top priority, likely has an offer from every Division I football team in the country. While the competition is stiff, Nebraska remains one of Peat's top choices.
Greg McMullen, rated the 88th-best player in the nation by Rivals, currently lists Nebraska as his top choice despite offers from Ohio State and Notre Dame, with more high-profile offers likely to come.
This emphasis on highly-rated prospects marks an upward shift in Nebraska's prestige among high school recruits.
Another player that has expressed high interest in the Huskers is tight end Terrell Mitchell of Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, which has been developing a remarkably successful pipeline to Lincoln.
Based on the performances of other Fort Scott players such as Lavonte David, Brandon Kinnie and Jermarcus Hardrick, Mitchell would have a great chance to contribute early if he were to commit.
And as Pelini's recent track record shows, there is great reason to be excited when any JUCO player commits to the Huskers.
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Beyond the superficialities of the recruiting world, there seems to be a balance beginning to form that only the elite teams in football share. Coach Pelini is beginning to show that he and his staff are equally adept at recruiting and coaching, something Nebraska fans haven't seen since the years of Tom Osborne.
Among other reasons, Nebraska's slump had been facilitated by the lack of either recruiting or coaching before Pelini took over.
Heisman winner Eric Crouch's departure shed a painful amount of light on Nebraska's struggles to recruit during the Frank Solich era, while the years of Bill Callahan were littered with poor performances despite several sparkling recruiting classes.
While their individual records alone make very clear which aspect is more important, Solich and Callahan both excelled in one area of the job but lacked enough in the other that neither was ever held to the standard of excellence that has come to be expected from Nebraska Football.
After such a decade, it has been refreshing to see Pelini buck the trend.
Although Nebraska has yet to reinsert its name among the elite, the milestone seems far less distant than it did in 2007.
The 2010 season, which saw Nebraska lose three of its last four, is actually a great indication of how far the program has come since the historically bad '07 season. In other words, any team that has a "disappointing 10-win season" is a team that is expected to perform at a very high level.
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And despite the end-of-season face plant, Pelini has already won more games in three seasons than Callahan did in four. Not bad for a guy who had never been a head coach before 2008.
So why has Pelini, who was given the keys to a program in shambles (unlike Solich) despite little previous experience (unlike Callahan), had so much more success?
Pelini's growing ability to secure top-flight players and capitalize on their talents with superior coaching has been the difference.
After several standout years as a defensive mastermind, Pelini has continued to grow into the role of a head coach. Through his abilities as both a teacher and a salesman, he has begun to mold his team into the unit he envisioned since day one.
And now, with a brand new staff designed for cohesiveness and a singular mind, Pelini may finally have the tools to take the program to heights unseen since the 90s.
But the Nebraska Football program isn't out of the woods just yet. Once McMullen and the Peat brothers remind fans of Wistrom and the Peter brothers, we'll know we've made it into a clearing.
Admittedly, it's crazy to assume both Peat and McMullen will commit at this point in the process, but you get my point.
Suffice it to say, if the 2011 team rivals those of the Osborne era, no one will be disappointed.
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