Huskers Signing Day: Grading Pelini's Third Class

Josh KleinCorrespondent IFebruary 4, 2010

It was not the signing day many expected around Husker nation.

It started out on a surprising note around 8:00 am CST when previous USF commit and seemingly current WKU commit Brion Carnes decided that Nebraska was the place he wanted to be, no doubt shocking Hilltopper Nation and equally shocking Husker Nation.  Most fans had given up on the four start dual threat quarterback out of Florida, but patience is a virtue, and in the end it looks like it won out for the Huskers on signing day.

Previous to signing day, most people thought the only high profile prospect Nebraska had a chance at was Owamagbe Odighizuwa, the five star defensive end out of Portland, Oregon.  However, signing day once again proved that perception is rarely ever reality, as Owa chose UCLA over the Huskers, and Corey Cooper, an Illinois standout at safety, made a shocking decision to join Nebraska.

It was a day full of twists and turns and uncertainty, but in the end Nebraska seemed to get exactly what they needed from this season's recruiting class.

Overall this recruiting class came together very nicely for the Pelini brothers, most likely their best class thus far in their coaching tenure at Nebraska.  Overall I'll be giving them an A-, mostly because of the offensive side of the ball.

But first let's break down Nebraska's recruiting class by sides of the ball, starting with defense.

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Defensively, even without Owa, I'm giving this class an A.  Now if they had gotten Owa I might up it to an A+, but an A will do.

Defensive Key: Corey Cooper (Four Star—Safety) Maywood Ill.

Corey Cooper rounded off this class nicely.  With good size (6'2") and speed (4.5), Cooper may be one of the best hard-hitting safety in this year's recruiting class all around.  This addition was a must for Nebraska after losing players like Larry Asante and Matt O'Hanlon in the same class.

With Cooper on the roster, it will add depth to an already stellar defensive back-field, and he brings smart play to the field as well.  He is eerily similar to Asante in his attack to the game, and one can only wonder what he will become after the Pelini's get their hands on him for a full four years. 

He could be a player who could contribute right away but will need to make up some ground in the fall if he is going to have a chance—especially if Ricky Thenarse is back in the picture.

Defensive Early Contributer: LaVonte David (JUCO Four Star—LB) Fort Scott KS.

With Phillip Dillard leaving and no real leader left over in the linebacking corps, LaVonte David was a must-have for the Cornhuskers.  A JUCO linebacker that plays coverage well and hits like a ton of bricks on run support, David will definitely be competing for a starting position this fall.

It would have been nice to get David in the Spring so he could work his way into the defense early.  However, he is a smart player with Junior College level experience who will most likely contribute right away.  In fact, don't be surprised if this quick and hard-hitting linebacker nabs a starting spot late in fall ball next season.

LaVonte David is a player who you only get if you think he will contribute right away.  Having only two years of eligibility, it is paramount that David learn the system quickly.  If he does, he may be the defensive new-comer of the year in the Big 12.

Defensive Sleeper: Donovan Vestal (Three Star—DE) Arlington TX.

This was almost a tie between Vestal and Tobi Okuyemi, but Vestal won out mostly because of origin. 

Vestal comes from the rough and tumble state of Texas, where he played against college level talent day in and day out.  He has a nice outside move and can bull rush to the quarterback rather effectively. 

We've seen three star recruits flourish as defensive ends under Bo Pelini's system: Cameron Meredith comes to mind from last season.  Vestal has the size and intangibles to compete for an early job, but at one of the deepest positions on the field next year, it will be hard for him to get much playing time.

If he does, though, I think people will be surprised at the speed and tenacity of this unheralded defensive end.  Vestal is my number one sleeper in this class because of his ability to get off the ball and diagnose the play quickly.

Possible Defensive Bust: Chase Rome (Four Star—DT) Columbia MO.

It's tough to put such a heralded star on this type of watch list, and believe me, I hope to everything that I am completely wrong!

That being said, Rome has the makings of a bust.  He comes from a small town high school without much success and decommited from one Big 12 school to commit to another.  Sometimes this is a distraction.

Rome also played mostly defensive end in high school, not defensive tackle, where he will probably shift to during the spring.

However, Chase also has all the measurables that Bo and Carl want in a defensive tackle and could translate well to the position (we've already seen what Carl can do with players like Suh and Crick).

All this is to say that out of the three defensive four star recruits, it seems that the one most likely to bust would be Rome.  However, it's never possible to accurately make such a bold prediction, and I would love to see him turn into another defensive standout under the Pelini brothers.

If I had to come up with a percentage of probability, it would be low—I give him a 40 percent chance of being a bust.  Higher than most, but with Pelini coaching the defensive side of the ball, I'm not sure anyone can bust unless they want to.

The offensive side of the ball was looking awful before the winter.  Then out of the blue two star offensive players committed to the Huskers: four Star running back Braylon Heard and four Star Quarterback Brion Carnes.

With the addition of two possible playmakers, I give this side of the ball an A-.  Carnes was a welcome contribution to this class, but Heard made it tolerable and even exciting. 

Some might say that the Pelinis and Papuchis have mastered the art of stealing commits from other schools.  Brion Carnes, Braylon Heard, Chase Rome, LaVonte David and Corey Cooper were all commits to someone other than Nebraska at least once before signing day, and they were all four star recruits.

So who are the over-rated, under-rated, and aptly rated players in this offensive class?

Offensive Key: Brion Carnes (Four Star—QB) Bradenton FL.

Brion Carnes may be the biggest commit for this Husker recruiting class.

Not because Nebraska needed a quarterback, but because of the media attention garnered by snagging this quarterback.

Competition breads excellence, and excellent competition breads championships.  Right now Nebraska is looking at three previous four star recruits all battling for the starting quarterback job, not to mention highly touted commit Jamal Turner for next year's class.

Losing Tyler Gabbert hurt at the outset, but snagging Brion Carnes made up for it more ways than one.  Carnes has a bigger arm, better legs, and better size than Gabbert, and he brings more hype.

If Carnes doesn't contribute in his career at Nebraska, he did one thing—that was to bring competition and hype to the quarterback position.

Offensive Early Contributor: JerMarcus Hardrick (JUCO Four Star—OL) Fort Scott

Jermarcus Hardrick comes from the same junior college as linebacker LaVonte David and might have more of an impact with less of the hype. 

Hardrick is a monster, standing at 6'7" and weighing in at 315 pounds.  David has all the ability in the world at the offensive line position and should bring experience and ability to a much maligned offensive line.

Hardrick is probably the most sure-fire recruit that the Pelini's brought in this season and should be a good two year starter and early draft choice by the end of his career.

Offensive Sleeper: Quincy Enunwa (Three Star—WR) Moreno Valley CA.

Besides Niles Paul, name another consistent go-to receiver for Nebraska next season.  None coming to mind?

That's what I thought.

Quincy brings a large frame at 6'2" 200 pounds and adequate speed with a measured 4.5 40-yard dash.

Enunwa could be the type of player who steps up right away.  With Niles Paul as a deep threat, Nebraska needs a player who can catch over the middle and in traffic.  Enunwa brings this aspect to the table early on.

Look for Enunwa to make an immediate impact next season whether it be on the practice squad or starting opposite Niles Paul.

Brandon Kinnie still seems to be the most viable option for the Huskers at the wide receiver position opposite Paul, but Enunwa could make some noise for the third or fourth spot if he hunkers down and works hard in the fall.

Possible Bust: Chase Harper (Four Star—TE) Corsicana TX

Chase Harper was selected as my offensive bust because he is a victim of circumstance more than anything else.

Harper is coming into a position that already holds proven starters such as Mike McNeill, Dreu Young, Ben Cotton, and Kyler Reed, just to name a few. 

Harper could come in and not see any significant time until his senior year. 

However, Harper is supposed to be more of a blocking tight end, which could help on the four tight end sets that Nebraska seems to like to run inside the red zone.  If he can find his niche as an extended tackle, he could make some noise early on, but as a pass catcher it looks like he will have to wait a few years to do anything.

Probability of busting: 50 percent

So there you have it.  Stay tuned for my complete player-player break down of the entire recruiting class.

It looks like a good beginning of the year for Pelini and crew.  Let's hope they can utilize these players to the best of their ability.


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