Nebraska is tied to key recruiting states such as Texas, Florida, California and Ohio amongst a few others. While those states are the most talked about there is another group which will receive increased attention by the Nebraska staff this year.
The 500-mile radius is simply a line or a fictitious extended state boundary around Lincoln. Draw out this circle around Lincoln you literally go from Chicago to Denver, south to the Red River and north capturing just shy of the entire state of North Dakota over to Minnesota capturing Minneapolis and into Wisconsin capturing Madison and Milwaukee.
This is as much about the competition from the in-state schools inside the radius as it is the talent. Consider the states that are known for producing high school talent like Texas, Florida and California. Not only do you have the other programs that recruit nationally trying to get players in those states but consider their in-state schools.
Nebraska has had recruiting success against those programs in the past, but it's increasingly difficult to go into their backyards' and do it consistently. Those states also have multiple in-state schools who when coupled together typically get a majority of the top talent in their states. There are still a fair number of players that choose to leave the state annually that Nebraska must compete with other out of state schools to get.
But, look inside the 500-mile radius for Nebraska and in particular the schools that Nebraska must compete against like current conference foes Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern and Wisconsin. Like past conference foes Colorado, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Include even out of conference programs like Arkansas, Arkansas State and Colorado State.
All time, Nebraska is 517-209-20 against those teams. It's not just the all-time record, but against current Big Ten opponents and old Big 8/12 opponents Nebraska has winning records against all of them except for Minnesota and Oklahoma while they have a .500 record against Wisconsin.
Nebraska should reap some of the benefits of being a successful program in an area where there are other successful programs which lack success against the Huskers. It's a way of extending the state boundaries almost like an area conquered by Caesar, but in this case a combination of Devaney, Osborne, Solich and now Pelini.
It's the markets that Nebraska is able to pick up in the 500 mile radius that are so critical. Access and pull into markets like Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Wichita, Des Moines, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Oklahoma City that states like Texas, California and Florida have comparably inside their own state borders.
It's another case of the haves and the have-nots when you talk about access to multiple, million-plus population areas within your own state's borders. Nebraska has a population just shy of 1.9M people. Combining just Dallas and Fort Worth you are just short of 2M.
But it's one market in particular that Nebraska could have the biggest impact. Kansas City is a bit of a geographical oddity. The in-state program, Missouri, is two hours away and Kansas is less than an hour away. There isn't a single team that goes into Kansas City and gets who they want every year and according to Fox Sports NEXT Midlands recruiting analyst Greg Powers this is an exceptional year in that area.
"Nebraska usually has its pick of the home-state players," Greg Powers said, "and at times seems?to even add a critical home-state walk-on, but I also fully expect them to have success in states like Colorado, Kansas and Missouri when they need to. And by saying that I mean Nebraska recruits more nationally in different areas and seems to be able to cast a wider net.
?"The Huskers can go into Ohio, Florida and California and compete for recruits. But when the talent is up in those 'Midlands' areas I expect Nebraska to be in the mix for a number of players. This year it is a boom year in the Kansas City area, with a few no doubt BCS types, and Nebraska did not waste time with offering and getting in the mix for them."
And there is a need for consistency in the area. Consistency could pay off. Even when you might be dealing with a down year talent-wise in the entire area in order to better your chances on the upcoming recruits you need to be part of the process earlier in their high school career. You offer sooner. You maybe get them on campus for camp, junior day or another unofficial visit.
Nebraska won out last year with Maliek Collins out of Kansas City (Mo.) Center High School. Missouri offered before Nebraska and gave chase on Collins all the way until signing day. Nebraska has also dipped into Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst the past two years grabbing Zach Hannon last year and Mike Rose the year before.
It's these wins that Nebraska must hope produce a snowball effect not just in Kansas City, but also spreading to other areas of the state and the radius. Nebraska is already doing well in Illinois, getting Vincent Valentine and Jordan Westerkamp two years ago, and Matt Finnin this year. Nebraska also nabbed A.J. Natter out of Wisconsin and Nathan Gerry from South Dakota.
"I fully expect that Lincoln (Neb.) Southeast High lineman D.J. Foster will stay at home and play for the Huskers and I am also keeping a close eye on Lee's Summit (Mo.) High outside linebacker Jimmie Swain, who could fall in love with Lincoln on a planned spring visit."
Bo Pelini and his staff finished with the No. 11 ranked class last year with 26 recruits in the class. It's a strong combination of players from all over the nation. Six of the 26 were from in the radius last year. Nebraska's only commitment so far for 2014 is from in the radius.
Other uncommitted top talent in the radius beyond Foster and Swain who are holding a Nebraska offer:
Christian McCaffrey - No. 13 running back, Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian, 6-0/190
Kalen Ballage - No. 31 running back, Falcon (Colo.), 6-2/215
Clifton Garrett - No. 2 middle linebacker, Plainfield (Ill.) South, 6-2/227
Daniel Helm - No. 4 tight end, Chatham (Ill.) Glenwood, 6-3.5/217
Jamarco Jones - No. 6 offensive tackle, Chicago (Ill.) De La Salle Institute, 6-5/285
Nyles Morgan - No. 6 middle linebacker, Crete (Ill.) Crete-Monee, 6-3/220
Parrker Westphal, , No. 9 cornerback, Bolingbrook (Ill.), 6-0/175
Dewayne Hendrix - No. 12 defensive end, O'Fallon (Ill.), 6-5/230
Ian Bunting- No. 17 tight end, Hinsdale (Ill.) Central, 6-6/215
Braden Smith - No. 2 offensive tackle, Olathe (Kans.) South, 6-6/292
Peyton Newell - No. 21 defensive tackle, Hiawatha (Kans.), 6-3/280
Dimonic McKinzy - No. 23 quarterback, Kansas City (Kans.) Wyandotte, 6-0/200
Monte Harrison - No. 71 wide receiver, Lee's Summit (Mo.) West, 6-2/185
Raymond Wingo - No. 83 wide receiver, St. Louis (Mo.) University, 6-1/175
Brian Wallace - NR offensive tackle, St. Louis (Mo.) Christian Bros., 6-6/295
Craig Evans - No. 19 defensive tackle, Sun Prairie (Wisc.), 6-3/310
Gaelin Elmore - No. 28 tight end, Somerset (Wisc.), 6-5/240
Given the talent level in the radius this year, the necessity to stay consistent and be able to cherry pick as Nebraska may want in the area, expect the Huskers to grab as many as they can in the radius in 2014.
Edited by Big Red Report's Josh Harvey