Nebraska's top 5 from the 500-mile

Who will be the top five players from the 500-miles radius on the Nebraska roster in 2015?

According to Director of Football and Recruiting Operations Andy Vaughn and Director of Player Personnel Ryan Gunderson, Nebraska’s primary focus in recruiting going forward will be to win the 500-mile radius.

Speaking with a group of eight local reporters on Wednesday morning, the two laid out a plan that would breakdown the radius into nine parts. Each assistant coach would have a primary area in the 500-mile radius and a secondary area around the country.

The nine sections were as followed:

1.) Nebraska/Dakotas
2.) Kansas (also will do JUCOs)
3.) Oklahoma/Northern Arkansas
4.) Wisconsin/Minnesota
5.) Iowa
6.) Missouri
7.) Indiana
8.) Colorado
9.) Illinois

"It’s primary for a reason, because that’s where we need to know every single player, every BCS level talent and go to every top level school in that area,” said Gunderson. "You look stupid when you are playing against kids you could have gotten.”

To examine all the potential prospects Nebraska might have missed on in the 500-mile radius during the Bo Pelini era would take some time. The Huskers definitely landed some quality talent from states like Missouri and Illinois, but could they have done more? It’s unrealistic to think every recruiting battle in the area can be won, but at times it felt like the staff should have been closer to home.

The topic got Big Red Report thinking on Wednesday afternoon. Who will be the top five players from the 500-miles radius on the Nebraska roster in 2015?

We examine based on projected impact and potential.

1.) Maliek Collins – DT (Kansas City, MO)

A former four-star talent out of Center high school, Collins is the perfect example of a player the Huskers need to lock up in the 500-mile radius year in and year out. Nebraska beat out schools like Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas, and Iowa State.

While he might have been swept up by the hype train early in the season, the true sophomore recorded 45 tackles, 14 for loss, notched 4.5 sacks, and hurried quarterbacks 13 times in 2014.

What you have to love about Collins is his versatility. He has the ability to move to the outside as a defensive end in the crunch and could be very effective in defensive coordinator Mark Banker’s 3-4 situational sets.

2.) Jordan Westerkamp – WR (Lombard, IL)

The Montini Catholic high school (Ill.) product had a long list of suitors for his talent, but he eventually picked Nebraska over Notre Dame.

A Semper Fi All-American, Westerkamp is still the Illinois State record holder in receptions (235), receiving yards (4,618) and receiving touchdowns (68).

Fans likely expected more his redshirt freshman season (20 catches/283 yards), but the Huskers were hampered by rotating quarterback play. In 2014, it was a different story. The sophomore recorded 44 catches for 747 yards and five scores. With the hiring of Danny Langsdorf as Nebraska’s offensive coordinator and the graduation of Kenny Bell, expect those numbers to climb in 2015. Westerkamp has a shot to be the Huskers’ first 1,000-yard receiver in a season before he gradutes.

3.) Nate Gerry – Safety (Sioux Falls, S.D.)

The College Football New Sophomore All-American struggled at times against USC, but overall had a great season – snagging five interceptions to go along with his 88 tackles.

In the 2013 recruiting class, Nebraska beat out schools like Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Arizona State for Gerry’s commitment. He was the Huskers’ first scholarship signee from South Dakota since 2003. The Mount Rushmore State doesn’t produce many power five D-1 talents, but when they do Nebraska needs to capitalize. It seems only fair with the amount of Nebraska prep players who head north to play 1-AA.

A second-year at the safety spot (played OLB in 2013) and the return of Charlton Warren as his position coach should help the former Washington high school prep grow from second-team all-conference potential to first-team all-conference potential.

4.) Daniel Davie – Cornerback (Beatrice, NE)

Davie is the first Nebraska prep to make the list, but does he really count? He didn’t move to the area until his junior year of high school. The Huskers landed him after he received D-1 offers from Kansas and Ohio. Obviously not the biggest prospect in the 500-mile radius, but someone good enough the staff felt to pluck literally out of their back yard.

Last season Davie made 13 starts, recording 41 tackles and intercepting two passes. After the graduation of Josh Mitchell, the senior will be the most experienced returning corner in 2015.

5.) Josh Banderas –LB (Lincoln, NE)

Banderas didn’t have a ton of offers when he committed to Nebraska. Most schools just assumed the legacy player would be signing with the Huskers. It didn’t stop him from being an Army All-American or a four-star player.

After six starts last year, this projection is based off mostly potential and expectations. No other defensive player will likely be more happy to receive a fresh start than Banderas, who should have redshirted in 2013 and was probably not given a fair shot to redeem himself in ’14.

A strong showing against USC in the Holiday Bowl (15 tackles), revealed the type of player he can be. We think he has all-conference potential next year. New linebacker coach Trent Bray stressed speed when talking to the media in early January. Banderas has it. He recorded the fastest 40-time among the linebackers last season.

Josh Harvey has covered college football and recruiting for since 2008. He is now the beat writer for @NebraskaOnScout and the publisher of Big Red Report magazine.

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