If you draw a radius from Lincoln that is 500 miles you would hit Chicago to Denver, you basically get all of Minnesota and the majority of North Dakota all the way to Dallas. It’s an area that Coach Mike Riley mentioned in his signing day press conference. There is a need to not only be relevant in the radius, but get the players that you need from it.
Early estimates have Nebraska taking 25 players in the 2016 class – maybe oversigning by a few. We will begin a by position breakdown of the radius and the players that Nebraska could consider from within the radius to be part of their 2016 class.
Noah Fant, DE, 6’4”/210, Omaha (Nebr.) South - Typically, I would address the radius alphabetically, but the in-state recruit gets from preferential treatment. The best days of Fant on the football are ahead of him. He has a long frame, but is slightly build. Blame it on activity because two or three sport star as well as just having a high metabolism. The gamble here is low risk, high reward. Realistically, Fant should be able to get to 245 to 250 or so pounds over the next two to three years. Fant will make a decision in the next month or so with offers form Nebraska, Iowa, Iowa State, Vanderbilt and Wyoming. Pencil him in as a Husker.
Amani Bledsoe, DE, 6’4”/266, Lawrence (Kans.) - Remember what we talked about in the linebacker piece about the radius being down this year? Well, the radius is up this year for defensive ends…way up. Bledsoe to me as a frame that a school could look at and think that two years from now he could be playing the three lining up in the C-gap. The Top 300-player has been to Lincoln now a couple of times, but is holding some big offers from around the nation such as Florida State, Michigan, Missouri, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, TCU, Texas Tech and UCLA among others.
Xavier Kelly, DE, 6’5”/230, Wichita (Kans.) East - Kelly is another Top 300 player from the state of Kansas and after making an early commitment to Kansas State, Kelly has opened things back up and is holding a boatload of offers. Kelly made his way to Nebraska for the spring game and loved the experience. Kelly plans on making his decision on national T.V. during the U.S. Army All-American game in January. Kelly is holding offers from schools the likes of Alabama, Arizona State, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami (Flor.), Michigan, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas A&M and others. He will be a tough player for Nebraska to land.
Justin Madubuike, DE, 6’4”/240, McKinney (Texas) North - The top DE in the state of Texas in 2016 comes in at No. 22 in the Scout.com Top 300. That ranking of course brings with it steep competition to land and lure north to Lincoln. There’s no question why Nebraska likes Madubuike though. He makes plays on the other side of the football, is a high intensity/high motor player and really understands leverage. Getting the radius to McKinney – north side of Dallas – stretches it a little, but Nebraska wants to be active in Texas and compete for players like Madubuike.
Josh King, DE, 6’6”/245, Darien (Ill.) Hinsdale South - As Nebraska changed conferences – from the Big XII to the Big Ten – with that came a need to get into a footprint and recruit areas that prior to weren’t being addressed. Nebraska has done well with the adjustment of their attention to at least include a talent-rich state like Illinois. Getting a player like King though over some of the offers that he has like Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Wisconsin would be a minor miracle. The Huskers have to throw down for players like this in the radius though and after they get the first one there will be more that will follow.
Daniel Joseph, DE, 6’3”/240, Lake Forest (Ill.) Lake Forest Academy - Joseph doesn’t have the ranking or the offers that King does, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not a good player. It’s quite the contrary in fact. Joseph has a good motor and is really strong. Joseph is rated as the No. 2 DE in the state of Illinois and is holding offers from Duke, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, N.C. State, Stanford and Vanderbilt among others. Joseph, like King, will be a tough sale to get him to come to Lincoln.
Nebraska is at least trying to get two defensive ends in the class. It would seem that from the list above more are “ready made” than others. A player like Fant could end up being the best of the bunch. Physically though, he’s the furthest away from being ready to see the field. There is another in-state player that deserves to be mentioned here and that’s Ben Stille. Stille, from Ashland (Nebr.) Ashland-Greenwood, is a two-way standout playing both DE and TE. Stille has good size. He has nice body control. He dominates his level of football. However, there will be an adjustment from the level that he plays at in high school to college regardless where he goes. That can be said about all high school players though, but the gap there between elite levels of D-I and Ashland-Greenwood would mean that the body may be more ready than a player like Fant, but the speed of the game gap is just as tough of hurdle to deal with.