With the addition of Nebraska's latest in-state recruit, the class grows and people rejoice. Ok, not all people are rejoicing. Why? Well, that depends on your mind-set and mostly, it depends on your generation. That's not a new thing, but it demands the question be asked, is Nebraska getting the players they want?
Offensive lineman, Mike Huff just became the latest player to proclaim himself to be a future Husker. Huff also becomes the 5th player from within the borders of the Nebraska. Last year, Nebraska had 7 in-state commits, the year prior, 7 again. Though the number is around the same with the potential of being equal or more, while this isn't a surprise, it brings up the question that has come up every single season in recent years about Nebraska getting those players they want or wondering if they are settling for what they can get.
First thing is first, you have to look at the in-staters that are currently commits for NU.
Mike Huff - The most recent commit, Huff is a giant of a player, standing 6'6" and weighing over 300 lbs. He's strong as an ox and has made All-State and even the Nebraska Super-State lists. Huff also showed he has some success on the other side of the ball, tallying almost 90 tackles as a junior DT. Feet aren't a question, mobility isn't a question, so his worth as a future Husker shouldn't be perceived as doubtful as well.
Seth Olsen - Another giant, Olsen's ability was never in question. Were it not for his back, he might have been the top-rated lineman in the state. His back was the question though, some schools perhaps shying away because of that fact. Nebraska wasn't one of them, Olsen getting an offer and Seth ultimately choosing the Big Red. Nebraska might have got a real steal here as it seems that Olsen has the template to be a possible stud and his back problems, well, not to play on words too much, but Olsen states that they are indeed behind him.
Andrew Christensen - Andrew was thought (and maybe still is) to be the best lineman in the state of Nebraska when NU offered him a ship. Great size, good speed and of course, good feet, Christensen fits the ideal mold of an interior lineman. Like so many future Huskers from in-state, Christensen doesn't come from the biggest school, but that hasn't stopped some from making big impressions once they step on campus.
Allan Evridge - Only a year in Nebraska, the mania that is Husker fanfare didn't strike Evridge as it does most in-state recruits. Not having grown up with the Big Red in his veins, it actually took some thinking on Allan's part to decide whether or not he wanted to become a Husker. Nebraska wasted little time though in letting this young man know what they intended, Allan subsequently stating that he to would be one day wearing the Scarlet and Cream. As a QB, people will categorize Allan into a variety of molds, those set by the signal-callers that preceded them. Allan might fall into the mold of a Mike Stuntz, pretty athletic, decent arm and a never-say-die attitude. Before you think that's a downgrade to Evridge considering where Stuntz is now, think again, because Stuntz is still the best passer Nebraska has, it's just that at this point, the running prowess was deemed a higher priority, Jammal Lord definitely having the advantage there. If Evridge can bulk up, he could become as much a danger as a runner as he is in the throwing dept.
Ty Steinkuhler - From what I understood of this, it was none other than Bo Pelini who said this young man needed to be offered. That's good enough for me, especially considering the fact that Pelini wouldn't be all that familiar with the legacy Ty's father set down as one of the greatest linemen in Husker history. You don't have to ask Lincoln Southwest though about how valuable the second-generation Husker is, because Steinkuhler has helped his team to the playoffs in only their second year of existence, posting over 100 tackles already, just 7 games into the year. The gist on him is that he has one of those motors that doesn't turn off and if there is a ball, somewhere, Steinkuhler won't be far away.
After looking at what NU has right now, you wonder if they could hit that mark of 7 from the previous 2 years or will this be it for the home-state talent. Well, who's to say who might actually go to Nebraska, but there's still some talent to be had, more than what most would have thought going into this football season.
Danny Woodhead - If there is a picture of prolific, Woodhead has to be pretty close to fitting it to a tee. Averaging over 200 yards a game rushing, Danny owns pretty much every class and state record around. In fact, Danny has been so successful, the grumblings about why he doesn't have an offer from Nebraska yet are stirring and rising by the week. One needs only to look at Danny's size to find out the biggest reason as to why he hasn't gotten one yet, Woodhead obviously capable, but if Dusty Stamer with all his speed and shiftiness didn't get an offer, Woodhead could be on the outside looking in.
Zach Copple - Yet another "biggun", Copple 6'5" frame and near 295 lbs. weight has him at least physically capable of being a future member of the pipeline. Well, Nebraska thinks so anyway as Copple is one of the few remaining home-state prospects with an NU offer in hand, yet to state just where they are going to college. You don't have to wonder about his intelligence either, Copple sporting a 4.36+ GPA and that's on a 4.0 scale. Offers from Harvard no doubt sound appealing to Copple, but as most kids from within the state, he's looking at NU awfully hard right now.
Clayton Sievers - A LB/RE/TE or just an athlete, the younger brother of MLB, Chad Sievers has a Nebraska offer in hand, fans and coaches just waiting for him to make his final decision. It would appear it's down to Nebraska and Iowa for this standout and his decision should be right around the corner.
Adam Schroeder - Here's another interior-type lineman that is actually a transfer from one of the nation's biggest prep-powerhouses in Jenks high school out of Oklahoma. That alone makes you wonder at his potential and potential of being a future Husker. Along with Seth Olsen, he and the rest of his cohorts in the trenches have helped Millard North to be the top offense in all of Class A.
Brandon Gunn - Another solid RB in a long line of solid running backs to come out of Omaha Central, Gunn has offers not just from Nebraska, but also from as far west as UCLA. With all the options in front of him, Nebraska does look inviting because heck, he's a running back, this is Nebraska, you figure out the rest. While NU has had a propensity though to pull in most of the big-time in-staters, such players as Ja'Maine Billups and Stevie Hicks have gotten away from the Big Red. Gunn looks to be another that might opt out of the traditional role as "guaranteed commit", but some have said that only to be in scarlet by their freshman year.
Cortney Grixby - The highest rated player in the state of Nebraska, Grixby almost has his choice of where he wants to go. Brother on the current Nebraska team notwithstanding, Grixby would appear to be keeping every single one of his options wide-open for now. He's a smallish-type player, but his athleticism make him a great pick-up for anyone who's looking for someone that's versatile enough you can ponder at the positional possibilities.
Out of the six covered, 5 have offers for sure. That leaves the potential for Nebraska to have a total of 10 commits from within the state.
That begs the question then that is asked every year, did NU get all these kids because they were that good or because they were the best of what choices Nebraska had left?
I know it's a harsh comparison and to even bring up the point only slights those committed and possibly yet to commit. That's not the intention, but you and I both know that Nebraska isn't notorious for being heavy in prep All-Americans every year. Why else would you go to Florida, Texas or California to try and reap the consistently bountiful harvest of All-Everythings if Nebraska had plenty itself?
Depending on how you look at it could depend on the generation you come from or simply, the type of fan that you are.
If you are amongst the older generation, still living in the state of Nebraska, you've seen Nebraska at it's best, but you've also seen an NU that most younger fans can't even comprehend, even after last year's disaster. Your perspective is different, your priorities different and as a fan, you get your Husker news from the daily paper and the sports segment from your nearest TV station.
You find great satisfaction in all the local commits because in some way, you know someone that knows someone that's related to someone that knows another person that's good friends with the parents of that recruit. I swear, in this state, anyone who has lived in the state for more than twenty years has some tie, however obscure to everyone else in the state. That means you laud every Nebraska kid that gets to play for the state institution of the Big Red and if that doesn't equal Husker glory, that's not so bad, because you've seen it as bad as it can get. Just so long as UNL never gets away from their in-state pool of potential, you're happy, because it's your connection to the football team.
Ok, the other side of the coin.
You are a fanatic. You are almost pathetic in your rabid obsession for the team. Chances are, you aren't of that generation that remembers pre-Devaney, so your perspective is success, success and even in bad years, more success on top of that. Last year was the worst thing you ever saw and coaching aside, you end your argument talking about recruiting and how bad it has been.
Not enough Florida kids, not enough kids from Texas and not enough kids from just about everywhere but within the home state.
Why? What's so bad about Nebraska players? Joel Makovicka turned out to be pretty good, Ahman Green wasn't too bad and I think the contributions of players like Rimington, Steinkuhler, Rodgers and Novak were such that people wouldn't just pass over them as insignificant.
The thing is, while some home-grown football players turned out to be legends, some didn't. That happens, right? Not every single player in a recruiting class is a stud. No, but it isn't that Nebraska players aren't good, it's the players most remember that determine how good that state is for producing them.
Tommie Frazier, Nebraska's most successful QB ever. He was from Florida. The best rush end in Husker history (Grant Wistrom) was from Missouri. Will Shields - Oklahoma, Trev Alberts - Iowa, Aaron Taylor - Texas and the list of those Husker heroes from New Jersey is immense to say the least.
There's a couple more things to boot.
First, it's those stars. You know, the little five-pointed shapes that have recruitniks drooling or shrugging with disinterest. And it's the fact that when it comes to those stars, Nebraska kids just don't find themselves listed amongst the elite. Outside of a couple tight ends and Cortney Grixby this year, most of the national attention resides squarely within the stats that produce the most talent year in and year out. Texas, Florida and California. It's numbers and because those states produce the greatest numbers of kids with a lot of stars by their names, that's where Nebraska should be going.
Second, timing. Yeah, timing. Believe it or not, it's one of the biggest factors in what a person believes of a recruit's ability. Timing that is on the offer extended by Nebraska.
Take Mike Huff for example: Not even a week has passed by since his offer and now, he's a Husker to be. Not a big deal to most, but those who follow recruiting can't help but ask why now and not before the season started when NU already had offers down to such players as Brandon Braxton, Roland Martin, Jeff Byers, etc. and so on? Was he not impressive enough on film to warrant the offer? Did they need to wait to see him during the year?
I could be wrong here, but it would make sense in that Huff wasn't offered yet, because Nebraska didn't feel it was necessary and not because Huff wasn't good enough, but because they wanted to see if Mike would stay under the spotlight enough so that maybe, just maybe they could get him to walk on.
You know how infamous the walk-on program is. So many walk-ons in the history of this program that earned scholarships, became starters and some, even stars at some point. It's also a nice way to save a scholarship for the immediate time-frame, so you can go after one of those out-of-state studs.
Iowa screwed all that up though by offering Huff, thus the NU offer shortly thereafter. And because the offer came so quick after the Hawkeyes, your question about Huff's ability is answered. Had they waited until after the season even after the Iowa offer, then you could conjecture more openly and confidently, but NU was playing the game just as they've been playing it for years.
Does that mean then that all kids from within the state of Nebraska are offer-worthy? Probably not, but Nebraska has more to lose by not offering a decent number of Nebraska kids than they have to gain.
Imagine if Nebraska didn't offer one single in-state kid. They asked them all to walk-on and that was all they were willing to do. One of the prides many have for NU is that they do offer in-state kids when it's a state not renown for having one athletic or prolific stud after another. They are loyal to their fan-base.
That kind of loyalty not only keeps the Big Red squarely in the eyes of youngsters, wishing only to be a football star one day, but parents are equally devout because unlike the youth, they understand what loyalty means. "My brother's kid was pretty good, but he didn't get any attention from you and had to go to Iowa to play ball and now you want to recruit my kid? No thanks." That could be the fallout from not offering a Nebraska kid a ship to play for NU.
There is the stark reality though in that some late offers mean that something broke down with a recruit somewhere else down the line. Every school has a list of those they covet the most and those that are back-ups in case the main targets went elsewhere. You'll never know what that list is, especially if it's a Nebraska kid, coaches come signing day, voicing how thrilled they are because they indeed got everyone they wanted.
So, how in the end do you look at the in-state recruits and figure out who got it because they earned it, who was offered because someone else didn't pan out and who was offered because it could have filled the "quota" NU set for itself on taking in-state talent?
If it were that easy to figure out, Nebraska couldn't play the recruiting game the way it's supposed to be played. They couldn't sit back on someone, nor could they go after a kid that everyone knows will never see the field. Nowadays, with all the attention recruiting gets, the uproar would be considerable. Would you sit back and smile knowing that Nebraska offered a kid that they figured would never be a starter? Didn't think so.
What you don't know won't hurt you should be your motto in this case and if need be, think of every single recruit that NU does get from within either someone unsung with the potential to be great or a darkhorse, everyone else just missing the boat on what you consider a major talent. Also, you must consider each in-state commit worthy of that offer, because guess what, they might just be that hidden gem, that diamond in the ruff.
It's frustrating, because in the end, you'll never figure it out, but you can't help but wonder each time it happens. ‘Did we get him because he was that good, because someone else committed to another school or was he there to maintain the current demographic?'.
Just try to think of it as business as usual and besides, when you try to think of all those from Nebraska that didn't succeed, think of those who did. The list is pretty darn long. If not for them, you might not be so greedy in your estimation of what your team needs to succeed. Yes, not all in-state kids start and yes, there are some that never see the field, but there are some that no matter how long you are a fan, you'll never forget their names.
In the end, there are more reasons to recruit from within Nebraska than there are not. It is about wins, but it's also about tradition. It's the burden of NU's current coaches to balance it out in the end.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619