Signing Day:A bright class,A bright future for NU

You wouldn't have had to tell anyone else that there was a press conference at the University of Nebraska. That's because they were already there. Whether it was due to the 5-6 season a year ago or because this recruiting class was gargantuan in size, the droves came out to watch and listen to head coach Bill Callahan recap the recruiting year. And, oh what a year it has been.

About this time last year, head coach Bill Callahan was closing the door on a hurried recruiting season. Well, a season almost for the previous staff, his recruiting only being a three week window in which he had to fill almost half of a class. To that end, Callahan and company didn't do a shabby job.

 

That's what fueled speculation of just what this group could do if they had a full year to recruit the nation's best.

 

The result? Some of the nation's best are going to Nebraska.

 

Take Harrison Beck. If you threw a class of 24 players that were solid, but hardly considered to be marquee type players, not many people would complain, because they got a headliner and from Florida no less.

 

Turns out Harrison Beck was just the start as this Nebraska staff took in four and five-star players like they were going out of style. Marlon Lucky, Zac Taylor, Jordan Congdon, Ndamukong Suh and the list goes on and on. It told you simply that this staff could flat out recruit.

 

31 in total, an immense number by anyone's standards, but an astronomical number to Nebraska fans, this class perhaps being the largest ever taken along with possibly the best.

 

That's the key word; best. Not many times have Nebraska fans viewed a class, compared it to others and came out saying honestly that it was one of the best. Now, they can and this staff would hardly disagree. "We have signed what I believe to be 31 of the finest football players in the country," head coach Bill Callahan said. "We feel strongly that these  players fit the profile that we were looking for in a student athlete."

 

"I'd like to believe that we made all the right moves to improve our program."

 

What it takes to get the best, that's a different story, especially if you are the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Yes, there's tradition and yes, there's hardware galore, academic all-americans and all that. But, it's in the middle of nowhere, the climate is hardly friendly at times and you are asking most of them to come a pretty long ways from home.

 

This is a new staff and they are recruiting giants of sorts, but one of the biggest assets in recruiting kids to Nebraska is something Nebraska has always had – fans. "Our fans have definitely impacted our recruiting," Callahan said. "You have only nine assistants on staff and our fans in my belief are the tenth full-time coach here at Nebraska."

 

"They have extended themselves in so many ways, you can't believe the impact they have had and the difference they have made in this recruiting class."

 

That 10th coach wasn't the only weapon in the arsenal. Well, that's obvious, but when you look at some of the names on this list of commits, there's something many of them have in common.

 

John Blake

 

We've referred to him as a recruiting machine more than once and each time you think he can't get someone, he comes back with a signature of that super star on the dotted line. Even NU's head coach wasn't sure how Blake did it, but he is certainly glad he did. "He's got "IT", Callahan said of Blake's ability to recruit successfully," Some people have it, some don't, but he's got it."

 

"He loves recruiting and if you don't have a passion for recruiting, it's hard to be successful and that is certainly a big part of his success."

 

Arguably the biggest grab for Blake was running back Marlon Lucky. Compared to Reggie Bush, offered by everyone and their dog and taken right out of USC's backyard, Lucky is almost a symbol for this staff's ability to recruit.

 

A true playmaker, someone that everyone salivates at the thought of watching them play and he makes you hold your breath every time he touches the ball. In short, Lucky is that home run every staff needs to get if they want to prove they can get them at all. "He's a franchise type back," Callahan said. "He has the versatility and the completeness to do just about anything on the football field that he wants to do. He can run inside, outside. He's got all the burst and explosion that you look for and the top-end speed to pull away and score. He's got the full package."

 

"You can throw any superlative on his play and he'll live up to it."

 

The entire class really is symbolism, but it's also pretty darn effective when you are trying to address a variety of issues in depth, talent and speed. It begs the question that you knew Callahan was recruiting for a national title, but you didn't realize he wanted to do it all in one year. In this case, quality is great, quantity is great, but to get both is basically just what the doctor ordered for the Huskers. "I really believe that we went out and we tried to balance the board at every spot," Callahan said. "We tried to add depth. We tried to add competition."

 

"We're pleased with the reception of every player that signed a letter of intent here at Nebraska. We are really pleased with every position."

 

The doc gives you that medicine, but if it's a stronger ailment, he gives you stronger medicine. Simple, right? Well, you can go out and get the best in the country, but what if you need more than that? You don't just need ability, but maturity as well, thus guys more than likely to see the field right when they arrive at NU.

 

Hello junior college or actually, hello to a lot of junior colleges, Callahan and crew bringing in a whopping dozen players from the JUCO ranks, a number unheard of in Lincoln. Nebraska actually took more this year than they did in the previous 5 years combined. For this staff, though, where there was a need, they addressed it and where there was an immediate need, they addressed that as well and then some.

 

"I look at junior college recruiting two-fold," Callahan said. "I am very selective and very need-oriented when it comes to that. But, if a player out there can upgrade us and fill a need, then I believe it's worth it."

 

The worth of junior college athletes is often considered less despite the extra experience they have at a higher level of play. Partly due to the reasons that most junior college athletes are at junior colleges in the first place are grades.

 

Needless to say, this staff had a plan set into place to not recruit just any junior college athletes, but those that fit a specific profile. "It's good to have those types of players if they fit your profile," Callahan said. "And, that profile is three things: We're looking at their academics, we're looking at their character and obviously their athletic skills."

 

"We all talk about those three points and that each player that we bring here fits the profile of what we are looking for and meets that criteria."

 

You can get a theme from this press conference, but honestly, it's the same theme you get from any session with the press that involves on Bill Callahan. It's that feeling that you come away with that you just heard someone that had a plan. An organized to the nth degree plan. A plan that covered every detail, contingency and perhaps included a little happenstance as well.

 

It was what Callahan has been since perhaps he was young, organization at its very best. It's not just reflected in the class, but the staff that helped bring them together. "Coach Callahan put together an unbelievable staff," defensive line coach John Blake said. "I watched the process in how he evaluated coaches, did a lot of research and I said to myself that he's putting together a staff with great chemistry that can work together and have the desire to just go out and deal with young men."

 

"I give all the credit to coach Callahan for putting a staff together that can work together and has the same goals."

 

The goal now? That's easy and now that L.O.I. day is part of history, fans will utter it more as the weeks progress into spring and not so far into the future for Fall. Now, it's time to coach. The players are in, you are one step closer to getting all that talent everyone said was lacking to run this type of system, so you are one step closer to success and one step farther away from the excuses that worked last season.

 

You don't need to tell the staff that, because just like recruiting and everything else, they have a plan and this recruiting class was just another step. "I know that we can continue to improve what we are doing from a recruiting standpoint," Callahan said. "And, I know that we can continue to coach better and grow as a team, but we can get better and will get better and this class provides that imputes."


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