Recruiting 2006: Good, Bad or Neither?

At this point of the year, it's probably too early to start recapping recruiting and giving some sort of analysis as to what we have seen, trying to figure out what that means for the future. Heck no it's not too early. It's never too early. So, with that in mind, let's see what's going on with recruiting.


At this point last year, Nebraska was sitting on four commits, two from inside the state. This year they have eight, two from in-state, but half the class is from Texas.

What can we determine from that?

Simple: Nebraska finally got their butt into Texas

Now don't get me wrong – I think recruiting in California is a must as is recruiting Florida. But there's just too much logic in recruiting in the single hottest state for the prep elite in football.

First, it's a state, which you play in every single year, sometimes more than once. It's also home to the Longhorns, who you play two years in a row every time they rotate on the Huskers conference slate. And let's not forget it's far closer than those other states, you can guarantee you have been on TV down there at least once and all that adds up to a familiarity with the prepsters down there, which you simply won't get on either coast.
Anthony Blue one of four commits out
of Texas, who make up half of the class
thus far.

Yeah, it's a no-brainer, but I can understand that due to many of the connections this staff had to those areas coming in, that's where much of the emphasis lied, and let's not forget how many junior college kids they needed initially. So, it is understandable that they went with what they knew off the bat.

But now that they are in Texas, and with a purpose, you have already seen what this new and improved philosophy has netted them thus far. Four commits, one of them a quarterback, two defensive backs and a tight end.

When it comes to quarterback, it didn't have to be said twice how badly Nebraska needed to fill those spots this year. But I have to admit my surprise upon hearing that this staff might repeat their recruiting "pledge" of two years ago, taking only one high school QB and going to the junior college ranks for another.

I think that is a mistake and a horrible one at that

Let's not pretend that Zac Taylor was everything the coaches thought he would be. There's no way they could have known that this kid would be tough enough to take the kind of shots he took all year. And there was no way they could have known just how unbelievably understanding he was of the continual assaults he was subjected to back there, Taylor always getting up and patting his offensive linemen on the back.

Nebraska got lucky with Taylor. Actually, they hit the jackpot with Taylor. Sure, you might say that he could have put up better numbers, but when you have a brand new quarterback, who has essentially new receivers, an offensive line, which can't pass block and no running game to take the pressure off the passing game, everything Taylor did was in my estimation, above and beyond any expectations you could have had.

The only mistake would be in assuming you could get that lucky again

And that's at least a little bit of the message I get with this move, because quite frankly, outside of Taylor, they don't know a thing about what they have at the position.

Considering the time under center Beck had in actual games last year, you basically know nothing about what he's capable of over a long stretch. And then you have Joe Ganz and Beau Davis, who have gotten some reps in practice, Ganz taking a big chunk when Beck went down with the shoulder injury – but I have not gotten a sense that either is seriously being considered for time, unless Texas Tech starts rolling up the points on the big red again.

Take two quarterbacks and one of them will be gone in two years? Well, with Beck going into his sophomore season, he'd be gone after those two years as well, along with Davis and Ganz, so that leaves you with Patrick Witt.

I know what you are saying: Recruiting is about the future and they will just have to get two more next year. And to that I would say that you are right; recruiting is about the future, but what if you weren't able to do much about that in the past. You need to make up some ground somewhere and if this staff isn't going to get more than two quarterbacks this year, that puts them in a pretty tough situation next year.

The only problem there is: You can't tell all the recruits that you have a senior taking the helm as the starter. You don't know what you will be able to say. That's why I say you take three, two from the prep ranks and one from the junior college level.

I tell you what I really have liked about this class thus far and that's how they have addressed the defensive back situation so quickly. Already they have two commits (Shawn Sullivan and Anthony Blue) at the position, both from Texas. You can also throw DeAndre West in there as he is being looked at to play either side of the ball, cornerback being the position, which the staff would probably like if he took to right away. Whgat's even better about the duo from Texas, both were sporting at least five offers, coming from schools like Oklahoma State, Wisconsin and TCU.

That's pretty darn good, especially this early in the year.


Which brings me to an issue, which I think does have a bearing on the future of recruiting for the 2006-07 season:


Yeah, I know, it's a horrible word, which strikes fear into the hearts of all college sports fans, but it's one, which I can't help but think about when you look at the fact that out of the eight commits, almost half (three) haven't even stepped foot inside the state of Nebraska.

Don't get me wrong, I think that's great, and all the props needs to go to a staff, which can get a commitment out of a kid without him even seeing the campus. That's super and something you don't see, especially not like this.

But come on, you have a kid who committed to a program he's never even seen, doesn't exist inside his home state and the big kicker – IN JUNE!

If Nebraska gets a commit from a Nebraska kid in June, that's different. But a young man, who doesn't live in the state and has never even been in the state – I'm not saying these kids aren't solid, but I wouldn't be etching these names into the roster for 2007 until the first week in February. Or at the very least, after they have made their official visit and reaffirmed their pledge to the program.


Nebraska got another standout from the state of Missouri.

That's actually not news. They have managed to do that for years, and honestly, they have had a lot of company.

If you are into those stars, last year there were 16 players from within the Show Me state, who were given rankings of 3 stars or higher. Out of those 16, two went to Missouri – wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and offensive lineman Tim Barnes. Oh, and of the two, only Maclin had offers from schools other than Missouri.

That's not good

The previous year was considerably better as Missouri managed to keep their highest rated player (Chase Coffman) in state, along with a few others, but this last season was close to climactic in just how disastrous it was. And this year isn't looking very good right now:

While it's early and many players haven't been ranked, in what should be a bumper crop of Missouri prep football players going to Division 1-A this year, out of the 13 that have three stars or more right, five have committed, one of them (LB, Luke Lambert) to Missouri.

Missouri was his only offer

The names still out there, which could hurt Pinkel's already waning reputation as a recruiter are big:

Can Pinkel lose the top ranked
player in Missouri (Logan Gray)
for the second year in a row?
QB – Logan Gray (Could be a Georgia lean)
TE – Aron White (Barely even mentions Missouri in updates)
RB – Thomas Merriweather (Missouri is just another team)
FB – William Anderson (see Merriweather)
DE – Chris Earnhardt (Hoping for an Oklahoma offer)
QB – Marvin McNutt (Big on the Hawks right now)
WR – Rolandis Woodland (Minnesota leads right now)
OL – Jayson Palmgren (Arkansas could be his leader right now)

You know which name on that list is glaring, and will signal to everyone in the free world that Gary Pinkel has the charisma of a door, if he commits elsewhere?

No, not Gray.

Aron White

Look at what Missouri did with their tight ends last year. Two starting tight ends, both with over 40 receptions, making them easily the best one-two punch at the position, in the country. That's big, and with that new spread system, selling White on Missouri should be like selling heating blankets in Siberia. Well, to those with electricity anyway.

If Pinkel lets that kid get out of state, you can sign, seal and deliver the future of Missouri recruiting. It will be done, dead, even petrified, as should Pinkel's hopes at getting another year at the helm. If your team stinks, that's one thing, but if you can't even recruit your own state, that's another. Just ask the last three or so coaches that were at Georgia before Mark Richt came in and all but sealed the borders to out-of-state schools.


Quarterback is obviously the first priority for the Husker staff and while they probably won't get where I think they should be, at least they got one and plan to get another. And they have addressed cornerback very nicely, which is good, because Zack Bowman, Cortney Grixby and Andre Jones are nice, but depth would be nice too.

So, what's the third most important position for the Huskers this year?

For me it has to be on the defensive line

You can't replace a Carriker, but you
have to fill his spot
As scary as it is for offenses, who have to face this fearsome foursome this year, it's scarier for Husker fans knowing that after this year, all of them are gone. Yes, there are capable back ups and at least with Barry Turner, one very proven up-and-comer, but there's a WHOLE lot of inexperience, which will be hitting the field this year, and no offense to their potential, but to expect any of the ends to be Adam Carriker is insane, because it won't happen. And for someone who has barely played to instantly acclimate is also a reaching a bit.

The one hope here is that Ndamukong Suh, Brandon Johnson, Ty Steinkuhler, Craig Roark and even newcomers Pierre Allen, Mike Smith and Seth Jensen, will get enough time on the field this year and show enough, the staff doesn't have to recruit an extraordinary amount of players for this aspect of the defense.

As it is, they still need to address this, especially at the ends, because much like quarterback, you can't recruit with the expectations that everyone you recruited before that, who have yet to hit the field, are all going to perform brilliantly. Point of fact, you have to take a bit of a skeptical attitude toward that, because it's far better to be safe than to be sorry.

In recruiting, "sorry" doesn't hurt you for a game or even a year, but maybe two years, or even more down the road.

Personally, I would want one for each spot, so that means I would be hoping that Nebraska would take at least two defensive ends and two defensive tackles. If they get more, that's great, but I'd say they at least have to get one for each spot across the line.


Did someone send out a memo or something?

I can honestly and easily say that I have never seen this amount of unofficial visits to Nebraska in one year. Heck, I don't think I have seen this many in the last three years combined.

I understand the trend nowadays, where players are deciding on their schools even sooner, thus prompting a lot more unofficial visits around the country. But this is bordering on obscene.

And the irony is, this isn't exactly the best year I have seen to travel, when it comes to simply the cost of gasoline. When you look at the amount of unofficial visits Columbia, Missouri tight end Aron White has taken, if the car rental agent is making a commission, they are getting rich off of this kid's family.

When a former Husker recruit and current USC Trojan Jeff Byers was taking his unofficial visits, I thought he was extreme having visited like six or seven. By the time White is done, he'll have visited no less than 20 different schools, literally from one coast to the other.

OL Javario Burkes' 42 offers makes
him a big candidate for anyone, but
his unofficial to Nebraska, will give
Nebraska an advantage in recruiting
him in the future, because they
should know after his visit
(as should he) whether or not
Nebraska will have a shot.
When it comes to Nebraska, though, I can only think they are almost begging these kids to come up in the recruiting off-season, that being the time where kids can't take their official visits.

Ok, begging may be a strong word, but the Huskers were in a bad way of sorts when it came to their official visits, as before the recruiting season was done, their official visit allotment was all but used up.

Wanting to get these kids in to see the famous "Sea of Red", experience the "Tunnelwalk" and just see what a Husker home game was like, the staff was pumping these kids in by the dozen if they could, as early as they could during the year.

That's great and perfectly understandable, and they did get some major names in for games, especially during the non-conference slate. But first of all, that's more than likely the kid's first official visit and second of all, if you don't get those kids at all, you are putting yourself in a bad position late in the year………which they did.

Unofficial visits solve all of that

Seriously, you don't want to give out one of your 56 allowed official visits to kids you don't think you have a shot at. You have the official visits which go to your commits, but the rest you want to spend on kids you think you can actually get.

What better way to get a great feel for that than to get the young man in even before the season begins?

It's really perfect and there is no downside. If the kid likes it, the coaches see him and like him even more, the recruiting process continues and you can cement him for what you as a coach deem as a quality official visit. That basically meaning, this is a kid you really do think you have a legit shot at as opposed to this kid saying that he watched Nebraska on TV once and liked the color of their jerseys.

What I don't get is just how all of these kids are making it happen. Have parents seen the necessity of getting lists narrowed down as early as possible, based on hearing all of the horror stories of how much recruiting attention can suck?

Have more parents just seen the urgency of making those visits now versus the season, because obviously the timing is more convenient and more importantly, the parents have seen this as a necessary expenditure, whereas they might have once seen it as a luxury?

I don't know, but I do know that the more unofficial visits Nebraska gets right now, the better that will be for them when official visit time arrives. If you see any repeats of visitors, those kids from the summer visits, also visiting during the season, you can pencil them in as really good shots for the Huskers.

And if they don't, don't worry about it, because it just doesn't matter. Either way, this is going to make life for the coaches a little easier in the end.


If you just look at the numbers, you have to give the Husker coaching staff a high grade right now, because they are ahead of last year, have really dipped into Texas and the offers seem to be more specific this season as opposed to last.

I'm not saying they were throwing around offers in the hopes that something would stick, but they have been far more stingy this year, despite the fact that they are working on over 200 written offers at this point.

The first thing you notice is that they are staying almost completely out of the northeast. The whole A.J. Wallace thing probably still stings as this staff and especially defensive back coach Phil Elmassian devoted themselves for over two years to the recruiting of this young man. They knew him probably better than anyone outside of his parents. They were the first to offer, he camped there and even one of his best friends (David Harvey) chose to play for the big red.

And Penn State comes in, says the name "Reggie Bush" and Wallace is a Nittany Lion.
The staff is working very hard to make
sure they don't have another A.J.
Wallace experience

It's not really that simple as you still need to win, which is exactly what Penn State did. They went from a horrible five year stretch to a BCS game, which all but sealed the deal with recruits like Wallace and other Husker recruits like Evan Royster and J.B. Walton.

This year, while there are some offers on the eastern side of the country, it's just some, not a lot. I think most fans would agree that it's better to spend two years recruiting someone, who is at least in your region. That way when you are asking them to commit, even if you don't have the record, you aren't asking them to jump over the SEC, ACC, Big East and Big 10 when doing so.

I do have to say that I find a bit of comforting irony in the recruiting as to me, thinking in some of the ways I normally think, that it has in a sense mirrored the slight mental shift for the head man himself.

Two years ago we heard NFL get uttered so much, you would have thought Nebraska was taking on half of the AFC. This last season it barely came up at all. Well, knowing where you are at and dealing with it has seemingly segued into recruiting as Nebraska is going right where they should.

Yes, when you are Nebraska, you have to recruit everywhere and no place is out of bounds. But when you are Nebraska, recruiting closer to Nebraska makes sense. The staff is doing that this year, much, much more than they had in the previous two.

Let's face it: Nebraska will never beat anyone on talent strictly from California or Florida. But like Oklahoma, they don't have such a horrible chance at putting a helluva team together with the kids they get out of Texas. And it shouldn't be hard for a Nebraska staff to recruit Kansas and even in Iowa. And if Gary Pinkel doesn't want his own kids to go to his school, far be it for Nebraska not to take advantage.

It's all about staying home.

It doesn't mean you have to stay in the state, but it does mean you have to at least hit your region before you start thinking that you have to head to the coasts to fill needs. This year, more than any other, I think this staff is doing just that.

That should pay dividends in the future.

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