When it comes to recruiting classes, Nebraska is as consistent off the field as they seem to be on. Though recruiting analysts very seldom rank NU classes amongst the elite, you could almost create a form letter from their comments about how NU filled their needs year to year. "Nebraska didn't overwhelm you with stars, but they seldom do. What they did was keep all the best in-state talent in state, grabbed a sprinkling of marquee names from around the country and filled needed positions. All in all, a typical NU class." You can add in-state star, Andy Birkel to this class and Birkel definitely qualifies as one of the in-state talents that Nebraska didn't want to lose. Lincoln Southeast's Andy Birkel is now a Husker.
Andy was already one of the most touted receivers in the Cornhusker State. Anyone looking at budding stars within the state borders would have already been focused squarely on him. Since Andy's transfer to powerhouse, Lincoln Southeast from Lincoln East however and because of his pledge to NU yesterday, it won't be just local eyes, but national ones that will be staring right at him, just to see what he can do.
A 6'3" receiver is ideal. With the average corner backing being apprx. 3 inches shorter and in most cases, even less than that, Andy already has an advantage over his opponent. Add to that a reported 4.41/40 Andy ran at the Kansas State camp and you've just found yourself a weapon. Andy describes his speed as one of his best assets when confronting defenders. "I like to outrun them." Birkel stated. "I like catching that short pass, give them a quick move and get off to the races."
Last season for Lincoln East, Andy wasn't part of a prolific passing attack. Given that Birkel won't be part of a notoriously prolific passing attack at Nebraska, you don't look at total yards, you look at yards per catch. At Nebraska, it's not the receivers with the most, but those that make the most out of what they get that truly make the difference. For that, Andy excelled averaging almost 24 yards a catch.
Andy's ability to take advantage of opportunities in front of him were only part of the reason Nebraska offered him at their fourth session of Summer Camps. It was an offer that shocked Birkel to a degree, but didn't floor him. "My coach just told me to go out there and do my best and if I did, who knew what might happen" Birkel stated, "so it wasn't like I was expecting it (the offer), but I wasn't completely shocked when they said I had one."
Though most Nebraska kids might literally jump at the thought of not only playing for NU, but at their request and with an offer in hand, Andy had a more reserved approach to it, being ever cautious that even this place he had been a fan of his entire life, was truly right for him. "I thought Kansas State was impressive, but it just wasn't for me" Andy stated, "and Nebraska, I have just been a fan of them my whole life and it just fit."
It would seem that the fit for a WR at NU is becoming a much broader spectrum. As Nebraska looks beyond the era of Eric Crouch, it could quite possibly be looking at not necessarily a complete change of the offense, but more to catering what the new QB (Lord) does well. There is little doubt in anyone's mind that Lord isn't as tenacious a runner as Crouch was, but that could be better in the long run. Versatility being Jamal's strength, the running backs and yes, the receivers can now find themselves playing a much more significant role. This change was just one of the reasons why Andy felt that NU was the place for him. "I talked to coach Solich and he actually said that they have some good young quarterbacks coming up and they are going to start opening up more." Birkel stated. "They are going to have to, because the option isn't going to work all the time, so I am excited about that."
The excitement is certainly there and for anyone that dreamt of being a Husker during their life, why wouldn't it be. That excitement begs that you find the field, but for Andy, it's not about immediate contributions, because Birkel looks at being ready when he does step on the field and for that, a year of waiting might be best. "I know I am going to have to work my hardest" Birkel stated "but my first year, I might redshirt, so I can gain weight, get stronger and learn the system. The next year after that, I just want to get progressively better and try to get more playing time."
If there is anything Andy wants to prove once he steps onto the field, it's not to himself and it's not to those that are closest, because both he and those that truly know him are already fully aware of what this young man is capable. The proving ground is for those he plays for and those he plays with, so that he to can be considered an indispensable part of the team. "I am going to have to work my hardest" Andy stated. "I have to show everyone that I can catch and run after the catch. I am going to have to show the coaches that I can be a go-to guy."
With Andy's attitude of taking wins over stats, his place as a wide receiver on a run-dominate team is a match made in heaven. Though Andy is looking for his opportunities to make things happen, The victories will always be the most important. And victories not as a high school player, but as a Nebraska Cornhusker, those are victories that can be savored that much more. Victories not with state title implications, but national title implications and Andy wouldn't want anything less. "I chose Nebraska because they have a tradition of winning" Birkel stated. "They win 9 games every year, they play for a national title. That's the kind of team I wanted to play for."
To that end, Andy now finds himself truly emulating a child-hood dream. In his mind, as he once pondered what it might be like, only living vicariously through all those that he knew were Huskers, now he to takes his place and will live the reality of being a Husker. The excitement is almost surreal as he thinks about the "Sea of Red" and almost impossible to contain as soon, it will be him along with his teammates merging out of the tunnel before a game during the infamous "Tunnelwalk." "I can't wait for that" Andy stated. "That will be really exciting(for me)".Anything else? "I will be playing for one of the best football teams in the country and the coaches wanted me to be a part of that team, so that is very exciting to me."
As it will no doubt be for everyone else.