I will preface this by saying that what we have seen with Nebraska recruiting is about as extreme as I have seen recruiting take a downward spiral perhaps, in the last 10 years..
Yesterday was might have been the icing on the cake, so to speak. The worst thing is, both for Husker fans and the coaches recruiting for Nebraska , is that it's probably not over quite yet.
As surprising as it has been, though, when you look at the situation, this isn't that big of a shock. It might even be perfectly logical.
I'm going to go down a few of the key reasons as to why Nebraska is experiencing a perfectly horrendous storm in recruiting right now:
1 – It doesn't matter if it's Nebraska
This is a hard one for diehard Husker fans to deal with, but outside of the few in-state commits, nobody commits to Nebraska , because it's Nebraska . Junior college defensive end commit Simi Kuli said he committed for that reason, but now he's officially off the list and probably heading to Oregon State .
Recruits become commits stemming from relationships, and seriously, why else would you commit to a school?
Because of the depth chart?
OK, so the kid doesn't have confidence that he can beat someone out for the position
Because of the facilities?
That's all well and good, but nobody commits to a school because they have newer dumbbells and a waterfall.
Because of tradition?
Tradition means a lot when it comes to the idea that even if a program is down it probably won't stay that way for long. But the reality is, no amount of national titles in the past says a thing about potential titles in the future.
A loyal fan base?
Even in grand old Nebraska we have learned that loyalty is defined by winning. That same loyalty which has an entire state backing you one minute, can have that 1.7 million calling for your head the next.
Kids commit, because they get to know coaches, learn what they are like and most importantly, trust them and what message they are delivering. To expect coaches who will have had basically a couple of months to undo what other schools have been building for up to a couple of years – that's asking an awful lot.
Relationships mean more than anything when it comes to recruiting, because it's not just about the kid's trust, but that of the parents as well. That's their kid this coach will be taking care of and watching over for possibly the next five years. Can a coach build that from scratch in around 60 days?
2 – Familiarity
It's one thing to have new coaches, but the problem for Nebraska , these are REALLY new coaches.
In that I mean, look at this group they brought in:
You have offensive line coach Barney Cotton and secondary coach Marvin Sanders, who have both been out of coaching for one year. You have tight ends coach Ron Brown, who has been out of coaching completely for four. Then on the defensive side, you have Mike Ekeler and John Papuchis who weren't assistant coaches until now and Carl Pelini, the brother of the Husker head coach, has spent the last three years at Ohio .
That means you have in Sanders, Cotton and Brown, no recruiting presence whatsoever for at least one year. In recruiting, that might as well be a lifetime. That's a lot of connections broke, familiarity lost and you might as well be a coach for the first time with all the ground you are going to have to make up in trying to lure the best prep kids to your school.
In Ekeler and Papuchis, you have two guys by the very nature of their jobs prior to this, who weren't recruiting much either. They might have made a few calls here and there, but much like the aforementioned trio, this is all new ground for them, looking at having to create contacts around the prep world instead of trying to shore up the ones they had.
With Pelini's brother, he has been an assistant coach at Ohio , but I think it's safe to say that while Ohio may look at all the players Nebraska would look at during the course of a recruiting year, they only really go after with real tenacity those they think they can get. And most of those would probably not be real high targets for the Huskers, even now.
Then there is Bo himself, who was the face of the LSU defense, but wasn't the everyday recruiter for these kids, as many coordinators aren't. He was more a deal closer than a deal maker and his active presence in LSU recruiting wasn't even close to that of the assistants under him.
Other than that, the recruiting trail which might normally follow some coaches, who pick up where they left off, only at another plac - that doesn't even exist. It wasn't like John Blake, who could basically pick up where he left off when it came to his connections around the country. For many of these coaches, there's nothing to pick up in the first place.
3 - Attention Span
I don't know about you, but when I was 17, I had the attention span of a goldfish. Nothing could keep my attention for more than a brief amount of time. Then it was off to the next thing, whatever that happened to be.
Think about the situation when it came to Nebraska and when the questions started to arise as to just what the fate of the football program would be.
Many people compliment Tom Osborne for getting the coaching situation wiped out as quickly as he did. And he should be lauded for that, but in recruiting terms, Nebraska didn't have a head coach the second former Athletic Director Steve Pederson was fired.
At that point, the coaches on the former staff couldn't say whether they had a job or not in the future, and nobody was giving them anything concrete in terms of a rebuttal to try and keep these kids in the fold.
That has been since the second week of October.
So, it's easy to say that when all this was officially done and Bill Callahan was fired as THE day things went bad. But in reality the schools recruiting against Nebraska have been hammering at Husker commits and recruits since the questions about Callahan's future started.
During that time Nebraska was not only not getting it done on the field, but off the field as well. Coaches with no answers didn't make phone calls and certainly weren't killing themselves to hit the road, desperately trying to keep kids as commits.
No communication means no answers and all the while the former staff doesn't know what to do or say, every shark around the country is wasting little time once the trickle of blood in the water turns into a deluge.
There they are, hammering away, reminding kids of their school and telling them that Nebraska is a sinking ship they need to abandon. That might not have worked had the staff remained. Heck, it probably wouldn't have gotten started to any great degree. But in recruiting you find out that mercy is for the weak and someone else's misfortunes are ripe opportunities for another team to come in and shore up their own class.
The timing is perfect for the Buffs as it's the Dead Period, where contact by Universities is now limited to phone calls only.
Can you say out-of-sight, out-of-mind?
That's a calling card for generation next and it's a chief contributor to the recruiting issues Nebraska has right now.
4 – Irony Stinks
I can remember like it was only yesterday, how we marveled at how unified this recruiting class was. They were such a tight knit group and man, it seemed like they were all the best of friends.
Blaine Gabbert and Will Compton seemed to be on pace to earn national Recruiter of the Year honors, and all the players talked about how great it was, because they were so unbelievably tight with so many of their fellow commits.
It was like a fairy tale in the world of prep football recruiting
What you are seeing now is what happens when that particular scenario is reversed
As wonderful as it might be when kids are that tight as commits, it's going to work against you if they decide to change their mind. Where one goes, the other follows and now it seems like they are making an exodus with the same kind of unified passion they had when they committed in the first place.
It's been kind of a trend the last few years as Nebraska has found many of its commits going out and actively going after others. Not much thought was given to the idea how much that could work against them if everything went bad.
Well, it's gone bad and the unity everyone admired, complimented and talked about as being yet another reason Nebraska was such a great place to be, is biting them right in the you-know-where.
Irony stinks sometimes, eh?
These are hardly the sum total as to why Nebraska is going through what it is going through right now. But they are a big factor as to why everything seems to be falling down around the Husker Nation's ears.
If I could say any one thing or a few things to Husker fans right now, it would be to keep this all in perspective.
Rome wasn't built in a day, nor did it come to power off of the swords of one good army. Not the best analogy in the world, but this class, however it looked before it started to fracture, is one class and that's all it will ever be.
No one class has ever saved Nebraska and not one class can kill them and as it sits right now, it still fits the mold of what old Nebraska recruiting classes were like.
If you remember the so-called glory days, Nebraska 's classes were identified as having a couple marquee names, a lot of solid-but-not-stellar (in perception) contributors and a few players who would be projects, but would still be expected to contribute at some point.
It's not glamorous and Husker fans who have gotten used to high rankings, are
going to have to take a little time to bring their priorities in check. It's not
that Nebraska couldn't recruit before. I think the NFL rosters following the 90s
proved that well enough. But there weren't a whole lot of "stars" coming
Another aspect is that I think people need to avoid some of the feelings I know are permeating, especially with Bo Pelini now back at LSU as he readies his defense for the national title game against Ohio State .
Here the Nebraska ship is sinking and its captain isn't even on board. Hell, he's on another boat.
That sentiment was not even a couple of weeks ago, preceded by everyone applauding Pelini's loyalty and wondering at how much of a positive effect just his presence in that game would mean for defensive recruiting in the future.
Now, because so many players have changed their mind recently, and so many on the defensive side of the ball, the doom-and-gloom crowd is starting to think that the Pelini-perception and reputation, isn't having much of an impact at all.
That simply is false logic, because due to all of the circumstances above,
what is happening now was impossible to avoid. You can talk about the severity
of it and how players are leaving in groups it would seem, rather than
one-by-one. But with so little time before signing day, it is actually better
now than a month from now.
Once the dead period is over and Pelini is back in town, things will start to turn around if not a little sooner than that. Calls are still allowed, and you can bet that the staff still here will be recruiting like there is no tomorrow.
And don't be surprised if Nebraska attempts to do to other schools what has been done to them. If there is blood in the water, Nebraska will and should go after anyone and everyone they think they can get.
It isn't good when the shoe is on the other foot and everyone seems to benefiting from your team's trials and tribulations. But there's no doubt that in this topsy-turvy world of recruiting, what is killing you right now could be your savior the next time around.
Like anything having to do with sports, teenagers and trying to predict the unpredictable, this is one ride which has a lot more ups and downs than it does smooth sailing. That's what makes it fun, but that's what can also make it a rather painful experience.
Welcome to the other side of the pond.
Don't worry, though, because it will get better. But brace yourself for perhaps more bad news before the tide begins to really turn.
Welcome to the world of recruiting.