Where do you think Nebraska hit a home run in regard to position needed and addressed?
Bryan Munson: I am going to have to say the secondary with a close second coming to the offensive line. I think that Nebraska got longer and more athletic in the secondary. Not to mention, that Nebraska went out and got players like DeJon Gomes, Andrew Green and Lazarri Middleton who, as cornerbacks, are real man to man, physical-types of defenders. I think that Nebraska got athletic at the safety position as well with guys like Taylor Martinez and Dijon Washington. It seems that Nebraska, from the linebackers back to the secondary, wanted to address athleticism, physical play and speed on defense. I heard it said once and it rings true. You either have speed on your team or you are chasing it.
At over six-foot tall, Green
and most of his fellow CB
commits for this class, are
"big" additions for the
Nebraska knew what they had to do here.
Steve Ryan: Bo said before the bowl game that he had realized he was staggeringly thin in the secondary, especially at cornerback. Aside from senior Armando Murillo who went into the Gator Bowl with 23 career starts, you had to add all of the other CBs up but one to get to Murrilo's number of starts, combined. Going into the game against Clemson, sophomores Anthony West and Eric Hagg had 10 starts each, along with redshirt freshman Lance Thorell who had five and sophomore Prince Amukamara who had three. Sophomore Anthony Blue had two, but missed this last season with an injury.
That doesn't sound bad in and of itself, but that constitutes almost all of the players at the position. And when you take into account t that after this season Nebraska will lose four safeties who as of right now have more than 30 games starting experience they needed to do something quickly.
To that end they added Andrew Green, DeAndre Byrd, Lazarri Middleton and Dejon Gomes. The other candidates who could also play these positions from this class are Taylor Martinez and even Rex Burkhead, who was offered at safety, along with three other positions on the field.
You could argue that they needed more, especially with Byrd not qualifying this year. But in recruiting you could argue that with any position you can never have enough. But they still did a nice job, and with only one of those players who didn't make it, measuring under six-foot tall, they got size to boot.
Where didn't Nebraska hit as much as they should have, if anywhere?
Bryan: I am going to say defensive tackle mostly because there more than likely isn't an immediate contributor in the class. I am not saying that a player like Thad Randle can't be special. I think that he will be. However, even is he is 265 or 270 this fall it's unlikely that he will be in a position to help out Nebraska along the defensive line and in particularly at the defensive tackle positions. Nebraska just doesn't have a lot of depth there and if Nebraska could have gotten a Latu Heimuli, Corey Adams or Sione Tuihalamaka it would have made a big difference in this class. I also think that Nebraska came up a player short at the wide receiver position as well.
Steve: Go back to the class of 2005, and Nebraska's biggest additions at the defensive tackle spot were Ola Dagunduro, Barry Cryer and Ndamukong Suh.
Suh obviously turned out to be even better than the real deal, and both Cryer and Dagunduro did the job, each backing up then starters at the positions, Le Kevin Smith and Titus Adams. In addition, the following year both turned out to be solid starters.
But that was it, two years and gone.
Demetrious Davis was
The following years didn't turn out to be nearly as beneficial:
In 2006 they got prep lineman Seth Jensen and junior college transfer Brandon Johnson. Jensen has since transferred and Johnson played very sparse time over his two-year career. Ben Martin, originally recruited in this class for the offensive side, was moved to the defensive side, but like Johnson, has barely seen the field.
For the class of 2007 they added a number of players looked to, to play defensive tackle, including junior college transfers Shukree Barfield, Kevin Dixon and Joseph Townsend along with prep players Demetrious Davis and Terrence Moore. Barfield played his most significant minutes this last season, backing up Suh, but never really made a big impact for the team. Dixon was seen as a player who had a lot of potential going into this last season, but was ultimately dismissed for violating team rules. Davis and Townsend never made it due to academics and Moore is still trying to work his way into the line up. Nebraska native Jared Crick, who was recruited to play defensive end, was moved to the interior line to try and address the depth problems they had.
And last year they got one, that's one player in Quintin Taoiloa, who wasn't able to even practice, because of two separate shoulder surgeries throughout the season. Baker Steinkuhler, who was originally recruited to play offensive, will play this side and should be a force. But the gaps from other misses are still there.
That is a lot of misses at the position, and the real hits they got, outside of Suh, were from the junior college ranks. There are others who we simply don't know about as of yet, but there's a major void that exists. Had Suh opted for the Draft, what was considered a dire situation would have been elevated to complete panic mode.
This year it's one player again, Thaddeus Randle out of the Lone Star state. But while his upside looks great, unless he puts on 15 pounds, maybe 20, it's going to be hard to see him crack the line up any time soon.
This is a priority position now for the big red, because they are going to be scratching and clawing just to get back to even. They tried this year, but it didn't happen. Next year they absolutely have to get players to fill some rapidly growing holes.
Who's the guy we should expect to see first from this class?
Bryan: I have said Rex Burkhead since about the time that he committed. I think that Burkhead brings something different to Nebraska. I think, legitimately, that you could find Burkhead lined up at a number of places on the field this fall for Nebraska including in the backfield as a running back, in the slot as a receiver and of course on special teams as a returner. I think that Rex has the speed that Nebraska is looking for as well as the abilities to make plays with the ball in his hands in space when he is given the chance. Dejon Gomes will also see the field, but as a junior college transfer, he is probably more expected to than anything. I would say that Burkhead though is my guy of the high school enrollments to get on the field as a true freshman.
Steve: I like Eric Martin to do some things early for two reasons:
One: He's very athletic, a ball hawk and even if it's on special teams early on, I think he has the instincts and speed to make himself very viable at the position. We have to remember the kind of impact former Husker Cody Glenn had, and that was with a fresh move over from running back. I don't know that Chris has Cody's raw athleticism, and Glenn was a very physical player as well. But I think his overall combination could make him very realistic to see the field right away.
Two: They need him. Look at the situation they had at linebacker. Combined with Bo sticking to his guns on redshirting every linebacker coming in this last year, that left a major void in experience going into next year. That means a whole lot of kids with not a whole lot of experience, are going to be seeing the field for the first time.
So, with the playing field being at least somewhat even, I give Martin a very good chance to get in there and make a little noise.
Who's the guy who will be the best from this class?
Bryan: I think that in the end that Chris Williams is the guy from this class that will emerge as the star of the class. The reason I say that is because Chris Williams is different than anything that is in Lincoln already. I think that he is a big, physical MIKE that also has exceptional speed. He is a person that you build a defense around. I would also say that Eric Martin could be the guy that comes out of this class as well because he's unlike anyone at Nebraska already too. I think that both of these guys will go on to great careers at Nebraska in a defense that will feature both of them and utilize them to the best of their abilities.
Steve: When Nebraska offered Thaddeus Randle, I went "huh?." He wasn't very big, weighing around 255 pounds, and even now he's not a lot bigger. All this kid did was finish the season first-team All-State 5A, the largest classification in the state which produces more Division 1-A football players on average than any other state in the country.
Thaddeus Randle is just one of the many
examples of this year's class
that it's not about now - it's about the
OU commit and five-star DE Jemarcus McFarland couldn't say that.
What gives me this belief that he's going to be something special isn't his raw athleticism or the frame to hold a lot more weight. It's his motor, and he's got a good one. When it's all said and done, Bo Pelini has said that effort comes first and everything else comes after that.
I don't think that will ever be a problem for this kid, because I think he'll give all that and more. Combine that with his those wonderful measurables, his upside and opportunity to play, I think Randle is going to have a solid career.
This class doesn't rank as super. What do you think? Is this a step back or something different about how Nebraska approaches recruiting nowadays versus the old regime?
Bryan: It's different. There are definitely superstars that would have been recruited under Callahan like Jason Ankrah, Chris Williams, Rex Burkhead, etc. However, there are guys like Thad Randle that in the short-term will be relegated, more than likely, to a redshirt year. I think that Bo is definitely more long-term minded than short-term like Callahan was. There are also players like Lazarri Middleton and Andrew Green that simply fell through the cracks of the recruiting rankings and should have been more highly rated. I think that Brent Qvale is one of those guys as well. The process of getting players evaluated isn't perfect. However, I have to believe that Nebraska has done their homework on these players and that on and off the field meet the profile of the type of player they want representing their team and university.
Steve: It is different…vastly different
It's called building for the future.
I don't necessarily think that Bill Callahan wasn't building for the future, but between him wanting to get his new offense working as quickly as possible and his apparent belief that he had to win right away, he recruited for that, and when it didn't happen like people had hoped, this house of cards he built on the backs of a lot of very temporary players, came crashing down with a thud.
Bo knows he has the time. Bo knows he has the support. Bo also knows that a player perceived as good now can become great.
Just the difference in knowing you have years to do what you were asked to do, versus the idea that each year it might be your job, I think makes a world of difference in how you approach recruiting.
Bo and company aren't going to the waiver wire like it almost appeared when Callahan brought in quarterback Sam Keller from Arizona State. Bo and company aren't looking for players who are the quick-fix so that this very next season is going to be a success.
Pelini has a much broader vision than that, which is one hundred percent supported by the man who hired him, because that's how he did it as well.
It won't make for a lot of luster in the classes, most of them containing a couple marquee players, a lot of potentially solid players and a few kids who may develop one day into contributors. But the old saying about rebuilding versus reloading isn't traditionally built off the backs of a ton of five stars like you see at USC or junior college craziness like you saw with Bill Snyder during his first run at Kansas State.
It may work, but if you are capable at evaluating talent and capable at getting the most out of that talent when it arrives, time is your best friend.
Nebraska will get there, but this is a new and old strategy on how to get there. The best thing is, once Nebraska is back competing for titles, whether it's conference or national, because they are recruiting for the future, you don't have to worry about huge gaps in consistency on the field each year.
That's the way to go