NU vs NU

When it comes to recruiting battles, Northwestern has some long-standing rivals – you know, Notre Dame, Stanford, a good chunk of the Big Ten. But in the past couple years, a new recruiting trail foe has emerged: Nebraska. Purple Reign takes a look at the recent surge in players, like Chance Carter, being targeted by NU and NU.

As recently as a couple years ago, Northwestern and Nebraska didn't often cross paths on the recruiting trail. Northwestern was busy fending off its usual recruiting trail opponents – Notre Dame, Stanford, Illinois, etc. And Nebraska's targets, meanwhile, were rarely the same as Northwestern's.

If a player had an offer from one NU, chances were they didn't have an offer from the other.

Just think – in the 2009 recruiting class, only one of Northwestern's top eight-ranked commitments also held an offer from Nebraska. That recruit was Roderick Goodlow, a three-star safety from Dallas who committed to Northwestern in December, 2008. And as for the other NU, Nebraska, well, not a single one of their top eight 2009 commits held an offer from Northwestern.

So as recently as the 2009 class, the Wildcats and Cornhuskers weren't all that likely to wage recruiting battles. The oft-cluttered recruiting trail had plenty of room for NU and NU to pursue and nab the players of their liking without stepping on one another's toes.

Well, a lot has changed since Signing Day of 2009. Nowadays, Northwestern and Nebraska are constantly vying for the same players. Let's start with the 2010 class, which featured a stark shift from 2009.

One of the best examples was three-star prospect Chance Carter, a defensive end from Illinois who committed to Northwestern. According to Scout.com, Carter held but two offers: Nebraska and Northwestern. Obviously, he chose NU.

Quarterback Kain Colter, a Colorado native, was another 2010 commit who was getting plenty of attention from both NUs. Colter held seven offers, and after decommitting from Stanford in December, he confirmed to Purple Reign that Northwestern and Nebraska were two of his four finalists, along with TCU and Arizona State. Colter was planning a January trip to Lincoln before souring on the Huskers and giving the Wildcats a commitment. ("Some things panned out at the end that I wasn't too happy about," Colter said of Nebraska, declining to comment further.)

Will Hampton's story is strikingly similar to Colter's. The Texas-born defensive lineman committed to Stanford in the spring of '09 but then reopened his recruiting a few months later. Of the schools Hampton considered were Northwestern and Nebraska. Like Colter, he nixed a planned visit to Nebraska and wound up boosting the Cats' haul on the defensive line. Along, of course, with Carter.

It didn't all go in Northwestern's favor, though. Nebraska landed a trio of ballyhooed prospects who the Wildcats were also recruiting. Among them was Illinois native Corey Cooper, a four-star safety from Maywood. Harvey Jackson, another safety from Texas, signed with Nebraska despite holding a Cat offer, as well. As did Mike Moudy, an offensive lineman from Colorado.

And it's not like these three Huskers were being recruited by every school in the nation. In fact, according to Scout.com, Northwestern was the only Big Ten school to offer either Moudy or Jackson. So this wasn't some recruiting free-for-all where everyone was offering these guys. Jackson had six offers, Moudy seven. Of course, Northwestern and Nebraska were in the mix.

All told, the 2010 NU vs NU scorecard among three- and four-star recruits with offers from both schools was Northwestern 3, Nebraska 3. The results of that scorecard in 2011 could go a long way toward determining how successful each school's recruiting class ends up being.

Now, a bunch of the players who Nebraska and Northwestern are both recruiting for 2011 hold somewhere between 10 and 1,000 offers. So you could say, Of course both Nebraska and Northwestern have offered! Everyone has offered! Well, what's interesting is that while a lot of these guys do indeed have a bajillion choices, Northwestern and Nebraska are among the only schools from their respective conferences to have extended offers.

One such player is George Atkinson, a California native listed as a receiver and safety. According to Scout, Atkinson has 15 offers. But get this: he only has two from the Big Ten (Northwestern and Illinois) and one from the Big 12 (guess who).

Four-star quarterback Kiehl Frazier, from Arkansas, is another testament to the NU-NU rivalry. Sure, Frazier has more than 20 offers. But Nebraska is one of only three Big 12 schools, along with Kansas State and Oklahoma State, with an offer on the table; Northwestern is one of only three Big Ten schools, along with Illinois and Michigan.

Then there's Michael Bennett, a defensive lineman from Ohio. Bennett has offers from about 15 schools, including four in the Big Ten – Northwestern, Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State. But only one Big 12 school, Nebraska, has offered.

In addition, there are some players who both Northwestern and Nebraska are recruiting but who don't hold offers from both schools. Adonis Ameen-Moore, for instance, has an offer from Northwestern but not Nebraska. That's not to say, though, that the Huskers aren't recruiting the three-star running back from Colorado. In fact, Ameen-Moore was in Lincoln at the end of February on a recruiting visit….

...Along with his high school teammate, three-star linebacker Connor Healy. Healy doesn't yet have an offer from either NU – or any other school, for that matter – but having visited Nebraska, and with plans to visit Evanston, it's safe to count him as another dual-NU prospect.

Like Ameen-Moore, Illinois safety Sean Cotton holds a Northwestern offer but not a Nebraska one. Still, though, he told Scout.com that he wanted to visit Lincoln.

A less drastic example of Nebraska and Northwestern's common recruiting ground is Wayne Lyons, a safety from Florida who has an offer from seemingly every Division I school in America. While Northwestern is but one of seven Big Ten schools to offer Lyons, Nebraska is the only one from the Big 12.

Offensive lineman Matthew Hegarty of New Mexico has a dizzying number of offers, as well. Five from the Big 12 – including Nebraska – and two from the Big Ten – including Northwestern.

Read what you will into the recent surge of NU-NU recruiting battles. There could be any number of reasons. First off, the schools aren't that far apart – less than 550 miles. They have also been pretty similar the past few years: Northwestern has 23 wins since 2007; Nebraska has 24.

What's more, their respective conferences have some of the best homegrown talent in the country, while their respective states don't. Thus, both schools are forced to widen their recruiting nets more than some of their conference rivals. For instance, the state of Nebraska had one four- or five-star prospect in the 2010 class, and Illinois had only six. To wit: in 2010, the University of Texas signed 17 four- or five-star players from Texas; Texas A&M signed four from Texas; Penn State signed six from Pennsylvania; OSU got five from Ohio. So maybe Northwestern and Nebraska keep crossing paths because they have to venture a little further than some of their peers.

There seems little question that Northwestern and Nebraska will continue to run into each other on the recruiting trail for the foreseeable future. The question then becomes, which NU will get the better of the other?

You can comment on this article at the Ryan Field Message Board. And feel free to send comments or suggestions to David Vranicar, publisher of Purple Reign, at northwestern.scout@gmail.com.


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