It’s amazing what five seconds can do to the perception of an entire recruiting class. Fractures appeared in the façade of Husker Nation following this year’s National Signing Day thanks to a fault line drawn underneath Corona Del Sol High School in Tempe, Arizona.
The storyline was perfect: All-Everything offensive tackle Andrus Peat would commit to Nebraska to join brother Todd and cousin Avery Moss and be the crown jewel of a small, but talent-laden class. Then Peat chose Stanford and everything went to hell.
Shockwaves were sent out across the country. Stanford’s coaching staff cheered while millions of Husker fans were left shaking their heads and readjusting dropped jaws. There’s no such thing as a “lock” in college football recruiting, but Peat seemed as close as they come. In the past, Peat’s decision may have simply been a matter of one less highly-coveted prospect as a Cornhusker, but his choice carried heavier consequences.
Nebraska now had no offensive tackles in their class, a position which claims five members of the current Cornhusker roster. This adds yet another area of dire need to the 2013 cycle.
Without the 6’7” 305-pound hoss, Nebraska’s class had its charm, yet looked pedestrian overall, especially considering the Huskers failed to fill a class with only 18 available spots. Scout.com even featured the Big Red crop as one of their “worst classes.”
The Cornhuskers needed two quality scholarship quarterbacks during this past cycle. They captured one in Tommy Armstrong, but lost out on eventual UCLA commit Devin Fuller. The top linebacker on their board, Quanzell Lambert, was retained by Rutgers despite the Scarlet Knights losing their head coach. Two big-time defensive back prospects, Brandon Beaver and Devian Shelton, remained in Pac-12 country.
Come day’s end, Nebraska would save some face by gaining a commit from Illinois lineman Vincent Valentine, but Peat’s decision was a hard shot to the jaw, something that has seemingly become a tradition for Nebraska come Signing Day.
The recruiting results left Big Red fans in three camps: Optimistic, extremely disappointed and apathetic.
Optimistic Husker fans quickly pointed to Nebraska’s walk-on class, and with good reason. The 2012 haul is arguably one of the finest in years. Other talking points were their distrust of recruiting services’ ranking systems, Bo Pelini’s ability to develop players, red herrings referencing severely-disliked former Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan.
Those extremely disappointed with the overall class pointed to correlations between programs who’ve had fantastic success lately and their recruiting classes, often using charts such as those below:
Also mentioned was questionable use of official visits. At one point in mid-January, Nebraska had used 39 of their 56 allotted official visits. 32 of these visits were used on uncommitted prospects. Another area of concern was the Huskers’ hands-off approach and seemingly lackadaisical attitude towards recruiting over the course of the cycle.
The apathetic bunch is the minority of these groups, but the idea that Pelini’s staff can haul in appropriate athletes to run the systems in place remains widespread among it.
Regardless of what side you stand on, the bottom line can’t be ignored: The University of Nebraska’s football program has Bo Pelini’s fingerprints over all of it. His staff works in North Stadium, his recruits take the field executing his game plans.
What was on full display this past Wednesday was a recruiting strategy that he signed off on, one that saw few Plan B options, if any and was viewed by several across the country, both analyst and fan, as underwhelming. Will history repeat itself?
Retaining current 2013 commit Tre’vell Dixon should an LSU offer come along would be a step in the right direction, but 23 spots remain. Can Pelini’s crew fill them with top-quality prospects under Ross Els, Nebraska’s third recruiting coordinator in three years? Perhaps a better question is will the Huskers be able to fill them all in the first place?