Click here for complete coverage of 2012 Husker signing day
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LINCOLN — Don’t just ignore the elephant in the room.
Offensive tackle Andrus Peat chose Stanford over Nebraska (and his defensive tackle brother Todd, and his cousin and 2012 signee Avery Moss). And that decision stings.
“From what I understand, it went down to the last few seconds before,” coach Bo Pelini said. He found out when you did.
A potential All-American is heading to The Cardinal Farm for “school” and “fit” and all the other things you say when you don’t want to admit, well, Stanford is closer, it had Andrew Luck and played in back-to-back BCS bowl games.
That Stanford is trending upward while Nebraska tries to shake the four-loss syndrome.
You could define Nebraska’s 2012 recruiting class on those three meltdown minutes Wednesday afternoon. Imagine a marathon where you get quadruple points for how fast you run the last 100 meters. That’s signing day.
But this class isn’t really about restocking the offensive line. The long view is you always make room for a kid like Andrus Peat. The short view, bluntly, is this: Nebraska has talent all over that O-line. Four stars galore. Develop it. A lot of money and knowledge — two assistants and one top-flight intern — is in place to do it.
The even shorter, more immediate view: If NU’s 2011 defense was sorely deficient of defensive playmakers outside of its now-departed senior trio — Jared Crick, Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard — Pelini’s Wednesday haul seemed designed to address it. Eleven of the 17 signees will start on the defensive side of the ball. I don’t see any of them switching. That’s not by accident.
“It was an emphasis,” Pelini said.
Linebackers Zaire Anderson, Jared Afalava, Thomas Brown and Michael Rose? You’re on the clock. Cornerback Mo Seisay? Show us the stuff. Defensive ends Greg McMullen and Avery Moss? Get after the quarterback. Alonzo Moore? If signal-caller is entirely out — and a bit too bad that it is — get to the secondary pronto.
Is that pressure? Considerable. But kids don’t sign with Nebraska for a vacation. And these kids didn’t sign with NU to sit behind other kids who haven’t yet made a big mark. Pelini preached development Wednesday, as he always does. To him, the recruiting really just starts on signing day.
Fair enough. His staff should accelerate the development timeline for this crop of defenders. Find out who gets it — and who doesn’t. Only interior linemen Aaron Curry and Vincent Valentine — both in need of body sculpting — appear as redshirt locks to me.
This crop’s got a chance. I like Rose, heady and tough. A right place/right time guy. Afalava’s aggression, if channeled right, is impressive. Moore has the speed and raw athleticism to be a starting corner if his confidence and technique is there. Anderson and Seisay look the part — fast and intuitive — and Pelini’s track record of finding just the right junior college defenders is good.
But overall, the more ambitious national strategy — NU got players from 13 states — produced a mixed bag. The Huskers were scrambling at the end with corners who were high-end Plan Bs, but Plan Bs nonetheless. And then Devian Shelton and Raymond Ford stayed in their home state of California.
Too many terrific prospects in Missouri got away. Ondre Pipkins to Michigan. Nate Lohn to Stanford. Evan Boehm to Missouri. Durron Neal to Oklahoma. Austin Ray to Colorado. Edmund Ray to Texas A&M. A couple Colorado kids worthy of offers never got much of a sniff. And, of course, Giltner’s Drew Ott will head to Iowa.
Pelini said the Huskers needed to get back into Dallas — where Tim Beck and John Papuchis made such hay since 2008 — again for the 2013 class. He suggested that farther-flung targets were harder to recruit because there’s so few direct flights into Lincoln.
“If it takes two flights to get here, and there aren’t a lot of flights in, the airlines are going to play a part in how much we’re in certain areas,” Pelini said. “You can recruit a kid all day, and a lot of times if it’s real difficult to get him here — it’s going to be hard to get that kid. It plays a lot bigger piece of the puzzle than you would think.”
You could take that quote as Pelini bemoaning the remoteness of Big Red. Or maybe his weariness of spending January on (often private) planes. But I detected some reason, some wisdom, a willingness to look harder at the 750-mile, 12-hour, drivable radius from Memorial Stadium.
Superimpose the state of Texas on a map with the cities of Dallas and Lincoln lining up, and you might be surprised how much room that leaves the Huskers. If Nebraska’s going to get back — all the way back — it has to win, consistently, in this region. Didn’t happen in 2012.
No, the Huskers should never back down from a recruiting battle for a must-have kid. Like Andrus Peat. Like New Jersey prospects Devin Fuller and Quanzell Lambert. Like Jordan Diggs and Jonathan Bullard. Nebraska got visits from all.
But they went to Stanford, UCLA, Rutgers, South Carolina and Florida. Somewhere else. That’s the real elephant.
Otherwise, NU addressed its needs and stocked immediate depth where Pelini excels: Defense.
Will they pan out? Pelini said he’d know in two or three years. For NU fans, two would be preferable.
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