LINCOLN — Because it's Nebraska, because it's football, because it's an age of knee-jerk responses, there's an immediate urge to declare Millard West defensive end Harrison Phillips' commitment to Stanford a sign of the Huskers' recruiting mismanagement.
Since I think NU's current staff is probably doing a better job of generally identifying, scouting, offering and closing recruits than it has at any time under coach Bo Pelini, I can't put my name on that petition. Just like I wouldn't put my name on it in early June, when Nebraska stood at two commits.
The Huskers have found their organizational sea legs in recruiting. Yes, NU offered Phillips last. In 2010, NU offered Zach Sterup out of Hastings St. Cecilia in late May, after UCLA, Kansas State and Stanford (and Wisconsin and Iowa) had offered. Sterup even took a trip to Notre Dame and earned an offer there. When Sterup committed to Nebraska a few weeks after the ND trip, the Huskers had just come one second from winning the Big 12 title, seemed poised for a national title run in 2010, and had more momentum than any of the schools that had offered. The Huskers were hot in the summer of 2010. Especially for an in-state kid.
What Nebraska couldn't offer Phillips was three BCS bowls in the last three years. Stanford could. The Huskers actually have one more win (48) over the last five years than Stanford, but Stanford has 35 wins in the last three years. Nebraska has 29.
NU stuck to its evaluation timeline on Phillips, and even Phillips conceded that the Huskers gave him every good look at every position he could possibly play when he attended a one-day camp.
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But if you're going to evaluate a certain way and offer late, and there's a program doing what Stanford has done since 2010 that's interested, too, you run a risk of losing good in-state talent.
Nebraska now turns its focus to what seems to be the last target to announce his destination before the season begins: Hiawatha (Kan.) defensive end Peyton Newell. The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Newell has many of the attributes Phillips does — good motor, character kid — but his frame appears to be capable of carrying enough good weight to slide inside to tackle. Newell announces Aug. 30 at his school. Nebraska is in the top group.
The Huskers' coaching staff will naturally adjust its focus to training camp in August — the schedule allows NU the potential of rattling off a bunch of wins before a November trip to Michigan if Pelini and his staff can get a young defense going — so recruiting ramps down a bit in those weeks. But look for players to start setting up official visits throughout September, especially on those opening three games — Wyoming at 7 p.m., Southern Mississippi at a ridiculously hot 5 p.m. and UCLA at 11 a.m. NU has 11 commits — all but two are slated for offense — and several needs still left to fill. Here are the top priorities heading into training camp.
>> Defensive tackle/defensive end: Even if Newell commits, the Huskers are actively trying to get junior college defensive tackles Abu Lamin and Claude Pelon on campus for official visits. Look for more targets to emerge as Nebraska evaluates senior film throughout the year. The position added some depth with the signings of Maliek Collins and Kevin Maurice, but more is needed. It's a crucial position. At end, NU may look to replace the newly-booted Ernest Suttles in this class. Phoenix prospect Jalen Jelks looks intriguing.
>> Cornerback: Nebraska's depth is good for this season, but after four seniors use up their eligibility, just five corners, if you include Charles Jackson as a potential corner, remain in the program. The Huskers could add two more in this class to current commit Trai Mosley, who is going to be coveted even more by Texas schools after strong play in 7-on-7 tournaments.
>> Offensive tackle: The Huskers could play Gretna commit Mick Stoltenberg here, or slide him over to tight end. Either way, Nebraska would like at least one more tackle, considering Jeremiah Sirles, Brent Qvale and Andrew Rodriguez use up their eligibility after this year. Las Vegas prospect Nick Gates and St. Louis prospect Brian Wallace are two to watch. I still think Victoria, Minn., hoss Frank Ragnow is a good choice, too.
>> Outside wide receiver: Monte Harrison's in the fold, but pro baseball is a definite option. Husker wide receiver coach Rich Fisher has done strong work in California and should bring in several prospects for official visits this fall.
Official visitors will see Memorial Stadium this fall at its loudest and most impressive. The East Stadium addition looks to change the sound profile of what sometimes has been a medium-mannered atmosphere.
Around the nation
>> Iowa secured another defensive line commit Tuesday in Paramus (N.J.) Catholic two-star Terrence Harris. He's the second off-the-radar Jersey end to commit to the Hawkeyes in the last month; low three-star Jameer Outsey is the other. Between them, they had one other BCS conference offer: Pittsburgh for Outsey. The Hawkeyes are playing the project route and hoping they develop the raw talent. Michigan State got a commit from north-side Chicago three-star safety Matt Morrissey, who picked the Spartans over home-state Illinois, Syracuse and others.
>> It's getting harder to see how Minnesota coach Jerry Kill stays long-term if he continues to enter each football season with the worst recruiting class in the Big Ten. There are just five commits for a program that should have established its recruiting pipelines by now and be taking a ton of players, given how Kill gave former coach Tim Brewster the brush-off on his recruiting acumen. Brewster didn't distinguish himself as a head coach, but he delivered talent for Kill to coach. Kill is shuffling along in that department. After Ra'Shede Hageman, a Brewster recruit, graduates this year, the cupboard begins to get bare on the defensive side.
>> Omaha North defensive tackle Jordan Strong is among the nation's top 50 incoming freshmen, according to Max Preps. A 6-2, 250-pounder who could vie for playing time on one of the state's best teams, he is the younger brother of junior running back Calvin Strong.
>> The Huskers have already offered one name on the Max Preps incoming freshman list: Dylan Moses, the 6-1, 215-pound freakish running back out of Baton Rouge, La. The subject of a long ESPN magazine profile, Moses doesn't look or run like a teenager, and is probably destined to be a four-year recruiting battle between LSU and Alabama.