Published Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 12:01 am / Updated at 12:33 am
football
Cross-country recruiting trek has Bo Pelini beat

LINCOLN — Nebraska coach Bo Pelini wasn't joking when he told reporters Wednesday that he wanted to wait a few hours before thinking about the next group of recruits.

He'd like an evening to exhale.

Pelini and the Husker assistants have been on high alert for months as they've worked to complete the 2014 class, which was announced Wednesday when 24 players signed letters of intent.

That's by design, Pelini said. It seems NU's coaches have recently settled into an ever-adaptable recruiting approach that ultimately crescendos into a two-week, nationwide frenzy of new game-film evaluations, house calls and scholarship offers right before the annual signing date.

“We talk about turning over every stone,” Pelini said. “We have to evaluate — and keep evaluating.”

Even when it might appear that the class is rounding into shape.

“You have to cover a lot of ground, talk to a lot of people and do your homework,” Pelini said. “I think we've had some pretty good success with that.”

Thirteen states are represented in Nebraska's 2014 recruiting class. Last year, the Huskers had prospects from 14 states and another from Canada. It was 13 states in 2012.

Pelini is giving no indication that will change, either. The Huskers are recruiting nationally, perhaps more so than ever.

Ideally, Nebraska is signing a full class of players whose hometowns are 500 miles from Lincoln, Pelini said. But he's always said that. The Husker coaches' assessment of the region's talent hasn't allowed them to narrow their scope in Pelini's seven years.

So Pelini said Nebraska's pool of prospective players has to be deeper than most. “Where somebody might have three or four guys (at a position), we might need to have 11 or 12 guys,” he said.

And as Pelini admitted Wednesday, they're still adjusting where to focus their resources after changing conferences three seasons ago.

NU landed 15 players from SEC states in this 2014 class. But the way Pelini discussed it Wednesday, that doesn't mean Nebraska's committing itself to the southeast region going forward.

“You just don't know where they're going to come from,” Pelini said of Nebraska's targeted prospects.

The downside of NU's philosophy was evident Wednesday, though, when defensive end Blake McClain reneged on his commitment to the Huskers in favor of staying closer to home.

McClain, out of Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Fla., signed with South Carolina.

Sandalwood coach Adam Geis complimented the effort of NU assistant Rich Fisher, who happened to be at McClain's school when he learned that Florida State wanted him to be a grayshirt and not enroll until next January.

McClain decommitted and NU persuaded him to visit Lincoln.

“I truly believe Nebraska was his choice, but his family wanted him close to home and it was something they didn't want to sway on,” Geis said. “It's nothing Nebraska did wrong. South Carolina just ended up being a more feasible choice. Some of it just comes down to money.”

In addition to McClain's decision, defensive end Lloyd Tubman (Kentucky), defensive end Spencer Williams (Missouri), offensive lineman Kenyon Frison (Oklahoma) and receiver DeSean Blair (Missouri) all were interested in Nebraska but ended up signing elsewhere.

Getting one or two of those players to flip to NU would have presumably given the Huskers a boost in the national class rankings.

Nebraska's group of 2014 recruits is the 32nd-best class in the country, according to Rivals. It's the lowest ranking for a Pelini class by that recruiting service.

Scout has the Huskers 34th — which is the second worst under Pelini behind a No. 49 ranking in 2012. NU is 35th according to 247Sports, and No. 39 per ESPN.

That's middle of the pack in the Big Ten, according to those four major recruiting websites.

But Pelini adamantly proclaimed Wednesday that the analysts' assessments do not matter to him.

“I don't worry about star ratings,” Pelini said. “We look at guys that we believe, not just what they are now, but what they can be two, three, four years down the road.”

And for Nebraska's coaching staff, that requires plenty of work.

No wonder Pelini chuckled as he spoke briefly about getting a jump-start on the 2015 class with a junior day last weekend. He's not yet ready for the next coast-to-coast hunt to consume him once again.

“We'll worry about 2015 tomorrow,” Pelini said Wednesday with a smile. “Let's enjoy this one for a couple hours.”

World-Herald staff writer Rich Kaipust contributed to this report.

* * *

Video: Omaha.com signing day playlist:

Contact the writer: Jon Nyatawa

jon.nyatawa@owh.com    |   402-473-9585    |  

Jon Nyatawa has covered local sports, primarily Nebraska football and baseball, for The Omaha World-Herald since 2008.

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