LINCOLN — Nebraska got reminded Wednesday that sometimes things just don't go your way in recruiting.
The commitment that NU picked up Saturday from defensive end Blake McClain didn't stick, and the harsh reality didn't fully land until McClain signed his letter-of-intent with South Carolina.
“Nebraska couldn't have done anything more than what they did,” said Adam Geis, McClain's head coach at Sandalwood High in Jacksonville, Fla.
Geis said it ultimately came down to McClain's family wanting the three-star prospect and former Florida State commit to stay closer to home. The South Carolina campus in Columbia is a four-hour drive from Jacksonville.
Although GamecockCentral.com reported Tuesday night that McClain had made a decision, Geis said he didn't know until he saw McClain early Wednesday morning.
“It's been hard on the kid,” Geis said. “He needs a three-day vacation, is what he needs. He just texted me and said, 'Thanks a lot, Coach. It's been rough.' ”
Rough, too, on Nebraska as it hunted late in the recruiting process for help at defensive end. The Huskers also lost out Wednesday on prospects Lloyd Tubman (signed with Kentucky) and Spencer Williams (Missouri).
Combined with offensive tackle Kenyon Frison picking Oklahoma on Wednesday morning, Nebraska had a rare signing day without a score after reeling in such last-minute recruits as Tre'Vell Dixon in 2013; Vincent Valentine, Aaron Curry and Alonzo Moore in 2012; Todd Peat in 2011; and Brion Carnes and Corey Cooper in 2010.
Nebraska closed with a recruiting class of 24 signees that head coach Bo Pelini was scheduled to discuss in a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
NU assistant coach Rich Fischer happened to be at Sandalwood High last Wednesday as McClain got word that Florida State wanted him to be a grayshirt and not enroll until next January. As he decided to decommit, the Huskers followed with a full-court press that included getting McClain on campus for a weekend visit.
Geis called the Nebraska pursuit “one of the best jobs I've seen.”
“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.”
Geis said Nebraska told McClain it would wait if he wasn't ready to sign. South Carolina wanted him to do it Wednesday — the first day prospects officially could ink letters-of-intent — and told him he could take a campus visit later.
But Geis said McClain liked what he saw from the Gamecocks, led by former Florida head coach Steve Spurrier.
“It's hard to pass up an opportunity to play for Steve Spurrier,” Geis told GamecockCentral.com. “The guy is a legend in this state.”
Nebraska will head into spring practice with Randy Gregory, Greg McMullen and A.J. Natter as the only scholarship defensive ends on its roster. The Husker picked up four defensive linemen in this recruiting cycle — junior-college transfer Joe Keels, Peyton Newell, Sedrick King and DeAndre Wills.
NU went after three Sandalwood High players. Although McClain bailed and receiver DeSean Blair signed with Missouri on Wednesday, Geis said the Huskers got a quality cornerback with Chris Jones.
“He is an unbelievable athlete,” Geis said. “That kid is nine times out of 10 at Florida or Florida State. He just didn't go to enough of those camps. That is your prototypical Florida high school football player.”
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Video: Omaha.com signing day playlist: