Getting elite recruits to visit your school is an achievement in itself.
Rarely, if ever, does a kid sign somewhere he’s never seen before, so securing a visit is crucial. And there’s some cachet, too, that comes with attracting five-star prospects to visit, even if they don’t end up at your school. Buzz really is a valuable asset when it comes to recruiting.
That’s part of what makes the 2017 recruiting cycle so special for Nebraska, because it should feature more five-star official visitors than any year in quite some time.
We took a look back at NU’s history of official visitors — both Rivals and Scout have databases with records of all the visitors dating back to 2002 — and used that to make comparisons to how the 2017 class will stack up to years past.
So far, three five-star prospects have scheduled official visits to Nebraska in this recruiting cycle. Offensive tackle Foster Sarell and cornerback Darnay Holmes are expected to be at the season opener Sept. 3. Wide receiver Joseph Lewis plans to visit for the Oregon game on Sept. 17. There could be more that come before national signing day. This also assumes all three will follow through on those visits and finish the cycle as a five-star prospect.
But it’s certainly going to be a big year for the Huskers.
Sarell’s visit is especially meaningful. He’s currently ranked as the nation’s No. 1 prospect by 247Sports. Since records began in 2002, no recruit that finished his respective cycle ranked No. 1 by at least one service has taken an official visit to Nebraska.
The list of Top 10 prospects that did includes: No. 2 Haloti Ngata (2002), No. 5 Rey Maualuga (2005), No. 6 Jonathan Bullard (2012), No. 8 Owamagbe Odighizuwa (2010), No. 8 Baker Steinkuhler (2008), No. 9 Allen Bradford (2006) and No. 9 Earl Everett (2003).
Assuming at least one five-star does visit NU this year, it’ll be the first time since the 2012 recruiting class that the Huskers hosted one on an official visit. That’s four full recruiting cycles without a five-star stepping foot in Lincoln on an official.
It’s a steep dropoff from where the Huskers were in the previous decade. From 2002-09, Nebraska hosted an average of 3.5 five-star visitors per recruiting cycle. Since 2010, NU has hosted only four total — Andrus Peat and Bullard in 2012, Aaron Green in 2011 and Odighizuwa in 2010. The Huskers will come close to matching that this September alone.
That will help break another downward trend too. Getting multiple five-star visitors was a more common occurrence before 2009. Five times during that span the Huskers had three or more visit in one cycle.
The last time it happened was in 2009 when Jason Pierre-Paul, Gabe Lynn and Corey Adams all took official visits. But Pierre-Paul was a junior college prospect. The last year to feature three or more high school five-stars was 2006 — Jonas Mouton, David Ausberry, AJ Wallace and Allen Bradford. It also happened in 2005 and 2002.
But getting those five-stars to visit doesn’t mean they’ll sign.
Of the 32 five-star visitors since 2002, six (18.8 percent) chose the Huskers. The last one they landed was Green in 2011, and he eventually transferred to TCU. The last five-star to complete his career at NU was Steinkuhler, who was a member of the 2008 class. Other five-stars that signed with NU: Maurice Purify, Andre Jones, Marlon Lucky and Zackary Bowman (Lucky the only high schooler among them).
So what are NU’s chances of adding Sarell, Holmes or Lewis to that list?
Sarell’s visit will be his first to Nebraska, but he’s been recruited by Mike Riley and his staff since their days at Oregon State. Nearby Washington is the favorite on his 247Sports crystal ball, ahead of Stanford. He’s also set to take an official to Notre Dame and is considering trips to Alabama, UCLA and Michigan, his mother recently told 247Sports.
Holmes is probably the mostly likely to end up at Nebraska. His teammates at Calabasas High School — Keyshawn Johnson Jr. and Tristan Gebbia — are already committed, and he’s made numerous unofficial visits within the last year and a half.
Lewis has taken two unofficial visits since June, most recently the weekend of August 12. Most consider hometown USC the favorite to get him, but all these visits point to the Huskers being squarely in the mix.
If the Huskers can land one or more of these recruits, they’ll be well on their way to one of the best classes they’ve had in years. But even if they don’t, just getting them to visit is a sign that recruiting really is trending up for Nebraska.