The spring evaluation period ends Wednesday. College coaches can finally come off the road after spending the last six weeks visiting high schools, watching spring football practices and gathering as much information as possible on their next batch of targets.
And it’s been an eventful month and a half for the Huskers. Not only did Nebraska’s coaches spread from coast to coast to evaluate prospects, they also made a huge push in setting up the 2018 recruiting class to finish among the best in the nation.
Now the Huskers will return to Lincoln and gear up for camp season. The Huskers have a full itinerary of satellite camps they’ll attend in California, Florida and several places in between. They’ll cap off the summer of camps with their Friday Night Lights events at Memorial Stadium on June 16 and 23.
But before things move forward in recruiting, let’s look back at some of the biggest storylines from the spring evaluation period.
>> Nebraska rode another spring commitment wave to the top tier of national class rankings. The Huskers capitalized on the momentum they built at the spring game and have landed five commitments since April 16. NU’s 2018 class now ranks in the top 10 in all four major recruiting services — No. 7 on Rivals, No. 9 on 247Sports and Scout, and No. 10 on ESPN. The only question that remains: Can Nebraska stay in the top 10?
Based on the formulas those sites use to rank teams, the Huskers could ultimately be docked for having a small signing class of about 18 recruits. Small classes don’t typically finish in the top 10, but the Huskers would have a chance if they continue to load up on four- and five-star recruits.
>> Before spreading out nationwide, the Huskers made their home state their first priority of the evaluation period. The “Nebraska Swarm” was a big hit with high school coaches in the state and proved that even though Nebraska isn’t brimming with highly ranked talent, it will still be important to the Huskers.
“We don’t have a tremendous amount of four- or five-star kids but, doggone it, the heart and soul of Husker football is the kids who grow up and want to be there,” said Gretna coach Dave Shrader, who got to spend time with defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. “The kids who live and breathe it are pretty important.”
>> Donte Williams seems to be worth his weight in gold. Mike Riley said it himself on signing day — cornerbacks are gold in building a defense — and that’s why he hired Williams after last season. Williams had a reputation as a recruiter, and he’s proven it already, landing three four-star cornerbacks since mid-April.
“I can talk to Coach Donte as a person,” Goodrich said during an interview on “The Bottom Line.” “He relates to everything. I just feel like he’ll be able to push me to become a better person and player.”
Donte Williams isn’t done, either. The Huskers have several cornerback targets left on the board, with hope of landing at least one more big fish before the end of the cycle.
>> No quarterback in the 2018 class? That seems to be the direction NU is heading. The Huskers didn’t offer any new quarterbacks for 2018 during the evaluation period, and unless a big-time passer falls into their laps, it’s likely they spend that spot in the class on a different position. NU will focus most of its efforts on landing its prized target for 2019, Grant Gunnell, who’s already visited Lincoln twice and has the Huskers among his top choices.
>> Kickers are important too. Nebraska felt it had a tremendous need for a kicker, so it went out and got a good one — even though spots in this class are limited. Barret Pickering, who committed on May 2, is now ranked as the nation’s No. 1 kicker on the 247Sports composite and should compete immediately to replace Drew Brown. Nebraska has a history of signing high school kickers on scholarship — though that list has its share of hits and misses.
>> Nebraska’s recruiting operations didn’t seem to skip a beat in the transition to Dan Van De Riet. Mike Riley’s longtime right-hand man took over that department in March, overseeing all aspects of how the Huskers acquire their talent. He joined “The Bottom Line” last week to break down the factors behind NU’s recent success.
“Coach Riley's vision of what he wants is on point,” Van De Riet said. “Our coaches, they've learned about Nebraska, what to sell, exactly how to get kids here and how to get them to experience what we have to offer to meet their needs. We've done a great job as a coaching staff in terms of developing relationships with these kids, and also on top of that, success in recruiting has to do with an earlier start.”
>> Getting that early start with the 2019 class was the main focus of the spring evaluation period. Nebraska has already identified the recruits it wants most for the 2018 class, so finding new targets wasn’t a heavy focus over the last month. But NU definitely wanted to get a jumpstart on the 2019 class.
The Huskers have offered at least 16 recruits for 2019 since the spring game, and targeting prospects early tends to pay off down the road.
Early commitments aren’t always solid, though, as Nebraska learned with Marquez Beason. The 2019 receiver from Dallas committed during spring game weekend but backed off that pledge earlier this month, admitting he made that decision too early.
He’s still interested in the Huskers, though, as are several other 2019 prospects. Click here to see the complete list of players NU has offered in that class.
>> So what's next? The Huskers will attend their first satellite camp on June 4 at Texas A&M. They'll hit another in Texas, two in Florida and one each in Georgia, Missouri and California by the end of that week.
The two Friday Night Lights events will also be major recruiting weekends, with the Huskers expected to host many top targets on campus.
Then comes football season, official visits and the final mad dash in recruiting. The December signing period goes into effect this year, so that too will be something to watch as the cycle draws to a close.