Shatel: December just right for early signing period; Scott Frost and Co. reaped the rewards today

On paper, the class is a huge success for Scott Frost, one that made several statements in the state of Nebraska and out.

LINCOLN — College football’s second early signing period has arrived, and the world did not end.

You can make the case that it helped Nebraska football get better.

It was tough to measure last year. Scott Frost and his staff had been hired Dec. 2 and had only a few weeks to secure an early class.

A year later, Frost and Co. delivered a 23-recruit class Wednesday that was ranked 18th nationally by Rivals and 24th by 247Sports composite.

On paper, the class is a huge success for Frost, one that made several statements in the state of Nebraska and out. On a Wednesday with some pop, Frost secured two key linemen by beating Clemson and Alabama, the top programs in the country.

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One Husker assistant told me that may not have happened without the early signing period. Given the pressure and choices for Arizona defensive end Ty Robinson and South Carolina offensive lineman Jimmy Fritzsche, he said, it probably helped NU that the two were able to decide now. Had the old February signing day been in place, there would have been a lot of time to switch.

Personally, I like the early date. Why wait? I would be OK with a summer signing date, allowing high school kids to get on with their seasons without the endless calls and contacts and texts from coaches.

The downside is it takes the late bloomer out of the equation. December works just fine then.

Opinions still vary, and last week I got very different takes from the coach and the father of Omaha Burke linebacker Nick Henrich.

“As a high school coach, I certainly don’t see the benefits in it that a college coach would,” said Paul Limongi, coach of the Class A state champs. “I think the February date is better for all athletes. It doesn’t seem rushed. It seems like a good time of year.”

Said Mike Henrich, Nick’s dad: “I love the signing period where it is. It lets kids commit sooner and they can go enjoy their seasons. That was a big thing for Nick. He wanted to commit early.”

You won’t hear any complaints from Husker recruiting fans. Christmas used to come in February. Now, it comes … Christmas week. It was a merry one, indeed.

Other takes from signing day:

» The five-man in-state class is the largest for Nebraska since 2008. The timing couldn’t have been better. It’s also one of the strongest classes the state has produced in a long time. There may not always be five you want to take. But for those who Frost does need, the message is clear: Nebraska is all about Nebraska kids again.

» There was a lot of love given to the offensive players in the class, but Frost hardly forgot the other side. NU picked up two big defensive linemen Wednesday in Robinson, from Gilbert, Arizona, and Brant Banks of Houston. NU went a long way to bolstering its front seven in this class. In this league, defensive line might be the most important position. You’ve got to be able to at least neutralize, if not dominate, the offensive lines in the Big Ten.

» Interesting to hear Frost say he was ready to move on when Wandale Robinson committed to homestate Kentucky in November. But offensive coordinator Troy Walters and running back coach Ryan Held played a hunch and kept recruiting Robinson. Good move.

“I’m sure glad Wandale stuck with his heart,” Frost said. “We got a new toy in our offense.”

When Frost says the word “toy,” he literally looks like a kid at Christmas.

» This was Barrett Ruud’s first year as a full-time assistant, at any level, and he proved himself as a recruiter. Ruud was especially important in landing one of the big fish, Henrich. As Frost said, Ruud is still very popular in the state. How many former Huskers who grew up in the state have recruited for NU over the last couple of decades? It’s a nice secret weapon.

» There were eight scholarship players and one walk-on from SEC country, and none from California. I think this will be a welcome trend. Not that the Cali kids can’t play, but football does mean more in the South. I think those players bring a little more attitude, a little more expectation, a little more competitive spirit. The downside is having to butt heads with the ultra-competitive SEC. It’s working out nicely so far.

» There were times during the recruiting process that it looked like Frost was having a staff meeting at a prospect’s house. A majority of NU assistants joined Frost at Wandale Robinson’s house, while the entire staff showed up to see Ty Robinson.

But maybe the key to the whole thing was a camel.

“There were a few kids down the stretch that we wanted to show how important they were to us,” Frost said. “We kind of intentionally put them off to the end to kind of give us the best chance of being together in the homes.

“They were fun. We were at Ty’s house, and there was some cornhole going on, some pingpong, little bit of basketball, bonfire and a camel. And a dog that could get waters for you out of the fridge.”

I didn’t see the camel on the signing list. Maybe in February.


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