First, take a look at Nebraska's current scholarship distribution chart. What do you see?
Six defensive ends — with four of them wholly unproven.
Five linebackers — two of them coming off major knee surgery, one more with injury nicks that hampered him all of last year, and one who just enrolled in the program.
Those are problems that Nebraska's new coaching staff will have to manage in the 2015 season — and a depth issue its trying to address in the 2015 recruiting class.
It's been tough sledding so far at defensive end.
Reuben Jones decommitted last week and pledged to Michigan this weekend. Two more targets — Emmanuel Olenga and Steven Wright — committed to North Carolina State and Virginia, respectively, over the weekend. Omaha Central star DaiShon Neal made his official visit to Nebraska over the weekend and enjoyed it enough, apparently, to end his relationship with Oklahoma.
Based on my decision I have decided that I will not be attending Oklahoma. I just wanted to thank the Oklahoma coaching staff for everything— DJ (@DaishonNeal90) January 26, 2015
But he's still entertaining interest from Michigan, which made a visit to Central Monday. The Wolverines offered Neal, too.
Ready for that drama? It's coming. Michigan vs. Nebraska, Round 3. The Wolverines won Round 1 with Reuben Jones. Round 2 is Matt Snyder, who visited Ann Arbor last weekend. Here's Round 3.
So it should be to little surprise that NU hit the recruiting trail hard Monday to offer another, down-the-board end in Alex Davis.
At 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, Davis — a high two/low three-star prospect from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, who's currently committed to Georgia Southern — has a frame built for basketball and that was his primary sport until this year, when he tried out for the sport. Nebraska and current defensive backs coach Charlton Warren has kept in touch for months — Husker Online wrote that update in August — so NU knew, if it came to it, the school would reach out again to Davis in a pinch.
Well, it's a pinch — nine days before Signing Day. A series of recruiting misses and slow-plays by the previous Husker staff left the new staff in this spot. Three recruits from the 2013 and 2014 classes — Ernest Suttles, Dimarya Mixon and DeAndre Wills — never made it to fall camp, and the Huskers' decision to dither around for months with Harrison Phillips helped lead to a Stanford commit. And the presumption that Nebraska was going to hold onto Jones with the old staff is quaint at best; once Michigan moved to get Florida's old defensive coordinator, D.J. Durkin, the chances of Jones going there were high. Jones, a gifted speed rusher, looked like, for all intents and purposes, another Darius Slade, who committed to Nebraska in 2013 then flipped two times before finishing with Ohio State in the 2014 class.
So NU is left holding on to Neal and trying to lure Davis. Austin Roberts, from Northeastern Oklahoma Junior College is out there and has been for months.
At linebacker, the situation isn't much clearer or better. Nebraska would definitely take South Carolina transfer Kaiwan Lewis for one year — he understands the speed of the college game and he's played it at a high level — but that's a temporary fix for 2015 at best. NU needs more young talent in the system, having lost, over the last 18 months, linebackers Thomas Brown, Jared Afalava and Courtney Love to departures/transfers. Jaevon Walton showed up last summer, immediately ran afoul of NU's senior leadership, went home for the semester and has not returned.
One 2015 commit, Tyrin Ferguson, is an intriguing talent — a former teammate of Walton's, he, too, hasn't played much high school football — but he played a lot (a lot) of defensive end for New Orleans Edna Karr. See his highlights for yourself. (Apparently Ferguson is undersized for defensive end. I'm not so sure.)
Another 2015 commit who's already enrolled — Dedrick Young — may not have been the most talented player in the state of Arizona, but he was probably the best high school football player there last season. Young may be counted on to play early.
From there, NU hopes to round out the class. Mo Barry visited over the weekend and has to choose between Kansas State, Miami (Florida) and the Huskers. All pretty good choices. Angelo Garbutt, from the Houston area, visits this weekend and, according to Huskers Illustrated, cancelled a mid-week visit to Texas Tech. He visited Iowa last weekend. The Hawkeyes assess linebackers pretty effectively, so Garbutt visiting there isn't a sign of NU slumming.