Nebraska received its ninth commit of the 2018 class in Hoover (Alabama) kicker Barret Pickering. Three quick thoughts on the decision:
>> With Drew Brown in his senior year, Pickering will get a shot to be a four-year starter. That's surely attractive to Pickering, but it played a factor, too, in Nebraska opting to use a scholarship in this small class on a kicker. NU could have let it ride out, choosing to cross its fingers and hope Caleb Lightbourn or incoming walk-on Cole Frahm was the answer next season, but an iffy kicker is too risky a thing in a 2018 season chock full of tough games.
>> Watch those touchbacks. As Evan Bland's blog pointed out, Pickering sent 66 of his 79 kickoffs for touchbacks. First — Hoover scored a lot, huh? Second, a kicker who can be an asset in the kickoff game — reducing big returns and the like — is important in the field-position battle. It's possible that Lightbourn or Frahm could fill those roles, too, but it's nice to see Pickering's good at kickoffs.
>> Don't fall too much in love with distance; it's conversions inside of 50 yards that count. More and more, analytics suggest that, unless an offense absolutely needs that 54-yard field goal to win a game, it's wiser to go for it on fourth down. So the deep ball is less of an emphasis with many teams. Brown has attempted only six kicks longer than 50 yards in his career. Still, he's 80 percent inside of 50. That's what makes him good.