LINCOLN — We’ve entered the quietest month on the college football recruiting calendar as coaches put most of their energy into training camp.
August serves as the halfway point of the recruiting cycle.
Nebraska has 10 verbal commits, six of whom are consensus four stars according to the 247 Sports Composite rating. Cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles and receiver Joshua Moore are top 100 recruits. Corner Chase Williams, tight end Cam Jurgens and receiver Manuel Allen are in the top 200.
For a small class — somewhere between 15 and 18 commits — it’s a good start.
The rest of the Big Ten is keeping pace. Ohio State and Penn State each have top-five national classes. Each league team has at least nine commits. Minnesota has 23. Purdue has 21. Wisconsin has 19. Northwestern has 16.
“It’s at an all-time high,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said at Big Ten media days of the Wildcats’ recruiting efforts, which are fueled by a soon-to-open lakefront practice facility and Fitzgerald’s 10-year contract extension.
Depending on the service you prefer, Nebraska ranks fourth (according to ESPN) to seventh (according to Scout) in the league headed into August. NU’s per-prospect score is better than seventh.
But, remember: This class is going to be modest in size.
Because of that, the Huskers have had to move on from several mid-level targets that have been snatched up by other teams.
Because of that, many of the remaining targets, which include five-star prospects Micah Parsons and Talanoa Hufanga, are big fish.
That means Nebraska’s recruiting margin of error is smaller.
So there’s one thing, above all, that Nebraska can do to keep its recruiting momentum headed into the December signing period.
Win. Win a lot.
Obvious, right? Perhaps, but, as Nebraska stumbled to 6-7 in 2015, coach Mike Riley and his staff successfully sold hope and playing time for the future. The 2016 recruiting class ranked fifth in the Big Ten and 26th nationally according to 247 Sports Composite. That was Riley’s “regime change” class, his first full class.
But the third full class, that’s a little more about Ws and Ls. You can’t sell hope quite as easily. You show hope in the product on the field.
Nebraska can look at its own recruiting history for proof.
Though it underachieved once it got here, Nebraska’s 2011 class was built on the success of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. That class ranked 16th nationally.
Nebraska’s 2007 class didn’t underachieve. It ranked 13th nationally and was built on the success of the 2006 season. Eric Hagg, Prince Amukamara, Marcel Jones, Larry Asante, Armando Murillo — all of them committed after the 2006 regular season had ended.
Outside of Nebraska, take Clemson. Its 2012 recruiting class — coach Dabo Swinney’s third full class — came after an ACC title in 2011. That class ranked 14th nationally and produced four NFL defensive linemen, including All-American Shaq Lawson. (Clemson’s 2011 recruiting class, it should be noted, was even better.)
Some schools buck the trend — Michigan did in 2014, finishing with the nation’s No. 5 class after a 7-6 season. Nebraska, with its location, may be hard-pressed to do that.
But if the Huskers win the Big Ten West, even with a 9-3 record, my hunch is they’ve laid the recruiting groundwork to pull off a stunner of a class. Top 15, perhaps.
A rocky regular season — 7-5 or 6-6 — and coaches may have to sweat that December signing period a little bit as top prospects consider their options. That’s just the business.
Riley’s vision is larger than one season. Every season, he said, feels crucial when you’re in the middle of them.
“Our expectations are to establish more of the football and get better at the football,” Riley said. “And, obviously, grow our culture of what we want this thing to look like, act like, be like, and to continue to recruit at the highest level we can.”
That last piece could use one of those nine-win seasons fans tend to be bored with. They won’t be bored with how it’d help recruiting.
» One top outside linebacker target, Jalen Redmond, committed to Oklahoma over the weekend, while a top defensive end target, Daniel Carson, attended OU’s unofficial visit “BBQ” weekend. New Sooners coach Lincoln Riley, who was a hit at Big 12 media days, is off to a strong start on the recruiting trail, with 16 commits.
» Of Minnesota’s 23 commits, five are from the state of Georgia. That’s impressive work from coach P.J. Fleck, but keep an eye on how sound those commits remain throughout the cycle. The Gophers at 8-4 would be one thing. At 5-7, they’d be another. It gets cold in Minneapolis.
» Notre Dame (15 commits) and Texas A&M (15) are off to sizzling recruiting starts, but no two coaches are on hotter seats than Brian Kelly and Kevin Sumlin. If those programs go south this fall, watch for the Huskers to have interest in some of those commits, perhaps Notre Dame running back commit Markese Stepp and A&M receiver commit Caleb Chapman. NU has offered both scholarships.
» Scott Frost’s Central Florida has 14 commits so far in the cycle, and the class currently ranks fourth in the American Athletic Conference and 51st nationally, according to 247 Sports Composite service.
Sign up for Big Red Today news alerts
Get a daily Husker news roundup, recruiting updates and breaking news in your inbox.