A winter home in the north after days in the wilderness. A lounge in the middle, a roaring fire, your favorite meal waiting in the kitchen just up a few stairs. The moment before you rise from a room-length sofa of your choosing, you glance outside at darkening skies and feel... comfort. Gladness, even. Let the world be punished with whatever hell the weather brings with its latest cold front. You've just built this house to gird against it. You couldn't feel more secure in it, and strife merely brings its strength into relief.
That's Nebraska football in February 2010. Chuffed. A growing bulwark. NU had just come off statement-making performances against Texas and Arizona, and even if the Huskers felt burned by the former — even if the taste in the moment was bloody — that loss in the Big 12 championship game (the ironic signature "win" of the Bo Pelini era) grew with time. It was a source of pride, an Alamo, a rallying cry, especially as the Huskers became a rook in an off-the-field chess war for conference realignment. Nothing was OK in the world of Big 12 football in February 2010 and yet everything was OK for Nebraska. It'd soon find its place — and every bit of motivation it'd ever want — to close out a tumultuous tenure in the league with an exclamation point.
June 11, 2010. It's been nearly seven years now since the Big Ten announced it was adding Nebraska. In the last 17 years of Husker football, that might have been Husker fans' best day, the moment that best fulfilled all those insecure longings Nebraska fans have to matter, to be significant, to be wanted, within the framework of college football. There are four days in the last seven years where the college football news revolved almost solely around Nebraska football. June 11, 2010, is one of those four, and pretty much the only happy one of the four.
It was better than any on-the-field win. Nebraska, winner of the Big Ten sweepstakes? Nebraska? There aren't any TV stations in Nebraska! For that one day, everything Nebraska has accomplished — the sellout streak, the decades of dominance, the puffy Apex coats — got a big, sloppy kiss from the Big Ten. A kind of revolution against the manifest destiny of Texas. Another chance to wag a finger at moaning Missouri, which took a consolation prize of the SEC one year later — the Tigers cut off their nose to spite their face.
Bo Pelini, a veteran of the Big Ten, a scion of the Biggity Biggest Ten school of all — THE Ohio State University — more or less looked nonplussed.
“When (the 2010) season is over, you’ve got to adjust your sights, you gotta think how it’s going to impact your recruiting and those types of things, but that’s for another time," Pelini said that day. "You start thinking ahead too much and you lose focus on the task at hand."
And if Nebraska hadn't completely blown it in 2010 — and by Nebraska I, in part, mean Pelini, who just couldn't manage having the best roster in the Big 12 or a 17-0 lead in the Big 12 championship game — NU's final season in its old league is a rich tale of final revenge against Texas paternalism, Missouri's moaning, the feckless, nebbish Dan Beebe, and any naysayer who counted Nebraska out for good when the Huskers hit a rut in 2007.
A winter home in the north after days in the wilderness. A spare room still in progress, furniture still waiting to be unpacked, other furniture soon to be tossed, only leftovers in the fridge. A rustling in the house, an uneasiness. It's warm and sunny outside, but you want to sink from it.
This is Nebraska football in February 2011. Burned out from a season that should have been, but wasn't. Stung by a dark, long, loud night at Texas A&M that didn't reflect well on the Big 12, Nebraska or Pelini. In the midst of major staff turnover. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson — out. Recruiting coordinator Ted Gilmore — out. Secondary coach Marvin Sanders — out. Linebackers coach Mike Ekeler — off to Indiana.
Pelini dropped off the radar for a month after the strangest bowl loss in NU football history, the 19-7 setback to Washington in the Holiday Bowl. He held a teleconference to announce his best recruiting class in 2011 and was peppered instead with questions about a staff he hadn't filled. He eventually would, of course, add Corey Raymond (defensive backs), Rich Fisher (wide receivers), Ross Els (linebackers) and John Garrison (offensive line). But Pelini was in no particular hurry to talk about any of them, or new offensive coordinator Tim Beck.
This is how Nebraska and Pelini went into the Big Ten. Sore. Irritable.
There might be 15 different reasons for it. But it came to a head in the aftermath of the Ohio State game, a school-record comeback that left Pelini livid with The World-Herald and, well, the whole Husker fan base. (You know what that link's about, and the language it contains.)
I write all that as a preamble to what essentially became the second half of Pelini's recruiting at Nebraska. The Big Ten era. He and his brother, Carl Pelini, had retooled NU's scheme and personnel for the spread-happy Big 12 only to see leagues change out from under them like rugs. He'd built recruiting outposts in Texas, where the Huskers wouldn't be playing a single football game for the forseeable future. Just when Nebraska was set to do one thing, the Big Ten offered another curveball.
The 2012 recruiting class is NU's first true Big Ten class. And, because of recruiting decisions made in Pelini's first four recruiting classes — the Huskers signed a giant class just months after Pelini arrived and redshirted most of it, creating a giant group of seniors for 2012 — the 2012 recruiting class was distressingly and painfully small. Just 17 scholarship players.
The smallness of the class opened the door to one of those cautionary tales in recruiting that, for years to come, Nebraska and Iowa football fans will have stuck in their brains. Giltner star Drew Ott, a Parade All-American who was arguably Iowa's best player as a senior, never got an offer from the Huskers. He went to camp, NU wasn't impressed and Ott went off to the Hawkeyes.
In the 2012 class, I'll better remember offensive tackle Andrus Peat, the five-star prospect whose brother (Todd Peat) and cousin/close friend (Avery Moss) both went to NU, while he chose Stanford. Andrus Peat, a first-round NFL draft pick in 2015, would have been rather helpful at a position that sorely needed excellence and depth.
But, in reality, this class, coordinated by John Papuchis in his one year of doing it, has turned out better than the more ballyhooed 2011 class, especially when you consider the national rankings for it. Consider:
Scout: 49th nationally (6th Big Ten)
247 Sports Composite: 30th (4th)
ESPN: Not rated in Top 25
Rivals: 25th (3rd)
Despite four departures on the defensive side — which left linebacker and defensive line depth worse for wear — the majority of the signees became significant contributors by the end of their careers at Nebraska. What's more, this is the best class of walk-ons in the Pelini era.
Here... we... go...
* * *
Jared Afalava, LB, 6-3, 215, South Jordan (Utah) Bingham
247 Composite rating: .8981 (low 4 star)
Recruiting process: Nebraska identified Afalava during the 2011 spring as a top linebacker prospect; Afalava reported the Huskers "going after me hard" in an early September update. Afalava didn't take his official visit until after the season and after Pelini had his in-home visit. While the Huskers were still shaking off the grogginess of losing the 2012 Capital One Bowl to South Carolina, Afalava committed to NU while at the Semper Fi Bowl. He had offers from Utah, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and others, but Nebraska and Washington were the only schools to get official visits.
Career: Afalava probably joins the Chris Williams file of "what could have been" at linebacker. Afalava got hurt before the 2012 season, redshirted, and always seemed to be off and on in terms of health. Briefly in 2013, he emerged as a starter — playing well in a win over Illinois — before conflicts with position coaches and Pelini himself became an issue. He was out of the program in early January 2014. I'm inclined to think that Afalava really didn't see eye-to-eye with the coaches; the one time I interviewed him, in 2013, Pelini came up to us both and admonished Afalava for not having discipline in practice. That's the only player I'd ever seen Pelini do that with in front of me in seven seasons. It wasn't a good fit. Afalava played in 10 games for Weber State in 2015. He played in three games in 2016.
* * *
LeRoy Alexander, ATH, 6-2, 190, Toledo (Ohio) Whitmer
247 Composite rating: .8071 (low 3 star)
Recruiting process: So before we even get to how Alexander arrived at Nebraska — which is rather straightforward and related to the Age of Marrow — the story of his final year in high school is one for the legal books. For most of his prep career, Alexander competed at Springfield (Ohio) High School — the same school where then-Nebraska graduate assistant Vince Marrow had coached — but he transferred to Toledo Whitmer for his senior year. And it was a mess. As this Toledo Blade story recounts, Alexander, a top football and basketball player, was initially deemed ineligible by Ohio High School Athletic Association for a "falsified transfer affadavit." Alexander got a court injunction that, well, allowed him to play — if not exactly be eligible — while the OHSAA investigated the matter. So he played both football and basketball at Whitmer, the kind of visibility that may have finally helped him earn a Nebraska offer. Whitmer ultimately lost the case, had to forfeit all wins and games Alexander participated in for one year, and pay $50,000. Although there were more players tied to this transfer issue than just Alexander, it was his transfer that helped trigger the investigation. And since his only offer at the time of Nebraska's was from Toledo, it's probably better, in the long run, that Alexander left for college.
Alexander appeared on Nebraska's radar in late December 2011. Obviously, Marrow, during that "interim recruiting period" in December, found him and Nebraska signed him.
Career: Redshirted his first season, played in 13 games in 2013 — finishing with 28 tackles — and appeared poised to start in 2014 until he was suspended for the whole year. Pelini never gave a reason. Alexander's parents — the only ones who could offer up that reason — had no comment, either. Alexander followed Pelini to Youngstown State, where he had 67 tackles and four interceptions. He was the best player on YSU's defense in 2015. In 2016, he had 67 tackles and four interceptions again but he was suspended for the FCS national title for failing a drug test.
* * *
Zaire Anderson, LB, 6-0, 220, Riverside (California) Community College
247 Composite rating: .8678 (high 3 star)
Recruiting process: Originally from Philadelphia, Anderson had a strong two years at Riverside before picking Nebraska. Anderson picked the Huskers in mid-October 2011, then took a visit to Texas Tech in mid-December. After a social media prank that made it appear he was headed to Texas Tech, he firmed up with Nebraska.
Career: Anderson arrived at Nebraska with a banged-up knee that turned into a torn ACL after the 2012 Arkansas State game. He redshirted. He started 17 games across 2013 and 2014. He had a strong season in 2014, finishing with 103 tackles and 13 tackles for loss. Anderson was honorable mention All-Big Ten, and he signed a free-agent contract with the Denver Broncos. He has a Super Bowl ring.
* * *
Tommy Armstrong, QB, 6-2, 210, Cibolo (Texas) Steele
247 Composite rating: .9003 (low 4 star)
Recruiting process: The first quarterback recruit of the Tim Beck era, Armstrong had a good slew of offers when Beck rolled through Cibolo in spring 2011 to evaluate him. TCU. Missouri. Oregon. Mississippi State. Pretty good schools. But after Nebraska offered, Armstrong's decision really boiled down to two programs: NU and Southern Mississippi. Yes, Southern Miss. Armstrong's originally from the area, and his father has strong ties to former USM star Brett Favre. At any rate, Nebraska got its guy. Armstrong visited for the 2011 Washington game and committed to the Huskers two days later. Cibolo won the state title during Armstrong's junior year, but lost in the state title game of Armstrong's senior year.
Career: Armstrong redshirted in 2012. He was co-No. 2 heading into the 2013 season behind Taylor Martinez, but was pressed into action by the fourth game because of Martinez's Toe Saga. He started 44 games, finished 30-14 in those starts, averaging 6.71 yards per attempt. He threw 44 career interceptions and battled injuries throughout his career. He peaked as a sophomore, frankly. He was an odd fit for coach Mike Riley's offense and while his comeback wins against Michigan State (2015) and Oregon (2016) will always be memorable, he didn't win the biggest games. He finished 1-5 against Wisconsin and Iowa.
* * *
Thomas Brown, LB 6-2, 212, Gardena (California) Junipero Serra
247 Composite rating: .8563 (mid 3 star)
Recruiting process: Brown chose Nebraska over Arizona State and SMU in early December, in part because of uncertainty over ASU's coaching situation. NU was also recruiting Brown's Serra teammate, Raymond Ford, who flipped from UCLA to Cal on signing day 2012, never qualified, attended Riverside CC, and signed with Boise State for the 2015 class.
Career: Brown redshirted his first season on campus, making positive impressions for his aggressiveness and playmaking ability on the scout team as a blitzer. In the summer of 2013, Brown was thrown off the Huskers' team, along with new arrival Ernest Suttles, stemming from an offseason brawl. Brown attended Riverside for the 2013 season, signed with Memphis in the 2014 class — reuniting, strangely, with Suttles — but never played for the Tigers.
* * *
Sam Cotton, TE/DE, 6-4, 240, Lincoln Southeast
247 Composite rating: .8181 (low 3 star)
Recruiting process: Cotton, a two-way star for the Knights' 2011 state title team, picked Nebraska over Tulsa and Ohio, joining older brothers Ben and Jake and dad Barney on the Huskers' squad. Cotton is a footnote in the Drew Ott Cautionary Tale, since Ott claimed in a Rivals interview that Nebraska took Cotton over Ott at tight end.
Career: Cotton played in 49 games, started 23, and caught 17 career passes.
* * *
Imani Cross, RB, 6-0, 230, Gainesville (Georgia) North Hall
247 Composite rating: .9066 (low 4 star)
Recruiting process: Nebraska was not originally in the market for a running back, and with Ameer Abdullah, Braylon Heard and Aaron Green each coming off their true freshman seasons, that made sense. NU only offered four backs in the 2012 cycle. But something prompted Nebraska to look for a big back to compliment that trio — only Abdullah stuck around anyhow — and Cross fit the bill. Cross had been committed to Tennessee for months before he decommitted in December 2011. He picked NU over Kentucky and East Carolina.
Career: Cross had long been a serviceable backup to Abdullah and a short-yardage back, rushing for 1,661 yards and 28 touchdowns over four seasons. He started four games at the very end of his Husker career, running for more than 55 yards in each of them.
* * *
Aaron Curry, DT, 6-1, 270, Keller (Texas) Fossil Ridge
247 Composite rating: .8673 (mid 3 star)
Recruiting process: Curry was a signing day decision and one of the most coveted players in Nebraska's recruiting class, since it had become somewhat clear that the defensive line haul of 2010 was a bit of a bust. That said, he was a "late covet," since he didn't become a target until Rick Kaczenski moved from Iowa to Nebraska as defensive line coach. Curry picked the Huskers over the Hawkeyes, TCU, Missouri and Boise State. Nothing fancy here; NU simply won late with a new player on its radar.
Career: Curry played four games as a true freshman, logging four tackles on a defensive line desperately thin of depth. As a sophomore, Curry started eight games — finishing with 26 tackles and two sacks — but by fall camp 2014, Curry was way down on the depth chart, having been surpassed by Maliek Collins, Kevin Maurice, Kevin Williams and Vincent Valentine. He transferred just before the start of the 2014 season to TCU. He had 41 tackles and three sacks in 2015 for the Horned Frogs. In 2016, Curry was second-team All-Big 12, finishing with 50 tackles, 9.5 TFLs and 5.5 sacks.
* * *
Greg McMullen, DE, 6-5, 255, Akron (Ohio) Archbishop Hoban
247 Composite rating: .9068 (low 4 star)
Recruiting process: Nebraska zeroed in on McMullen in the summer of 2010, a full 18 months before he arrived at Nebraska. McMullen committed to Nebraska in late June 2011 over offers from Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State, which accepted the resignation of Jim Tressel on Memorial Day 2011. McMullen was the textbook case of how Nebraska wanted to recruit in the Pelini era: Multiple visits, a long-term relationship, a solid commitment that never wavered.
Career: Redshirted in 2012. He played in 37 games, starting 26, and was frankly mediocre in 2015, with 28 tackles and four sacks at end and tackle. He chose to quit football rather than play his senior season at Nebraska. He'll mentor youth at Boys Town.
* * *
Alonzo Moore, WR, 6-2, 170, Winnfield (Louisiana)
247 Composite rating: .8856 (high 3 star)
Recruiting process: Moore was one of those Louisiana kids who didn't quite make the cut for LSU and thus started looking at other schools. The lone northern school: Nebraska, which had defensive backs coach Corey Raymond — a Louisiana native — on the roster for one season. Moore attended NU's quarterback camp — he was more of a triple-option type in high school — and more or less committed sometime in the fall without making it official. Moore boiled his decision down to Nebraska and Louisiana Tech, though there's evidence Mississippi State was pretty interested, too.
Career: In four years, Moore has 60 catches for 981 yards and eight touchdowns. Injuries dogged Moore for his entire career. He averaged 16.4 yards per catch. He's easily on the All-Interview team.
* * *
Avery Moss, DE, 6-4, 240, Tempe (Arizona) Corona Del Sol
247 Composite rating: .8553 (mid 3 star)
Recruiting process: Moss was part of a trio of players at Corona Del Sol that Nebraska pursued. The best of the team — offensive tackle Andrus Peat — was the one NU didn't get. Todd Peat, Andrus' brother, and Moss — Andrus' best friend — did come to Lincoln. Combined, Todd Peat and Moss played all of one season at Nebraska. Moss chose the Huskers over Purdue, which has had about as many good defensive linemen as Nebraska in recent years, if you think about it. Andrus Peat picked Stanford on signing day.
Career: Moss played sparingly in four games as a true freshman before taking a medical redshirt — not sure exactly what was wrong with Moss, if anything significant — and then started as a redshirt freshman in 2013, finishing with 36 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Moss was growing into a very, very good defensive lineman that year.
Off the field, a late-2012 indecent exposure charge — for which Moss was eventually found guilty — led to a campus ban in 2014 after Moss violated some portion of whatever agreement he'd arrived at with UNL after the incident. He appealed after 2014 to rejoin the team; the appeal was denied. Many of Moss' teammates and some Husker fans were upset by that decision. Moss eventually transferred to Youngstown State, following Pelini. He had 25 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2015 for the Penguins. He had a spectacular 2016, finishing with 59 tackles and 17.5 TFLs, 10.5 sacks.
* * *
Michael Rose-Ivey, LB, 6-0, 230, Kansas City (Missouri) Rockhurst
247 Composite rating: .9010 (low 4 star)
Recruiting process: Nebraska courted Rose-Ivey two years before he arrived in Lincoln, getting a commit in the summer of 2010. Rose-Ivey didn't look around significantly, and the Under Armour All-American signed with the Huskers 18 months later.
Career: Rose-Ivey redshirted his first year at Nebraska — a dubious decision by Husker coaches, but so be it — before starting seven games and racking up 66 tackles as a redshirt freshman in 2013. He missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL that he suffered during a special teams drill. He played in just seven games — starting three — in 2015 because of a groin injury. As a senior, he had 70 tackles and 8 TFLs, but he'll be best known for kneeling during the national anthem at Northwestern and his subsequent explanation for why he did it.
* * *
Mo Seisay, CB, 6-2, 200, Eastern Arizona Junior College
247 Composite rating: .8952 (low 4 star)
Recruiting process: A top junior college cornerback, Seisay was Raymond's most coveted target. Seisay visited Nebraska, Indiana, Arkansas and Ole Miss before picking the Huskers. Seisay was expected to contend for a starting job immediately upon his arrival.
Career: Well, that never happened. One reason: The emergence of Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who manned one corner spot and became an all-conference player. Ciante Evans, Andrew Green and Josh Mitchell held down other spots. Bottom line: The next secondary coach, Terry Joseph, wasn't as wild about Seisay, who played all 24 games at NU but only started one. After a terrific pro day at Nebraska, Seisay signed with the Detroit Lions and made the team. He's now on the Seattle Seahawks roster.
* * *
Paul Thurston, OL, 6-5, 280, Arvada (Colorado) West
247 Composite rating: .9357 (mid 4 star)
Recruiting process: Committed during the summer of 2011 and never wavered from his decision. Thurston, like Rose, was an example of how Nebraska wanted to recruit: Get a guy on campus often, get him in the boat, keep him in the boat.
Career: Thurston redshirted in 2012, didn't play in 2013 and then appeared in 10 games as a sophomore in 2014 and 13 games as a junior in 2015. He transferred for his senior season after getting his degree. He played in 11 games at Colorado State and started eight of them.
* * *
Vincent Valentine, DT, 6-3, 320, Edwardsville (Illinois) — St. Louis area
247 Composite rating: .8744 (high 3 star)
Recruiting process: Nebraska had to fight until signing day for Valentine, and defensive line coach John Papuchis deserves the lion's share of credit for battling for Valentine and finally landing him in the class. If Papuchis wasn't able to close the deal with Owa Odighizuwa, he did here, beating out Florida and Illinois for Valentine's services.
Career: Valentine redshirted his freshman year — he came in overweight, which scared off coaches from using him immediately, to the team's detriment in the 2012 Big Ten championship game — but he found his footing in 2013, starting six games down the stretch. In 2014, Valentine started 11 games, finishing with 45 tackles and three sacks. In 2015, Valentine finished with just ten tackles, but he chose to declare early for the NFL Draft. He was picked by the New England Patriots in the third round. He started two games and finished with 19 tackles. He also won a Super Bowl ring.
* * *
Jordan Westerkamp, WR, 6-0, 200, Lombard (Illinois) Montini Catholic
247 Composite rating: .9060 (low 4 star)
Recruiting process: Nebraska's best work in the 2012 class. The Huskers hooked Westerkamp — the most accomplished wideout in Illinois prep history — early with a DVD, sold him during an unofficial visit for the 2011 spring game, landed his commitment in May 2011 and held off Notre Dame just before signing day.
Career: Westerkamp redshirted in 2012 — an OK decision given the depth of the receiving corps that year — and had 167 catches for 2,474 yards and 18 touchdowns in four years. He was a two-time captain who finished second all-time in career catches and fourth in career yards. He's one of the best receivers in Nebraska football history.
* * *
Corey Whitaker, OL, 6-5, 270, Murrieta (California) Vista Murrieta
247 Composite rating: .8322 (low 3 star)
Recruiting process: NU offered Whitaker late, just before signing day. Nebraska was Whitaker's only Power Five offer. He had a visit scheduled to Oregon, but didn't take it. By this point, the Huskers weren't confident they'd land Andrus Peat, and they didn't.
Career: Whitaker suffered two season-ending injuries and started two games in 2016.
* * *
Andy Janovich, Ryker Fyfe, Sam Foltz, Brandon Reilly, Dylan Utter, Spencer Lindsay, Trey Foster
* * *
Best players from the class: Vincent Valentine, Tommy Armstrong, Brandon Reilly, Sam Foltz and Jordan Westerkamp
Top position group from the class: Wide receiver (Westerkamp, Reilly and Moore). This is a change from the defensive line. None of those guys exhausted their eligibility at NU. All of the receivers stuck around.
Bottom position group from the class: Cornerback (Seisay)
Junior college recruits: 2 (Z. Anderson and Seisay)
High school recruits by state: Texas 2 (Armstrong, Curry), California 2 (Whitaker, Brown), Illinois 2 (Valentine, Westerkamp), Ohio 2 (McMullen, Alexander), Colorado 1 (Thurston), Georgia 1 (Cross), Louisiana 1 (Moore), Missouri 1 (Rose-Ivey), Nebraska 1 (Sam Cotton), Utah 1 (Afalava)
Players who never arrived: 0
Players who transferred before eligibility was expired: 2 (Curry, Thurston)
Players who left/were dropped from program before their eligibility was exhausted: 6 (Afalava, Alexander, Brown, McMullen, Moss, Valentine)
Players who started more than 10 games thus far: 11 (Armstrong, Cotton, Foltz*, Janovich, Moore, McMullen, Reilly, Rose-Ivey, Utter, Valentine, Westerkamp)
Guys who played as true freshmen: 4 (Janovich, Cross, Curry, Moss^)
* As punter
^ Moss played a bit as a true freshman before getting hurt and taking a medical redshirt.
* * *
The unforgettable Sam Foltz. The punter died in late July 2016 in a car crash. He was lost much too soon. His passing brought the team closer together and created memories Husker fans won't soon forget. Remember Foltz here.
Finally, a quarterback. You may think Armstrong has flaws. He does. But imagine if NU had whiffed on quarterback again in the 2012 class. Armstrong was no whiff. He was a top half of the Big Ten quarterback — something that wouldn't describe the 2010 quarterback recruit, Brion Carnes, or the 2011 guys, wideout Jamal Turner and pro baseball player Bubba Starling — and was a four-year starter. His presence alone in this class makes it better than the 2011 bunch.
After a major whiff on 2010 defensive linemen, Nebraska did much better here until their careers went on and fizzled. The Moss story is sad/troubling, but he had the talent to play at this level; he dominated the FCS level. Valentine is an NFL player. Curry wasn't terrible. Most importantly, they look the part. It's like Nebraska actually went out and looked for defensive linemen who appeared physically capable of playing in the Big Ten! Imagine that! But... McMullen and Valentine didn't play their best in 2015 and left after that. This group is very much a "what might have been?"
What a bunch of walk-ons! Five of them went on scholarship, with Janovich becoming a folk hero in his final season, Reilly becoming one of Nebraska's top wideouts and Foltz growing into one of the Big Ten's best punters. For whatever reason, Jeff Jamrog — who used to help put together the walk-on classes — had his game right in 2012.
Iffy on the o-line. Neither Thurston nor Whitaker played much football, so this class is a follow-up in struggles to the 2011 class, which had five offensive linemen in it, only two of which (Ryne Reeves and Zach Sterup) ever became a regular starter for most of a season.
Nebraska had to fight as hard for Jordan Westerkamp in the Bo Pelini era as any recruit other than Rex Burkhead, and that effort paid off. NU lost a lot of these battles, but Westerkamp committed early and stuck with the Huskers despite a late push from Notre Dame. That was a worthy investment.
Including the walk-ons, this class is close to being sneaky good for only 17 scholarships. The walk-ons saved it.