Nebraska wrapped up the 2016 recruiting class on Wednesday.
How did the class turn out? The World-Herald asked three Husker recruiting experts for their opinions on the class.
Find complete signing day coverage here.
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Mike Schaefer, Huskers Illustrated
Best overall prospect: Defensive back Lamar Jackson. Probably will be the stock answer, but this is the kind of player Nebraska needs to win if it really wants to make waves and return to prominence. Jackson is a tremendous athlete, has NFL-caliber size and could be a huge weapon as the Huskers look to overhaul their pass defense.
Best offensive prospect: Quarterback Patrick O’Brien. Getting the right quarterback was an important thing for the Huskers in this class. O’Brien is a strong fit for the style of offense Nebraska wants to run and he’s also athletic enough that the Huskers can still sneak in a zone-read keeper every so often to keep defenses honest. There’s going to be a ton of hype, but it’s merited.
Best defensive prospect: Defensive back Marquel Dismuke. It’ll be interesting to see if he starts off at safety or if the Huskers try to see if he can handle college cornerback. Regardless, Dismuke is a very athletic, incredibly instinctive player who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty in coverage or in run support.
Strongest position group: Quarterback. If you include Tanner Lee as part of the 2016 class, then Nebraska has overhauled the most important position in football. Now the Huskers have two future options in O’Brien and Lee who can help transition the offense into more of what Mike Riley hopes to run at Nebraska.
Hidden Gem, Offense: Athlete JD Spielman. This was more of a “hidden gem” in August when it didn’t quite make sense why the Huskers were seemingly much higher on Spielman than his homestate Golden Gophers, but after winning Gatorade Player of the Year and scoring touchdowns in five different ways, the athlete is now a well-regarded threat.
Hidden Gem, Defense: Safety JoJo Domann. One of my personal favorites in the class, Domann will get overlooked by bigger names in the secondary, but his versatility is what excites the Huskers. If Domann hits a growth spurt, he could move down to linebacker, where he’d be able to help in coverage and still has the ability to fill out the box against the run.
Big Ten recruiting win: Offensive tackle Matt Farniok. This is probably one of Nebraska’s biggest wins of the class, keeping a talented offensive lineman away from Iowa.
Big Ten recruiting loss: Defensive tackle Garrett Rand. This was a guy who had several connections to the state of Nebraska, camped in Lincoln for his freshman year and was already well versed with the program. He ended up at Wisconsin.
Needs not fully addressed: The Huskers added Collin Miller late to join Ben Stille as the defensive ends in the class. Both could be good projects down the line, but neither player projects to help the team’s initial pass rush needs.
Key needs for next year: Nebraska needs to find a tight end with a skill set similar to Cethan Carter’s, as he’ll be a big loss after 2016. The Huskers also have needs at defensive end, defensive tackle, wide receiver and offensive tackle.
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Josh Harvey, Scout
Best overall prospect: Lamar Jackson. The Scout Top 150 player is versatile enough to play both safety or corner during his time in Lincoln, and he will play early. He also has a swagger to him.
Best offensive prospect: John Raridon. He towered over most defensive linemen he faced in Iowa and will need a little time to adjust, but has great bloodlines and is relentless.
Best defensive prospect: Marquel Dismuke. Similar to Jackson, expect the four-star prospect to play next season — possibly in the nickel. The staff likes the Calabasas (California) High School product a lot.
Strongest position group: Offensive line. Another offensive tackle would have been nice, but anytime you can land three All-Americans and a four-star prospect, you are doing something right.
Hidden Gem, Offense: JD Spielman. He impressed at Semper Fi All-American practices, and I thought he was undervalued by Scout.
Hidden Gem, Defense: JoJo Domann. He might be the least talked about high school All-American I can remember to sign with the Huskers. He also can play multiple spots.
Big Ten recruiting win: Matt Farniok. Fills a position of need at offensive tackle, but in addition Nebraska beat division rival Iowa and juggernaut Michigan State for his services.
Big Ten recruiting loss: Eric Burrell. For quite a few months, it appeared Nebraska would land the DB, but he committed to Wisconsin during his visit to Madison, shortly after visiting Lincoln.
Needs not fully addressed: Offensive tackle. Nebraska has landed only two true offensive tackles in the last two recruiting classes. In addition, a junior college defensive end would have been nice, but Nebraska did the right thing by not reaching.
Key needs for next year: Defensive line. It obviously depends on how quite a few guys develop, but four players from the 2015 two-deep will graduate after this season.
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Nate Clouse, HuskerOnline
Best overall prospect: Defensive back Lamar Jackson. He is an elite athlete who has the potential to make an impact right away. He has the finesse of a corner and plays with the physicality of a linebacker. He also has tremendous ball skills.
Best offensive prospect: Quarterback Patrick O’Brien. He is the total package in terms of what Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf want in a quarterback to operate their system. He is effective in the shotgun or under center, possesses the arm strength to push the ball downfield and is a very accurate passer.
Best defensive prospect: Jackson. Riley talks a lot about production and versatility, both words that describe Jackson well.
Strongest position group: Defensive back. This is one of the strongest defensive back classes that Nebraska has signed in a long time, which is saying something because last year’s class appeared to be a strength as well.
Hidden Gem, Offense: Athlete JD Spielman. Despite being Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Minnesota and putting up video game-type statistics on the best team in the state, Spielman didn’t have a ton of recruiting attention. His size most likely had something to do with that.
Hidden Gem, Defense: Defensive end Ben Stille. The Ashland-Greenwood product comes to Lincoln with a load of accolades, but it’s his upside that makes him one of the diamonds in the rough for this class.
Big Ten recruiting win: Offensive tackle Matt Farniok. Landing the South Dakota star was big for the Huskers on several levels, but perhaps the best part of it for NU is that it beat out Michigan State and Big Ten West foe Iowa. Losing a player like Farniok — at a position of need, who had countless hours of time invested in him — to the Hawkeyes would have been a crushing blow for Riley.
Big ten recruiting loss: Tight end Noah Fant. He makes the most sense since the Omaha South product signed with the Hawkeyes after having verbally committed to them last August. Riley and his staff offered Fant early on, and the head coach even personally recruited him.
Needs not fully addressed: Offensive tackle and defensive end. Taking at least two and as many as three offensive tackles in this class is something Nebraska had wanted to do, but fell short by only landing one true tackle in Farniok. There are serious depth concerns at this position going forward. Defensive end is another area where needs were not fully addressed.
Key needs for next year: Nebraska’s 2017 class will be graded by how well it recruits along the line of scrimmage. Offensive tackle, defensive tackle and defensive end are all extreme needs in this class and areas we could see Riley and his staff go the junior college route.