Ready for the race to signing day? Nebraska has 14 commits in its class, two of whom are already signed, and NU could get close to 20 recruits if it so wishes. Mike Riley and his new staff got some work done before the NCAA-mandated dead period — which lifts this week after the national title game — but they’ll really hit the ground running for the last three weeks before the Feb. 4 signing day.
What do the Huskers still need? Who are the names to watch? After scouring the recruiting services for updates and checking some of our sources, here’s the breakdown.
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Nebraska has five quarterbacks on its roster, none of whom exactly fit the pro-style, pass-first template Mike Riley had at Oregon State. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — OSU’s offense had its inefficiencies — but it makes sense that Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf would at least glance around the nation at which signal-callers are still on the board.
NAME TO WATCH
Joe Burrow (6-3; 215 pounds; Athens, Ohio): His dad, Jimmy, coached at NU, and his brother, Jamie, played there. But Joe’s committed to Ohio State, which is poised to win a national title Monday night. Even if the Buckeyes look a little backlogged at quarterback — J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones have many years left in Columbus — do you really renege on Urban Meyer? Burrow had a mind-boggling senior season: 4,445 yards and 63 touchdowns. To think Nebraska’s former staff was cool on him? Baffling.
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The Huskers have one top-flight wide receiver commit in Stanley Morgan. They’d like two more. Nebraska’s wide receiver corps is actually in decent hands (pun intended) for 2015, but three seniors will leave the unit a little empty after that unless the Huskers load up.
NAMES TO WATCH
Lavan Alston (5-11; 170; Ventura, California): Ultra-quick route runner who should do well in a pro-style system. At Oregon State, Riley almost always had guys like Alston who can turn short passes into good gains.
CJ Johnson (6-2; 180; Bellevue West): The record-setting wideout from the metro area never got an offer from the old Husker staff, but perhaps he’ll get a look from Riley. Johnson is currently committed to Wyoming.
DeMarkus Lodge (6-2; 187; Cedar Hill, Texas): Big long shot here, but Lodge did unofficially visit Lincoln over the summer, and he’s now decommitted from Texas A&M. Lodge is a top-100 prospect, according to several recruiting services. Ole Miss is getting a visit this month.
Tavin Richardson (6-3; 215; Duncan, South Carolina): Took an official visit during the season and still hasn’t committed to any school. Kentucky and Louisville get visits this month. Can Nebraska edge its way back in?
A.D. Miller (6-4; 180; Dallas): Miller told Rivals he has Nebraska in his top four with Illinois, Kentucky and California. Ostensibly, he’s committed to Illinois, NU has a real shot here with a new offense in place.
Jared Pinkney (6-4; 220; Norcross, Georgia): Another official visitor during the season, Pinkney is a former teammate of current Husker quarterback A.J. Bush. Nebraska hasn’t had many guys with Pinkney’s frame and physicality. Missouri, Florida, Miami and Vanderbilt are all contenders for Pinkney’s services.
Unknown: Whomever Riley has to be his wide receivers coach could very well have guys following him to Lincoln.
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Nebraska didn’t need a ton of linemen in this particular class, having stocked up in two previous classes and getting transfer Alex Lewis from Colorado. Still, the Huskers lost one commit (Mirko Jurkovic) to Ohio State, while a few others appear open to looking around. So NU can’t just go empty.
NAMES TO WATCH
Jalin Barnett (6-4; 315; Lawton, Oklahoma): The top-100 prospect is a giant house and nimble for his size. A mauler who’d fit in beautifully on the right side of a line, Barnett’s highlight film shows a player comfortable with pulling, too.
Christian Pellage (6-6; 290; Jacksonville, Florida): A South Carolina commit who appeared open at the Under Armour All-America game to looking around, new NU coach Mike Cavanaugh may try to make inroads this week. Florida may be the front-runner.
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Outside of Randy Gregory, Nebraska’s struggled in recruiting this position the past several years. Late decommits, guys who didn’t show, guys who did and left — not pretty. Avery Moss is out. And there’s no guarantee that current commits DaiShon Neal and Reuben Jones are going to stick, either. So NU has to beat whatever bushes it can find, late in the process, to plug holes.
NAMES TO WATCH
Steven Wright (6-5; 240; Waycross, Georgia): The Huskers offered under the old administration, and since NU retained Charlton Warren for its Southeastern connection, there’s still a chance NU reaches out again. Georgia Southern and Central Florida are near the top of his list.
Chazmyn Turner (6-5; 240; Mooresville, North Carolina): Committed to Purdue in December, but Vanderbilt and West Virginia are in the hunt. His frame looks pretty good on tape.
Emmanuel Olenga (6-4; 250; Charlotte, North Carolina): An East Carolina commit, Olenga told Husker Online that Nebraska may be interested. Shorter and thicker than Turner, especially on top. Might even be a defensive tackle type.
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Including new enrollee Dedrick Young, the Huskers have five scholarship linebackers in the whole program. Five. And three of them are upperclassmen. Translation: The Huskers need numbers badly. NU shouldn’t overextend itself, but it can't ignore the position, either.
NAMES TO WATCH
Adrienne Talan (6-1; 205; Pembroke Pines, Florida): Previously an Oregon State commit, Talan has already taken a visit to Nebraska. He has one more to take, to Temple, before he makes a final decision. Talan did a little bit of everything in high school, including playing rush end. Aggressive.
Saleem Brightwell (6-2; 210; Paramus, New Jersey): Appeared to narrow his list to three earlier this week — Miami (Florida), Pitt and Michigan State — but Nebraska could take another run at him. Previously a safety and corner, he’s grown into a linebacker’s body.
Mohamed Barry (6-1; 210; Loganville, Georgia): A Kansas State commit who recently got an offer from the Huskers, Barry fits the mold of a lot of recent Wildcat recruits — rangy, a good tackler, good instincts. NU should never shy away from players KSU offers on defense. That staff does a good job of evaluating.
Quarte Sapp (6-1; 200; Alpharetta, Georgia): Nebraska has long been interested in Sapp, but Sapp has looked at a variety of schools since getting his NU offer. Can Warren get back in? Michigan State may be the favorite. Tennessee will get a visit, too.
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BIG TEN RECRUITING BREAKDOWN
A quick look at the league’s classes in the final month of recruiting:
1. Ohio State (24 commits as of Friday afternoon): Scary good on defense, with five-star linebacker Justin Hilliard and the best defensive end in the Midwest (Jashon Cornell) in the fold.
2. Penn State (20 commits): This class has lost a little steam from the summer, but it still has top-10 possibilities, which is a great start for James Franklin in Happy Valley. Franklin may have two of the three best corners on the East Coast in Garrett Taylor and John Reid.
3. Wisconsin (25 commits): The Badgers kept together their best recruiting class in years when native son Paul Chryst seamlessly took over for Gary Andersen. He kept the Big Ten’s best quarterback recruit, Austin Kafentzis, in the fold. Some “hidden-gem” types on defense need to be hits instead of misses.
4. Michigan State (15 commits): The Spartans still have four to six spots left in the class and have chased some big whales to fill it. It’s a worthy idea when you’ve won the way Michigan State has in the past five years. It’s also a risk.
5. Northwestern (18 commits): The Wildcats need more explosiveness on offense. Four wide receiver recruits need to be the right guys.
6. Illinois (20 commits): A quarter of the class is composed of junior college prospects. Tim Beckman wants the quick fix.
7. Minnesota (18 commits): It’s a good thing Jerry Kill and his staff coach these guys up. Five offensive linemen and four running backs.
8. Indiana (18 commits): After strong classes in 2013 and 2014, the Hoosiers have a smaller bunch with fewer great athletes.
9. Maryland (16 commits): The class is long on offense and short on defensive linemen. Watch out for lightly recruited wide receiver Jahrvis Davenport.
10. Purdue (23 commits): Skill players! Seven combined running backs and wide receivers.
11. Iowa (17 commits): Very strong offensive line class. Otherwise, it’s as weak of a class as any in the Big Ten not named Michigan.
12. Rutgers (20 commits): A brisk look at the Scarlet Knights’ class sees frames and athletes in deep need of development. Rutgers won’t be a good team for several years.
13. Michigan (6 commits): Check back on this ranking in three weeks. The commit number will double and perhaps triple under Jim Harbaugh.