LINCOLN — No maps on social media. No “movement.” Just doing work.
Nebraska’s new football staff has hit the recruiting trail hard since Scott Frost was announced as coach Saturday, and the staff had no choice: Just two weeks remain before the Dec. 20 early signing period for junior college and high school prospects, and NU has to work quickly to not only shore up the remaining eight commits in the class but attract other prospects.
And Frost, fresh off a two-year coaching stint at Central Florida, wasted little time recruiting the Sunshine State for Nebraska, offering at least 12 prospects from there by Tuesday. Some are already committed, like Cocoa running back and Louisville pledge Javian Hawkins. Others, like Rockledge receiver Antoine Green, have decommitted from other schools.
Only one of these NU targets is a current UCF commit.
Nebraska’s new staff clearly had developed recruiting lists for targets who were a weight class above UCF, and they’re pursuing those prospects again, trying to lure them to NU.
“I’ll be curious to see how Frost’s staff does in such a short amount of time,” said Woody Wommack, Southeast recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Wommack praised Frost’s recruiting work at UCF — where the Knights consistently had one of the American Athletic Conference’s highest-rated recruiting classes — but he also noted Frost had been recruiting Florida effectively even when he was at Oregon.
Frost recruited Duck receiver Charles Nelson, for example, out of Daytona Beach. At 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, Nelson didn’t land at the top of many recruiting lists, but he fit Frost’s offense at Oregon. He played some defense, too, over his four-year career, and torched NU for eight catches and 117 yards in Oregon’s 42-35 win over the Huskers in September.
It’s those kinds of guys, Wommack said, Nebraska can pluck out of Florida.
The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Hawkins fits that bill. He had 1,737 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns this season, averaging 10 yards per carry. He’s scheduled to officially visit Dec. 16 — when Nebraska basketball hosts Kansas.
As competitive as recruiting is in Florida right now — along with UCF, Florida Atlantic, South Florida and Florida International all have their programs humming, while Florida and Florida State have new coaches with strong recruiting reputations — Wommack said there are plenty of difference-makers in the state for Big Ten programs.
“The bottom line is, guys from Florida will go far from home if it looks like, ‘Hey, I’m going to play a lot,’ ” Wommack said.
The push in Florida is but one of the storylines in NU’s early recruiting efforts. Others:
» Finding the right size for the class. NU could have as many as 18 scholarships open, and Big Ten rules allow schools to oversign their open scholarships by three. If Nebraska doesn’t fill up now, it can give Frost more room for his first full class in 2019. Frost and his staff started making offers to 2019 prospects on Tuesday.
» Kick-starting junior college recruiting again. Nebraska was largely out of the juco recruiting business while Mike Riley was the coach — Riley’s former defensive coordinator, Mark Banker, said NU’s administration put up academic obstacles, which NU denied — but Frost’s new staff has hit the junior colleges hard in a short time. Nebraska is pursuing several targets, including Garden City (Kan.) Community College quarterback Terry Wilson, Iowa Western offensive tackle Noah Banks, Butler County (Kan.) Community College linebacker Will Honas and several targets at Arizona Western, where new running backs coach Ryan Held — a former juco head coach at Highland (Kan.) and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M — visited on Tuesday.
“Held is a good recruiter,” Wommack said.
» Finding a quarterback for Frost’s wide-open, fast-paced spread offense: The Huskers already have two players headed for official visits this weekend. One of them, according to Huskers Illustrated, is a familiar name: Wilson, who committed to NU in spring 2015 before flipping to Oregon, where Frost recruited him. Once Frost left for UCF, Wilson stayed at UO for one season and transferred after it became clear Justin Herbert — Frost’s other recruit in the 2016 class — was keeping the job for years to come. Wilson went to Garden City, where he threw for 2,113 yards and 26 touchdowns and ran for 518.
“A true dual-threat quarterback,” Garden City coach Jeff Sims said of the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Wilson. “Intelligent, good arm and fast. When guys chase him, they don’t catch up. His best football is ahead of him.”
Sims is the coach who sent Lavonte David and Stanley Jean-Baptiste, among others, to Nebraska from Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College. Sims said Frost’s new staff, a group he knows well, “are really smart and probably some of the best dudes around.”
The other quarterback visitor is Tennessee commit Adrian Martinez, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound four-star prospect from Fresno, California. Martinez didn’t play as a senior — he was recovering from surgery for a shoulder injury he suffered playing basketball — but he told the Fresno Bee in November he might play in the Under Armour All-America game. ESPN rates Martinez as the nation’s No. 56 overall player. He had 2,562 yards passing and 1,462 yards rushing as a junior.
Martinez called Nebraska “a very good fit and an opportunity to start fresh and compete from day one, to start at square one with all the other quarterbacks.”
“I feel like I fit in that system better than the guys on the roster right now,” he said. “So that’s an advantage and appealing in itself.
“They really made me feel like I was a priority and they made it known. That’s a big deal to me.”
» Holding on to current commits: NU has eight right now. The one to watch closest is receiver Joshua Moore, who was close to former Nebraska receivers coach Keith Williams. As of Tuesday, Williams had not been contacted by anyone inside the Huskers’ current organization about any potential openings.
Moore, a four-star and top-100 prospect, would have plenty of options, plus new coaches at two of his other favorite schools, Florida State (Willie Taggart) and Texas A&M (Jimbo Fisher).
» Picking the prospects of other programs without a coach. NU has already done this with Tennessee and Martinez. With Taggart taking the FSU job, will Oregon’s class — at one time rated in the nation’s top five — be in flux?