The class of 2014 won’t sign their letters of intent for a few days, but that’s not stopping Nebraska from pulling in commitments for the 2015 bunch already. These are not projects, but coveted prospects that will leave other big-time programs slobbering. Nebraska didn’t gain the commitments of Avery Anderson, Kendall Bussey and Eric Lee because of fantastic steak and world-class facilities.
The Big Red is stepping up and playing the recruiting game the way it was meant to be played. It’s year-round effort with all manner of social media involved and with recruiters racking up miles via land or air; dining at greasy spoons, living on Starbucks and Starburst and most importantly, cultivating relationships.
During the 2014 cycle, it seemed like a day didn’t pass without a major talent getting handed an offer by Nebraska. Bo Pelini and his staff were using the postal service like a massive t-shirt cannon. That made it somewhat concerning about how focused they’d remain on the current class when so much attention was apparently being put towards the future.
Some teams with 2015 classes currently ranked lower than Nebraska’s according to the 247Sports Composite Index are Auburn, Michigan State, Ohio State, Stanford and USC. Pelini has shown a history of concentrating on one cycle at a time, making a push through the summer and all but abandoning the practice come the season.
Once the Huskers’ bowl game concludes, a January scramble ensues for any remaining needs, and typically there’s a prayer or two left for Signing Day. After six seasons, we’re seeing a completely different pattern out of Lincoln, NE.
Some fans are concerned about diving into the next cycle because it allegedly gives prospects more time to decommit. Allow me to preface a rebuttal with the following. Some teams with 2015 classes ranked higher than the Huskers are Alabama, Florida State, LSU and Texas A&M. In other words, the big boys. Much like in the game of football itself, if you play scared, you’ll lose.
Do you honestly think Alabama cares if a major prospect decommits when they’ve already got 15 in the bag? That guy’s doing Nick Saban a favor. As a head coach, I don’t want a guy who doesn’t buy into my program taking up a scholarship. I’d rather he find somewhere else he’d rather play than bolt right before Signing Day, leaving me scrambling to fill that slot in the class.
Current 2014 commitment Peyton Newell‘s a perfect example of why this approach is the way to go. While he didn’t commit in January of 2014, Nebraska made contact with him prior to last Signing Day, formed a relationship and helped it grow. Over a year later, Newell’s ready to put pen to paper and strap on scarlet and cream. At any point in this relationship, he could’ve gone to his coach of choice and said, “You know, I’d really like to check out (insert school here)”, and the Huskers would then adjust their big board accordingly.
Still not convinced that what Pelini and company seem to be shifting towards isn’t the right approach? Current TCU running back Aaron Green joined his brother Andrew at Nebraska as a part of the 2011 class after having committed in late October 2010. He would leave after one season. Why did the younger Green decide to bolt? “He wasn’t happy. He didn’t feel that he fit into the system. He wants to get closer to home,” his father Tony told the Omaha World-Herald.
Because of Green’s departure, instead of having a more experienced player that could be contributing towards wins, Pelini had to start from scratch. This new approach to recruiting may make some fans jittery, but it’s how the big boys play. If Nebraska wants to bodycheck the likes of Ohio State out of contention for titles, this is the style and effort that it takes.