Nebraska Cornhuskers: National Signing Day 2014 Class Grades
Quarterbacks (Zack Darlington, AJ Bush) – As usual, offensive coordinator Tim Beck went out and got his quarterback in Darlington. Unfortunately, concussion issues may prevent Darlington from stepping onto the field, at least as soon as he’d like. No doubt the Huskers will use every precaution in assessing his health.
Snagging Bush was a solid backup plan as opposed to going into the 2014 season with Tommy Armstrong, Jr. and Johnny Stanton backed up by significant drops in talent. Bush may not be polished, but if Darlington can’t go he’ll do just fine behind the two players ahead of him. Grade: B
Running Backs (Larenzo Stewart, Mikale Wilbon) – Stewart’s the jitterbug of Nebraska’s two backs and is going to have to work hard to climb up an already stacked depth chart.
Wilborn’s offer list was littered with SEC teams and a few Pac-12 contenders which doesn’t help Stewart’s case, either. At this point, it’s about development and whether the smaller back wants to put the work in. Grade: A
Wide Receivers (Monte Harrison, Demornay Pierson-El, Jariah Tolbert, Glenn Irons) – This bunch features a fantastic athlete set to play Major League Baseball and what appears to be a number of projects.
Pierson-El could contribute on special teams, but that’d actually require blocking. With Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner and Tyler Evans leaving after the 2014 season, it’ll be interesting to see who’s still around from this bunch in the next two years. Grade: C-
Tight Ends (Freedom Akinmoladun) – Let the Braveheart jokes begin. Nebraska’s been lacking a hoss with hands at the tight end position for some time now. At the very least, I can see Akinmoladun skipping a redshirt to mostly block and snag a few passes. Grade: A
Offensive Line (Tanner Farmer, D.J. Foster, Nick Gates) – Bluntly put, this is one of the most talent-rich offensive line classes that the Huskers have had in a while. All are beasts and sealing Nick Gates may open a pipeline to Bishop Gorman High School which is chock-full of talent on a yearly basis. There’s not much more to say than well-played, staff. Grade: A+
Defensive Line (Joe Keels, Peyton Newell, Mick Stoltenberg, Sedrick King, DeAndre Wills) – Coming into the final stretch (from January to today), Nebraska had a total of three defensive linemen. During a cycle that demanded far at least twice as many, that wasn’t going to cut it.
King and Willis were added during the January rush. Unfortunately, pressure from home appears to have steered big time defensive end Blake McClain to South Carolina after he committed to the Huskers, a hit Nebraska couldn’t afford.
Stoltenberg may project better to the offensive side of the ball, but at this point the Huskers may try to make due on defense.
Keels is an absolute hoss and a player that may very well see the field from day one. Well, to be honest between lack of depth and/or injuries (knock on wood), others may, too. The loss of McClain was simply devastating. Grade: B-
Linebackers (Luke Gifford, Jaevon Walton) – With so many linebackers already on the roster and a major need for bodies in the defensive backfield, Gifford may be handed over to secondary coach Charlton Warren as safety material.
He certainly has the measurables to succeed at that position. Walton flat out oozes nastiness and should do well among the linebacker corps. Grade: B+
Defensive Backs (Byerson Cockrell, Chris Jones, Trai Mosley) – Another area of severe need, Nebraska could’ve used about two more defensive backs, perhaps another cornerback and safety.
If Gifford actually does make the move from linebacker this is obviously negated somewhat. Regardless, the Huskers have already addressed the area of need with 2015 commitments Eric Lee and Avery Anderson.
Getting back to the 2014 haul, I think Mosley’s going to be one of the stars of this class. When Terry Joseph bolted for Texas A&M, I thought for sure he was a goner. Overall, this is good talent, just less than Nebraska needs. Grade: B
Special Teams (Drew Brown) – Pat Smith continued the long line of college kickers that SEC teams would pine for. Who better to take over than former Husker Kris Brown‘s little brother? Nobody, that’s who. Grade: B+
Overall Grade: B