I’ll continue to reference things I discussed at the previous message board, and this was a hot topic that came up while I was on my way to being kicked off. One of the things that continually came up was whenever JD Spielman, Wandale Robinson, or Adrian Martinez put their name in the transfer portal, people just said “the transfer portal is a problem for college football!” While I agree that NIL and the portal has morphed into something the NCAA wasn’t intending, my counter would always be “Nebraska doesn’t have a transfer portal problem, Nebraska has a Nebraska problem.”
It was met with a ton of disdain and people that just didn’t understand the actual position we were in. Much like the NIL post I had yesterday. Things basically solidified for me a week or two ago when our AD Trev Alberts was on a podcast and he stated this:
“Look at rosters in the B1G, and how many seniors does each of those programs have (that you recruited out of high school), and I was dissappointed to find that Nebraska was last, we had 2. Some of the programs that were more successful had 16 or 18 or 14. And so my concern was eitehr that we were not doing a good job of identifying talent or we had a bad culture, and it was probably a combination of the two.”
And that was my entire point when I brought up that Nebraska wasn’t getting the benefit of the portal, but it was actually a negative for us. If you don’t find a way to use the portal to your advantage (like for example Sparty and their 2021 team) then you were going to lose out. If you kept recruiting players that didn’t fit, they’d leave before fall camp. If your coaching philosophy didn’t match how you carried yourself or what you discussed on the recruiting trail, kids would leave.
We were probably one of the only teams in the country to lose their best player on offense for 4 straight years, and the final 3 were players that had eligibility left but chose to finish their career elsewhere. My point was simple, the transfer portal as well as NIL are here to stay, and if your school (in this case our school) looks at those two things as a negative, be prepared to sink into mediocrity and/or irrelevance.
That’s easy to say, but I had a great question asked to me over Twitter:
Let’s dive into a few of the positives that we can talk about for Nebraska, because we all know we need to avoid losing the players already mentioned as well as a guy like Hausmann to get back to where we all want to go.
The portal helps counter the “guaranteed scholarship” that the B1G has
One of the big issues with recruiting high school kids, is the B1G has schools guarantee scholarships for 4 years. That means if a kid signs on the dotted line with you, you are then responsible to have him on your 85 man scholarship roster for 4 years. There’s certainly ways schools get around this, but the fine print is there. It used to be that a kid would just sit there and soak up a scholarship from you if he wasn’t good enough because he didn’t want to sit out a year transferring to another D1 school or he didn’t want to go to a lower division that may not give full scholarships.
Let’s be real, recruiting is a 50/50 at best situation anyway when you bring in a high school player, and I can tell you that there are a few new players every year the coaching staff gets in that they pretty much can tell the first week this won’t work out. With being eligible right away and the transfer portal, Nebraska (and other schools of course) have an outlet to get rid of the “dead weight” and move on with their roster development quicker. It’s extremely difficult for coaches sometimes to be able to tell what they are getting, especially with kids that you don’t quite know what competition they are going against. I’ll use Micah Kreikemeir as an example who got a scholarship during a transition and just destroyed Class D football players. But the reality is when he got here he just wasn’t going to be a difference maker, certainly not as a scholarship player. The transfer portal would have allowed the ability for our staff to move on once they realized what was going on.
The last thing you want to do is have some kid just sit around a be on the scout team after you told them you don’t see a role on the field for them. Sure, they will practice and do things, but they aren’t going to give effort and try as they may, their attitude won’t be up to the standards you want.
Final thought on this, but Nebraska has to make it so we are getting rid of “dead weight” instead of our difference makers. Let’s take last year for example… positive portals losses would be guys like Latrell Neville, Jackson Hannah, etc. But we had plenty of bad losses such as Casey Rogers, Jordon Riley, Adrian Martinez, etc.
Going deeper on minimizing risk
If you followed me before, you heard me talk about how JUCOs can really be a great thing for Nebraska because 1) we have a ton of them in close proximity between the Jayhawk league and Iowa Western 2) you know the competition they are going against as referenced before and 3) probably most importantly if you miss you only missed for 1 or 2 years. You didn’t have to sit with “dead weight” on your roster for 4 or 5 years if you brought in the wrong high schooler, these JUCO guys typically had associates and would be gone in 1-2 years.
If you remember in the 2020 finalization of the recruiting class, Nebraska had to fill over 50% of their class with the last two weekends of the first signing day. I still remember being at the Courtyard and seeing Held with so many dudes there because he was the JUCO connection. They ended up taking 10 guys in December the week before signing day, 5 of those being JUCO players (Mauga-Clements, Cooper, Riley, Manning, and Payne). They even signed Nadab Joseph later in the year. When you miss on high school guys, they went JUCO because they somewhat knew what they were getting and if they missed it wasn’t catastrophic. Besides Cooper, almost all of those other 5 guys in December have played a role in some capacity. While underwhelming at times from some of them, they filled a gap in our roster and at least provided some depth.
Now you have the transfer portal, where you can even further minimize risk, because a lot of these guys like Trey Palmer, Samori Toure, are one year guys. You use it like free agency to bolster your roster for a year. That is a positive way to use the portal. However, as we’ve seen with Nebraska in the past few years, teams are using us as a minor league training ground and grabbing OUR players to help bolster THEIR rosters. Again, we need more contributors coming in and less going out. But the answer is still the same.
I think you will see Rhule use the transfer portal quite a bit in his first year or two while he gets his high school players up to speed and developed. You can flip the roster, culture, and numbers very quick with the portal. But if you depend on it, I feel like you are asking for trouble. I see us using the portal less as the seasons go on and high school recruits get developed under this staff. But this would be a good positive for these guys to at least give us some competitive avenues for 2023 and 2024.
Nebraska can’t compete with Ohio State, Alabama, and others for high school recruits, but we are probably one of the most attractive spots to land for guys just outside playing there
Hang with me here as I try not to tell you we are a second place team, but the reality is we are probably a bit further down than that even. Look, we haven’t gone to a bowl game since 2016 so what high school kid is going to choose the Cornhuskers over the Buckeyes right now.
With that said, the transfer portal gives us access to players that just aren’t quite good enough to play for those guys but are still good enough to win us 9 or 10 games a year. Those teams bring in four or five stars every year at each position, so just because a kid is transferring out there doesn’t mean they aren’t any good. A guy like Palmer struggled to have the season that he did here while at LSU. Casey Thompson would have had a much better season here than he did at Texas.
Nebraska is a top destination because we are going to have the facilities and fan support of a blue chip program, we just aren’t quite there yet. We also won’t have to give as big of NIL deals to some of these guys as they are leaving without any real film or playing time to speak of many times.
Lower level upgrades
So we talked about being a transfer destination for some of those blueblood programs looking to offload some guys, but Nebraska has actually had some really good players come from FCS level players. Look no further than Samori Toure who came from the state of Montana and couldn’t have been a better addition for us.
Teams like South Dakota, South Dakota State, North Dakota State, they are all coming to Nebraska to find some kids. Those are turning into somewhat of a farm system for FBS programs (fortunately or unfortunately) and we can bring some of those kids home at positions of need. The lower level upgrades piece could be a really easy one for us to use.
Rhule and the portal
I won’t go into who Rhule is losing right now because it’s tough to be on him 3 weeks into the job. He is already doing a great job bringing in talent like we referenced earlier, Texas A&M, 2 players from the Gators. I believe every single kid he brought in from another school was a four star by one service or another.
Further, he was trying to solidify some positions that we needed a ton of help at. LB, DL, QB, and WR were all spots that he grabbed some guys that fit his mold.
It’s too early to tell for Rhule, but his additions look great so far. Let’s see who we lose after the following season before we figure out how he’s doing. For what it’s worth, I do expect close to 10 MORE players to enter the portal between now and into the summer. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, some players just find out they don’t mesh with the new staff. Some players find out the guys the new staff brought in are better than them.
It’s going to take a year to see how Rhule does at retaining kids, because we don’t know who his best players are going to be yet. But we need to do a better job of not losing starters in the portal. I mean, as Husker fans we tried convincing ourselves that the loss of Martinez was a good thing because he was leaving. Goes down to Kansas State and accounts for 16 touchdowns with only 1 INT.
Here’s to a new regime sharing their vision and following through to our squad!
Starting Monday, we will go over the recruiting class, and I’ll begin with the transfers that we brought in.
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