I was having a talk with someone the other day, and I asked them “how do we ever know if these transfers we get are going to be good?” It was a spirited debate, I started with thinking we were actually doing a better job with the kids that came here from non Power 5 programs that proved themselves moving up divisions after proving themselves. My entire point was I didn’t think we were actually hitting on many FBS or even Power 5 transfer guys. Then my buddy brought up a good point:
“I think it comes down to if they started somewhere before. Take the Ohio State five star or the safety from Alabama, we got so excited thinking they just couldn’t make it at their places because there was better people in front of them. They come here and they still can’t play.”
Further, my loser Iowa friend who I would send screenshots to about our transfers would always respond back with “guys transfer for a reason, so i’m not worried at all.” He probably wasn’t wrong, but I wanted to get some ammo to give me positivity. I decided to do some digging and look at the transfers we had from 2019 to now, if they started previously, and how they did for us.
Using 247 Transfer Portal page, here is who came our way:
2019 Transfers (3):
Kanawai Noa – 16 starts at Cal and ended up starting at WR for us
Travis Vokolek – 9 starts at Rutgers and ended up being our leading TE
Darrion Daniels – 10 starts at Oklahoma State and ended up being our best NG
2020 Transfers (5):
Ezra Miller – redshirted and did not play at Iowa, hasn’t played here
Jared Bubak – 0 starts at Arizona State, did not play here
Connor Culp -10 starts at LSU and became a first team all-conference player for us
Nouredin Nouili – 7 starts at Colorado State in one year before coming to Nebraska and starting (suspended for 2022)
Zach Schlager – Redshirted and only played in 3 games at Colorado State, did not play here
2021 Transfer (5):
Tyreke Johnson – 5 star transfer from Ohio State with no starts, has not played here
Markese Stepp – 4 star USC transfer, played for USC but no starts, started for us a couple games but overtaken
Samori Toure – Started a ton at his FCS school, became our best WR here
Chris Kolarevic – Transferred in from FCS Northern Iowa where he started multiple games. Played in every game for us but did not end up a starter here
Oliver Martin – Was at Michigan and Iowa and had one start for the Wolverines, has mostly been a reserve at Nebraska
2022 Transfers (14):
Kaine Williams – Transferred from Alabama as a top175 recruit, has not played for Nebraska
Marcus Washington -8 starts at Texas before following Thompson here, became normal starter for us
Stephon Wynn Jr – Spent 4 years at Alabama with no starts playing sparingly, became our main backup at DT
Devin Drew – Started 12 games at Texas Tech and came and split with Wynn as backup
Omar Brown – FCS All-American at Northern Iowa, has not played for Nebraska
Ochaun Mathis – Was a multi-year starter at TCU and came to Nebraska and was a big impact for us
Casey Thompson – Started at Texas and came here to start
Trey Palmer – 5 starts at LSU but was primary returner for them longer, became our best WR
Brian Buschini – Top punter in FCS at Montana, became our primary punter
Tommi Hill – 0 starts at Arizona State in one season before transferring here and not playing much
Hunter Anthony – 5 starts over four seasons at Oklahoma State, came here and was a reserve
Kevin Williams – Started multiple games at Northern Colorado, did not play for us
Timmy Bleekrode – Starting punter and place kicker at Furman, became our starter
Isaiah Garcia-Castenada -Led NMSU in receptions and was playing for us until argument with Joseph
Chubba Purdy – Played in 4 games with 1 start at Florida State, backup here
As you can see, it pretty much holds true that if a guy started at a previous spot, they are going to end up playing for us. You look at the first year of analysis, we really only brought in 3 transfers, all started at their previous school, and all ended up being extremely significant for us. Go to the next group of 2020 transfers, the two guys that started at their previous schools (Culp and Nouili) ended up starting for us. The other 3 were irrelevant.
The 2021 transfers is where the quantity really starts ramping up and it gets a little subjective based on if you want to argue, but for the most part it holds true. Toure and Kolarevic are the only ones that came with “consistent” starting experience. Both played in every game for us and Toure was by far our best WR. Johnson, Stepp, and Martin while there was one start between the 3 (Martin spot start at Michigan) of them at their previous places, really have done nothing for us. Stepp played a bit before transferring back out but was never our workhorse and he’s in the portal again, Martin fair-catches footballs for us, and Johnson is the one that really had me start thinking about if all these new transfers from Georgia and Florida are really going to help us, or are they not that good?
For the last two years, Johnson has been our best player on the 247 composite team talent rankings. And you heard everyone say they would take a five star any day of the week. Heck, I probably said it. But why was he not playing at all for us? I mean, I get the concept of getting guys from good teams and hoping they just were overtaken by NFL caliber players, but have we had anyone like that come here yet? The answer pretty much is no.
2022 is the last year we have, quantity sky-rocketed and so did the amount of guys that played for us. Palmer, Thompson, Washington, Garcia-Castenada, Mathis, Buschini, Bleekrode, they all had starts at previous stops and became important to what we did in 2022. It gets interesting, as Brown, Drew, Anthony, Kevin Williams, and Purdy all came with some form of starting experience as well. We can kind of dissect those a bit…
Brown and Williams came from FCS, so I feel like lower level starters can be a bit more of a crapshoot.
Anthony started 5 games over 4 seasons, so he was more a “fill in when injuries hit” type of guy
Purdy had only one start at Florida State, so does it count?
Drew is the one I really don’t get since we were so thin at DL, but if I remember correctly he didn’t even get to Lincoln until midway through fall camp so maybe the learning curve was too steep?
Go further and think about the guys that transferred out for us, Spielman, Robinson, Martinez, Bell, all guys that started for us at one point ended up having a ton of success elsewhere. But guys we lost that didn’t start we didn’t lose a ton of sleep over. Of course, a guy like Ernest Hausmann started 7 games for us and we are going to watch that guy be a force at Michigan.
Basically you needed to start somewhere for us to count on you at all. I get all the excitement about getting guys from great programs that may have just been buried on the depth chart, but so far it hasn’t been the case. Now, we do have a new set of coaches so maybe this was just a fools errand to do this, but it did shed some light.
And i’ll also say, with the miss rate on the transfers, it is more important than ever to get high school kids and develop them. Use the portal to fill in holes like Thompson or this year with Ben Scott. I do believe we have the right staff in place for that now.
Lastly, when you bring in 11 or 13 transfers, you are bound to have guys not “hit” or be contributors for you. With the last staff, it basically got to the point where high school kids knew they wouldn’t be around for possibly more than one year so they were losing ground which is why we had to get a ton of the transfer portal kids to not only fill our scholarships, but fill gaps in our roster.
Even though there’s a new staff, let’s dive into the starts of the guys coming in:
2023 Transfers (11):
MJ Sherman – 0 starts at Georgia
Jacob Hood – 0 starts at Georgia
Billy Kemp – 25 starts at Virginia
Arik Gilbert – 0 starts at LSU and Georgia
Corey Collier – 0 starts at Florida
Ben Scott – 28 starts at Arizona State
Chief Borders – 0 starts at Florida
Elijah Jeudy – 0 starts at Texas A&M
Jeff Sims – 23 starts at Georgia Tech
Marco Ortiz – 13 starts at Florida
Josh Fleeks – 0 starts at Baylor
So, we can look at this and with history as our guide, we will be seeing Kemp, Scott, Sims, and Ortiz playing for us and the other guys playing some backup duty. It’s a reason that losing the Stanford tackle that started close to 30 games for them was a huge miss for us, we replaced him with Hood who has zero starts. A huge difference.
But there’s a ton up in the air. This isn’t like 2019, 2020, 2021, or 2022… this is a new coaching staff who has no idea what they need and are bringing in all the possibilities they can. For example, if Gilbert can keep things straight off the field, the freshman All-American doesn’t have really anyone that can keep him off the field despite not starting previously. A guy like MJ Sherman I look to play quite a bit for us despite not have starting experience. A ton of it depends on the depth you are stepping into.
Conversely, is Jeff Sims going to actually beat out our other starter from the portal Casey Thompson? Further, Fleeks has basically zero starts but he knows this staff and the other staff at Baylor maybe he just wasn’t “their guy”.
One thing i’d also look for, is that once this staff gets their footing, we will get back to seeing 5 or 6 transfers a year instead of a dozen like 2022 and 2023. This staff is going to eventually understand what they have, develop them, and not be in a spot like they are in 2023. Roster management has been completely awful up to now, and they can help remedy that. But they can use the portal for immediate impact guys and to fill a gap here or there when we inevitably lose someone.
Lastly, we gotta make sure we don’t lose multi-game starters in the portal anymore. Frost and his staff had an unbelievable run of losing their best offensive player in the portal every year. We lose Hausmann to Michigan, we lose Rogers to Oregon, and it has to stop. As i’ve said many times, Nebraska didn’t have a portal problem. Nebraska had a Nebraska problem. Hopefully the new staff can make the transfer portal a positive and not a negative for us moving forward. Keep the guys we need to, get rid of who we don’t.
Speaking of losing someone, please don’t freak out after spring:
Nebraska basically is going to be cutting 20 guys loose after the spring. Please don’t freak out. And inevitably it will be guys that some of us think are really good and we will try to make it a big deal that they are leaving. I am looking at the WR, QB, and in the back 7 of our defense where we will lose quite a few guys.
Look, I get it, when someone leaves you immediately point to something being wrong. And when the quantity is going to be as great as what we will see this April and May, the panic button is going to be hit by so many social media and message board posters. But the bottom line is that we haven’t gone to a bowl game in 6 years and we need to trim the fat. Rhule basically set himself up to be able to cut a ton of people. It isn’t a sky is falling situation, it’s a “we are getting things right” situation. Let’s quote Aaron Rodgers for when this happens, “Relaxxxxxx”:
Can the staff keep this up?
We referenced how this staff is just all over the place recruiting, just Coach Foley is making noise stopping everywhere:
And that’s just Foley… several Omaha area schools had Satterfield, Rhule, and White stop up there on top of Foley. As one local coach put it “well, Rhule stopping by is one more time than Frost has been to our school.” It really puts into perspective how sloppy things got, and why things were so “easy” for Mickey Joseph to repair things. All he had to do was get there and he was doing more than the previous head coach. Not trying to harp on the past, but just shedding light how things are much different now.
And it was so funny at Foley’s press conference on Monday, when Sipple who defends Frost at all costs asked our special teams coordinator what drove him to hit all these schools. The response was epic… “well, that’s my job.” I really wish he would have followed it up with “was that truly not happening before?” No, it wasn’t.
One of the other coaches I talked with at a smaller school said Foley was only there for about five minutes, but it was five more minutes than any other Husker coach had been there. “I’m not an idiot, there’s really not a need for these guys to be at my school so it didn’t really offend me. But a new staff one month in stopping by is really cool.” And Foley mentioned what was going on to him and some others:
“Things have changed a bit since I was last a college coach, I literally can’t be around the team, so I told them just give me a ton of schools to go visit.”
That’s awesome in my opinion. He also talked a bit in his presser about how it was easier for him because he had his specialists already signed so he wasn’t needing to travel anywhere to solidify things. It was a natural fit for him to go out there.
My question is, will they be able to keep this pace up? Look, it’s easy straight out of the gate when Rhule is fresh off getting fired and the reception is positive because you have zero losses so far. The proof will be in the next couple years what transpires.
And Rhule is doing a heck of a job so far. A 2024 OL prospect “bumped into” Rhule in the hallway where he told him he would teach him to snap because NFL teams only keep 8 OL usually and being able to snap will give you a better shot. Then goes through his phone to show him he’s one of ‘x’ amount of players in the 2024 class he’s hitting hard, and conveniently left an NFL GM in there so he knew he had the contacts to get him to the NFL.
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