Over this past weekend, Nebraska grabbed 3 recruits that collectively had 0 Power 5 offers. We knew this staff liked to find some diamonds in the rough as well as guys with massively high ceilings, I just figured the “floor” would be a bit higher to start. I thought maybe we would steal a guy from North Dakota State or Wyoming that was overlooked by many here and there, I didn’t expect this many so soon.
It got me thinking about how Rhule constructed his second class at Baylor, and who ended up starting for him during his conference title appearance season in 2019. We will start with his second class (which is like our current 2024 class piling up with these latest three recruits). Here is who was in that… bolded are hits:
Jackson Kimble (Feb 2017 – 5.7 three star) – Played in one game in 2021
Joshua Fleeks (Feb 2017 – 5.7 three star) – This one is a transfer to us and well documented
Yiljah Hall (March 2017 – 5.6 three star) – Did not play in 2018 and transferred to Sam Houston State
Casey Phillips (March 2017 – 5.5 three star) – Redshirted as a freshman but saw 6 starts in 2019 and a few in 2020.
JT Woods (April 2017 – 5.6 three star) – Appeared in every game as a true freshman, started 5 games as a sophomore, made honorable mention all-conference as a junior, started every game as a senior and led the Big12 in interceptions
Jackson Gleeson (April 2017 – 5.5 three star) – Redshirted his freshman year, played mostly on special teams, then did not play in a game in his third year
Mark Milton (April 2017 – 5.7 three star) – Redshirted his freshman year, appeared in every game year 2 mostly on special teams, started a few games in year 3, 2 starts in year 4, then made honorable mention All Big12 as a senior in 2022
Christian Morgan (May 2017 – 5.7 three star) – 3 starts as a true freshman, appeared in 12 of 14 games as a sophomore, started all 8 games and made honorable mention in Covid year, 10 starts and honorable mention as a senior in 2021
Kalon Barnes (May 2017 – 5.7 three star) – Year 1 and 2 saw action in nearly every game mostly on special teams, 2020 in Covid year had a few starts, started 10 games in 2021 as a senior
Josh Landry (May 2017 – 5.8 four star) – Redshirted year 1, appeared in 7 of 14 games year 2, started four games during Covid, then played in 10 games in 2021 before transferring to Mizzou for 2022 and 2023 seasons
Ben Sims (June 2017 – 5.7 three star) – Redshirted year one, was playing year 2 but suffered season ending knee injury, started most games rest of his career and made honorable mention Big12
Bralen Taylor (June 2017 – 5.6 three star) – Didn’t play much and a little conflicted if he transferred to Butler JUCO then Louisiana-Monroe or went straight to ULM
Marje Smith (June 2017 – 5.5 three star) – Played in 3 games as a freshman before transferring to Stephen F Austin
Christoph Henle (July 2017 – 5.7 three star) – Played in every game of his career but did not record a start, mostly was the #2 or #3 TE
Connor Galvin (August 2017 – 5.6 three star) – Began starting as a true freshman for the Bears and became an All-American before his time was gone
Craig Williams (August 2017 – 5.7 three star) – redshirted, had an injury, led the team in rushing during Covid with 188 yards (you read that right) and mostly just was academic all-Big12
Byron Hanspard (December 2017 – 5.8 four star) – Primarily played special teams
Princeton Pines (December 2017 – 5.4 two star) – Didn’t do much, transferred out to Sam Houston State then transferred to Tulane
Tyquan Thorton (December 2017 – 5.8 four star) – Began starting as a true freshman and ended up All-Conference in his time at Baylor
Gerry Bohannon (December 2017 – 5.7 three star) – Didn’t play much until 2021 after Rhule’s departure where he started 12 of 14 games.
Johncarlo Valentin (January 2018 – 5.6 three star) – JUCO transfer who started 9 games in 2018, redshirted in 2019, then started in 2020 and 2021
11/21 I would consider “hits” for his recruiting class in his first full year. Makes sense, the general rule is 50% of recruits don’t pan out. What’s interesting though is some of the “hits” didn’t do much until Rhule was gone such as Bohannon the QB, Sims, Barnes, etc. You also had guys that thrived under Rhule but didn’t do much once he was gone like Fleeks and Philips.
Quite frankly, I can’t get a read on who did well and who didn’t. There were four stars that did well for him, then there were four stars who were awful. There were 5.6 three stars starting for his conference title team, and 5.6 three stars who flamed out. Without being able to get a read on it, let’s dive into who ACTUALLY played on his double-digit win team there that played Oklahoma in the Big12 conference title game.
So who did Baylor use to start in the 2019 season against Oklahoma?
It’s no secret that we are hoping Rhule can get us to the heights he saw in Waco year 3, Baylor was 11-1 heading into a CCG and a rematch with the Sooners. When you look above at the year 2 (first full season) recruiting class for Rhule, I would say it’s pretty “eh” for lack of a better way to put it. Some good, some bad, and some just special teams guys. Baylor “started” 12 on offense so I just went with the 4 WR and 1 RB combo since that’s what they primarily used. Rivals rating is in parentheses behind Rhule recruits.
2019 Baylor Conference Title appearance season:
Non-Rhule Recruit (13): WR Chris Platt, WR Denzel Mims, OL Sam Tecklenburg, OL Jake Fruhmorgen, RB Jamycal Hasty, DL Bravvion Roy, LB Jordan Williams, LB Blake Lynch, CB Jameson Houston, S Grayland Arnold, S Chris Miller, S Henry Black, CB Raleigh Texada
Rhule First Year (6): WR RJ Sneed (5.6), OL Xavier Newman (5.8), QB Charlie Brewer (5.6), DL James Lockhart (tr), DL James Lynch (5.6), LB Terrel Bernard (5.5)
Rhule Second Year (2): WR Tyquan Thornton (5.8), OL Casey Phillips (5.5)
Rhule Third Year (1): OL Blake Bedier (JUCO)
As you can see, Rhule came in and got the most out of guys that were already on campus. Art Briles was fired after hitting double-digit wins for most of the latter part of his career, and Jim Grobe took over in 2016 to go 7-6. While we would take that in a heartbeat around here, it was a definite step backwards for what they were used to in Waco. Enter Rhule for the 2017 season and the roster is pretty much decimated, only having around 35-40 scholarship players when he got there.
But that didn’t stop him from taking many of the guys that were still there and getting them to be starters on his Big12 Runner-up team. 13 of the 22 starters in that game were already there when he arrived. When you look at how that might correlate to our team if we want to be playing for championships… guys like Gabe Ervin Jr, Thomas Fidone, Lutovsky or Benhart, Hutmacher, Butler, Buford, they could all be guys that elevate their game and develop a ton through the next few years.
You then look at 6/22 were from his first recruiting class, including the QB that led them to a conf title game. For us, guys like Jeff Sims, Malachi Coleman, Gottula, Sledge, Sherman, Umaniewelen, Lenhardt, Noonan, Fields, and a host of others could be a nucleus to get us year 2 production.
When you look at 19/22 starters being there in year 1 of the tenure, it makes a ton of sense. Rhule starts developing chemistry and what he demands, and those guys are the nucleus of what he has been preaching since arriving on the campus December of 2022. What Nebraska has to hope is that our nucleus of players are just as good as what Baylor teams that consistently went to bowl games and won double-digits for Briles had.
Year 2 and Year 3 had only 3 guys starting in the game against Oklahoma. A WR and OL from Year 2, where WRs can play very early, it makes sense. The OL seeing some starts after his freshman year is impressive in my opinion. However, the only year 3 player to start was a JUCO transfer from SNOW college. I think we can take this to mean Rhule will slow down the portal and JUCO commits starting after this year and he gets his foundation in place. If you are going to be a developmental program, you can’t just keep bringing in new guys every year, you gotta develop and get something out of these “reaches” (for lack of a better word).
It’s all adding up for me that we may be in “year 2” of Rhule and a bowl game for our 2023 season. Again, when Rhule got to Baylor he didn’t even have 5 scholarship offensive linemen and had a little less than 40 scholarship players. When you look at Nebraska this spring, we had people worried when we were sitting at around 105 scholarship players. Further, if you look at 247s “team talent composite”, Baylor in 2016 (year before Rhule got there) they were sitting 40th for who was on their roster. Compare that to Nebraska for the 2022 season, and we were sitting top 25 (24th to be exact).
While Baylor saw a mass exodus leave once sanctions were handed down, I feel the point still remains that Nebraska still has a core back that is better than what was sitting in Waco when Rhule got there.
You then take a look at what Rhule recruited year 1 at Baylor (2017) where he finished 37th, with 28 total commits and only 2 four stars. At Nebraska, Rhule pulled in the 29th ranked class with 4 four stars. While that’s not a significant difference, I do feel like our “stars” from this class will help immensely to get us off on the right foot.
You also have to remember that the transfer portal was not as prevalent back when Rhule got to Waco, as you still had to sit out a year. As a perfect example, James Lockhart transferred from Texas A&M to Baylor in Rhule’s first year, but had to sit out in 2017 due to NCAA transfer rules. He ended up a starter on the DL for Rhule and his staff in the 2019 CCG. Fast-forward to 2023, and Rhule again goes to the Aggies for a transfer in Elijah Jeudy. However, this time he is eligible to play immediately.
But is development the real thing that happened?
I got in this debate on a message board, and with a friend who brought up “well, did he really develop guys at those stops? He was only at Temple for 4 years and Baylor for 3 years.”
That’s what i’ll be curious about. And i’m sure I still have PTSD from when I told everyone that Frost’s tenure will be dictated by how he can develop his 2019 OL class where they just took a ton of 6’7″ linemen and said Husker Power would develop them. We saw how that went. Rhule and his staff are betting on themselves early, with a ton of guys in the first class that only had Prairie View A&M offers (or similar), and now this past weekend grabbing guys that we beat out Lane College and Eastern Illinois for.
Look, i’m fine with them evaluating at camp and liking what they see and offering. I just thought we would still get the same types of recruiting classes but just develop them better. I understand that Frost got a ton of four stars that never developed, but it’s not like that happens everytime. Wisconsin, Iowa, even Illinois get four stars that end up being good. Just looks like we are really liking doing it the opposite way right now. I trust this staff more than the last, so we will see how this goes.
One things clear to me, we’ve gotta get guys like Jaylen Lloyd who was going to just go run track, or Brice Turner who chose us over Prairie View A&M, Ives chose us over UConn where Barthel was recruiting him, Jeremiah Charles chose us over North Texas, and those were our 2023 reaches. For our 2024 class we have the three from this past weekend with 0 collective P5 offers so far, we just got Evan Taylor yesterday who chose us over Charlotte and East Carolina, the Omaha North DB didn’t have an FBS offers, and so on.
I’ll say it again, I trust in Rhule, and I know we had four stars all over that didn’t pan out. I just figured we would get recruiting classes similar to 20th-30th and develop the piss out of them. It’s trending currently that we may be closer to 30th-40th and develop them. That’s fine, I trust the process.
While I won’t get too far into it until the season is closer and we see what the roster looks like… if we compare Nebraska 2023 to Baylor 2017 in regards to talent returning, incoming recruiting class, and portal additions, Nebraska has a leg up in every category that has a metric. Year 1 was tough for Rhule at Temple and Baylor, but we get to accelerate that timeline with what we just spoke about. That’s why I think Nebraska gets to 6 wins this year and a bowl game for the first time since 2016.
Tomorrow we will go over the commits from this past weekend (and maybe the other new addition if he makes official by Wednesday). Thursday we will go over Kaelin and the Elite 11 combine.
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