The In-State Recruiting Turnaround

For many of you that followed me on the previous message board, I harped on something that really started rubbing some of the die-hard Frost fans the wrong way. I made mention that our staff was getting out-worked and out-recruited by other teams such as Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State, and Missouri. Even teams like South Dakota State and Northern Illinois seemed to at least have a better grasp on the pulse of things in the Omaha metro. I spoke about how there just seemed to be a lack of communication from the previous staff, and when there was communication it typically was late or just completely off. Allow me to explain with a few examples after I set the table a bit further…

In Frost’s first full recruiting class of 2019, according to Rivals he landed all 3 of the states top 3 recruits in (actually top 5) Henrich, Hickman, Nelson, Snodgrass, and Pieper. He fended off Iowa for a couple of those guys, and the state was excited and momentum was high as the coach who just went 13-0 in Orlando was getting ready to do the same. The following year he had similar success with the top 3 as 2 of them stayed home with Betts and Gifford. Watts chose Notre Dame, and the narrative was “some kids just don’t want to stay home.” But something interesting started permeating through Omaha, it was that this staff was actually coming in late on a lot of kids, and maybe even thought that local kids should show they want to come to Lincoln rather than the coaches recruit them to want to come there. After all, if Betts wouldn’t have had academic issues, it is very possible other schools would have came calling and grabbed him. Masterful job by Ryan Held on that one laying out a plan to get Betts here. But pay attention to kids should want to come to Lincoln.

In the 2021 class things started going off the rails a bit on the field, and the narrative from the previous paragraph started to get solidified. Once (2020) is a fluke, twice (2021) I start to pay attention, and three times (2022) it’s an issue. I’ll get to 2022 in a second. But the 2021 class lands Teddy Prochazka, the #1 player in the state. But then we lose Avante Dickerson to Oregon and Keagan Johnson to Iowa. The narrative again was “Dickerson just wanted to get away” and the narrative for Johnson was “Clester hates Nebraska.” The reality is those other schools were doing a better job recruiting our local players. And Johnson who was at Bellevue West was seeing how things were going with Bradley and Betts. A perfect storm.

2022 the wheels completely blow off…

Nebraska loses all 3 of the top 3 recruits in the state as Bell West duo Micah Riley-Ducker heads to Auburn and Kaden Helms heads to Oklahoma as they hear what Keagan Johnson did, and the fourth ranked player Devon Jackson from Omaha Burke heads to Oregon. The #1 player overall was Deshawn Woods who chose Missouri. Nebraska went 0-4. And it was great, because the narrative is “some kids just don’t want to come here and want to play elsewhere”. Others using hindsight said “See, they were right not going after Woods right away!” Let me go into actual recruiting stories to show you what I mean.

For one of these 2022 recruits, Barrett Ruud was the main recruiter (not his position, mind you). I thought Ruud did as good of a job as he could with the support he was given. It needed to be more “all hands on deck”. At one point, Ruud was being told that Ferentz, Campbell, Klieman, and other head coaches had already made contact with this recruit and of course offered. His response was “if it were up to me he would have an offer already, but we can’t miss on local guys. If he was from Florida he would have one and I wouldn’t have to fight for it.” It was just a weird communication, not only was the position coach, coordinator, and HC not in the picture yet, we were basically saying we have to get in early with out of state kids to have a chance and we can afford to be a bit later with local kids.

Later on, the recruit finally has the position coach from Nebraska get ahold of him (again, a few months after he’s already been speaking to the HC of other schools) and the position coach starts trying to get to know him. “I really like what’s going on at Iowa State and they’ve offered me for a few months now.” The position coaches response was so interesting, he said “that’s great you have an Iowa State offer, but we don’t carbon copy our offers. Ours mean something.” Once the visit is over, the recruit goes to Rivals’ database and looks how many recruits at his position the Cyclones had offered, 17. He then checks Nebraska and sees that they have offered over 30 guys. So not only are you late to talk to him, but the reason you are using is actually a lie.

Later on the recruit is getting ready to post a top 5 and Nebraska isn’t even in it. The head coach at this school says “are you sure you don’t want to just put Nebraska in there or do a top 6 just to keep people off your back?” The recruit was having none of it. He releases his top 5 and Nebraska isn’t in it and neither is another school that he eventually ends up committing to. The school left off calls the head coach and says “what happened? I thought we were in a good spot? Get him to call me ASAP!” Not sure why they were left off but the recruit eventually commits to the school where the coach from an out of state school didn’t give up. Nebraska on the other hand sends one message to the recruit saying “we just wasted each others time”. It was just so odd.

And of course, things would happen like us landing Thomas Fidone who was a long time Husker fan and the #1 TE in the nation. Frost and company didn’t take him for granted, worked hard on him as they knew he had every option under the sun, and then he commits to us and I have to put up with comments like “looks like our communication was just fine for the #1 TE in the country.” But I think that sums it up pretty well, when they wanted to turn it on, they could. But they expected the in-state guys just to line up and want to be ‘N’ for the most part, and that’s just not how it works nowadays with how bad we’ve been, with hudl video on the internet for anyone to see, and camps everywhere. We just needed guys willing to grind, and I believe we have that now.

That brings us to this 2024 class and their first full recruiting class for Nebraska. According to On3, Nebraska has 4 of the top 4 players in the state committed already with Nelson, McMorris, Hall, and Kaelin. The 5th ranked player, Caleb Pyform is slated to decide today. 2 of the top 3 players for 2025 are already committed.

And let me let you in on a little secret, until Rhule and his staff started working through Omaha, the same “sometimes kids just want to play elsewhere” would have been said about Daevon Hall, Isaiah McMorris, and Caleb Pyform. 3 of the top 5 we would have been having the same narrative about because the effort and communication just wasn’t there. There is zero reason that Zane Flores should be in Stillwater. Things like that happen because we got outworked and there was a certain sense of entitlement.

For the first time in a long time, the best players in the state are committing to Nebraska because all of the cool kids are doing it. Don’t take that lightly. And if any of you are members of recruiting sites, Bellevue West head coach Mike Huffman was quoted as saying “it just seems like adults are in charge now.” A weird thing for me to comprehend since the guy that got his latest two commitments is 24 years old. But there is effort and a commitment to putting a fence up around this state. I appreciate that.

Pyform prediction

Pyform had basically heard nothing from Nebraska until this new staff showed up. Which is odd because Raiola is still here. This is down to 4 teams in my opinion. Penn State was in it for awhile with him, but I believe they have fallen off. Ryan Walters the former DC for Illinois put together a pretty good staff, and their OL coach Marcus Johnson has familiarity recruiting in Omaha from his time at Mizzou. Bielema and his ability to develop linemen are making a late push and he’s fresh off an official visit there.

All I had heard is he wanted to be in Lincoln with Rhule and the staff now prioritizing him. Mike Schaefer on the radio actually said he didn’t even think about Nebraska until the staff changed. Rhule was there personally and even talked to him about how he was going to teach him to snap along with playing tackle because in the NFL there’s only 8 guys on Sundays playing and snapping can get you in that mix.

There are now rumors about how Nebraska has told Caleb that his spot was taken and there is no room. I believe they wanted him for OT, so i’m not sure how the Davidson or Peters would change the numbers as they are both interior guys. But this is what I was talking about in regards to why take flyers so early in June on guys if it means you are going to shut out the top ranked OL in-state at a school where there is major young talent coming up?

I still think Nebraska wins this, but if they don’t it’s because he truly was told there’s no room. And I’ll go over that tomorrow in my post. Here’s hoping he’s N. My prediction as of now:

Nebraska 46%
Illinois 45%
Purdue 5%
Penn State 4%

Let me just say this… if you told Pyform there’s no room you better be getting Brix or Massey. But both are predicted to Kansas State at the moment.

Tomorrow we will have our commit recap from the past week! We will also go over the walk-ons that committed!

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