Signing Day 2008 has come and gone so we'll take a look at Bo Pelini's first recruiting class.
There are 28 total scholarship players, 26 are freshmen with only two JUCO transfers. Nebraska picked up a late recruit in safety Mason Wald as a high-school teammate of defensive back Justin Rogers. One of those JUCO's is offensive lineman Ricky Henry, originally from Omaha Burke. The other is tight end Tyson Hetzer who is already enrolled and on campus.
The low number of JUCO's indicates Pelini's belief that there is no quick fix for the program and that he is going to develop these players from the ground up. He said as much during his press conference today:
On the importance of recruiting high school players instead of junior college players
"I believe that there are no quick fixes in life. You are going to get out of something what you put into it. I’m not saying that you can’t ever recruit junior college athletes, but you have to have a specific reason, a specific need. We’re not at that point yet with our program. We don’t even know what we have on campus......
One thing that surprised me was that Pelini and his staff didn't go out and recruit a ton of defensive players and forsake the offense. Given the positional rankings, things are balanced with 14 players on the offensive side, 12 on the defense and Courtney Osborne being officially listed as an "Athlete". It is another indication that there will be no quick fixes.
Interesting his statement "We don't even know what we have on campus" as it could be taken in different ways. Reviewing all of the film of the 2007 Cornhusker defense would not given you any indication of what those players are capable of. It was a defeated, listless team. The new recruits are on the same level with Pelini as the upperclassmen, everyone is starting from scratch. If that isn't enough competition, they'll also be pushed by more new guys beyond the schollies.
Pelini acknowledged during his press conference that there are now about 30 walk-ons who will be coming to Nebraska, with only 18 being announced due to paperwork not being complete on the others.
Not surprising is the vast majority of the players coming from Nebraska. Two others, David Pillen of Sugar Land, Texas, and Steve Spratte, have family ties to the program. David Pillen is the son of former linebacker Clete Pillen who played '74-'76. Spratte is from Waukesha, Wisconsin, ranked by ESPN as the 15th best player from that state. He is the son of Todd Spratte who played linebacker in 1981.
Another Makovicka joins the Huskers as Jordan walks-on to join his brother Justin who is already on the team. Older brothers Jeff and Joel both played fullback for the Huskers in the mid-90's.
The Biggest Disappointment
The biggest disappointment for 2008 is the loss of in-state lineman Trevor Robinson to Notre Dame. Say what you want about Blaine Gabberts or Jonas Gray but whenever you lose a highly-rated in-state player it's a disappointment. Robinson would have made a nice match playing with Baker Steinkuhler on the line, but it was not to be. I wish Mr. Robinson good luck at Notre Dame.
I'm sure most Husker fans would like to have seen a higher-ranking class, but as Pelini and Tom Osborne have emphasized, there are no quick fixes. The concept is difficult to accept given our "I want everything now" society. It's the reason we pour over the recruiting rankings and determine success before it's been achieved.
Will David Whitmore and Will Compton live up to their four-star Rival rankings? Will Baker Steinkuhler have the career that his father Dean did? There is a whole lot of hard work, coaching and good old-fashioned luck needed for this class to become successful. We should know how they're doing in about three years.