The big recruiting news from Monday was that quarterback Johnny Stanton verbally committed to play for the Huskers. He's a 6'2" 221 pound dual threat quarterback from Rancho Santa Margarita, California who was rated a four-star recruit by 247 Sports and ESPN, but three stars by Rivals and Scout. He's also one of 25 finalists who will be at next week's Elite 11 finals in Redondo Beach, Calif.
A lot of Husker fans are excited about this commitment, as Nebraska is light on quarterback depth. But I'm especially cautious on this one. Not because of Stanton, mind you. I haven't heard anything to give me pause to question him.My caution is because of Nebraska's history with verbal commitments from Elite 11 quarterbacks. Nebraska has been down this road before, and this is a road that riddled with the wreckage of past commitments. Start with the first: Harrison Beck. The shining star of Bill Callahan's 2005 recruiting class. He was going to be the quarterback that was going to make us forget that old, obsolete option offense and dazzle us with Callahan's West Coast offense. He had no problem with telling everybody all about it; he was out helping recruiting big name players and setting the expectation level to a ridiculous level.
Then he stepped on campus. Callahan tried to redshirt him, but Beck was forced into action late in the season after Zac Taylor suffered a concussion. The wunderkind took the field, but what we actually saw was the first coming of Joe Bauserman. He threw balls into the stands, he underthrew and overthrew receivers. Couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, save for one pass for a first down to set up the game winning field goal. He missed the spring game, then disappeared early in fall practice his sophomore year. Resurfaced at North Carolina State where rode the pine much of his career before transferring to division 2 North Alabama.
Josh Freeman was the next Elite 11 quarterback to commit to Nebraska, but shortly after Beck burned his redshirt, Freeman texted Callahan to inform him that he wasn't coming to Lincoln, and not to call him again. He ended up at Kansas State. Blaine Gabbert promised Husker fans on the radio that he wouldn't pull a "Josh Freeman", then proceeded to do it anyway, signing with Missouri. Little brother Tyler Gabbert did likewise, signing with Missouri then transferring to Louisville briefly before finally ending up at Central Florida.
These are high school kids, and kids have a tendency to change their minds. You would hope that players would hold off on making a commitment until they are truly ready, but the pressure on kids to sign and make their commitment is immense. And these verbal commitments are nonbinding.
Stanton may finally be the one that signs, enrolls, and makes something big happen at Nebraska. But it's nearly seven more months until signing day, and a lot can change. It's good that Stanton wants to come to Nebraska; it's a strong statement to the doubters who think that Nebraska is falling short in their recruiting. But experience shows that until you actually see these players take the field in a Husker uniform (see Starling, Bubba), fans shouldn't get too worked up about commitments.