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Nebraska Football: What The Heck Happened To The 2021 Recruiting Class?

This class looked good on paper, but it’s looking like an abject failure only two years later.

Nebraska v Wisconsin Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

No frills, I’m just gonna list the players in this class from QB to safety.

  • Heinrich Haarberg
  • Gabe Ervin
  • Latrell Neville
  • Shawn Hardy
  • Kamonte Grimes
  • Thomas Fidone
  • AJ Rollins
  • James Carnie
  • Teddy Prochazka
  • Branson Yager
  • Henry Lutovsky
  • Jailen Weaver
  • Ru’Quan Buckley
  • Mikai Gbayor
  • Wynden Ho’ohuli
  • Randolph Kpai
  • Seth Malcom
  • Marques Buford
  • Malik Williams
  • Koby Bretz

Nebraska signed 20 high school prospects in 2021. Eight of them are already gone. One of them never even showed up (Branson Yager.) Of the remaining 11, only seven have ever played in a game (Ervin, Rollins, Prochazka, Lutovsky, Buckley, Buford, Bretz) and of those players, only four of them have started a game (Ervin, Prochazka, Lutovsky, Buford). What gives here?

#1: production

When it comes to recruiting football players, I always prefer the players that produce more than the players that have the potential to produce. Guys like Latrell Neville and Kamonte Grimes barely produced in high school & were coveted by teams for their physical traits. Yeah a guy is 6’3” with a 4.4 40, but does he DOMINATE the competition with all that size and athleticism? Yeah, the defensive end is 6’5” 230 with a 7 foot wingspan, but has he consistently put up double digit sacks against the physically inferior high school offensive lines? I’m a big production guy, and it’s a key performance indicator I look for when analyzing high school recruits.

Shawn Hardy

#2: Using The Portal Correctly

In the 2021 class, our portal commits were, as follows,

  • Tyreke Johnson
  • Markese Stepp
  • Samori Toure
  • Chris Kolarevic
  • Oliver Martin

Samori Toure was an excellent one year rental. I wish him all the success in the NFL. Chris Kolarevic was a great rotational LB and secured our biggest win of the last 5 years with his game-clinching pick against those scoundrels across the Missouri.

And then....yeah. You get my point. In the modern college football era, we have to attack the transfer portal with a calculated approach, taking players that we know can make a difference here. Martin, Stepp and Johnson barely played at their previous schools, what should we have expected?

#3: Development

Facts are facts. When you look at our best players during the Scott Frost era, you see Adrian Martinez, then a laundry list of Mike Riley recruits. MayBEe DatZ Y fROSt wUZ a FaylyOor ? Players need to get big & strong in the weight room, then tutored on the finer points of their position & learn how to execute properly. That hasn’t happened at Nebraska in 10 years. Matt Rhule has a penchant for player development, so if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it should be a football player-developing duck.

Some of these players, namely Ervin, Fidone, Prochazka & Buford, have suffered serious injuries so I can’t call them misses yet, and all four players figure to be prominent pieces on our chess board. Besides those three, this class is looking uglier than Tyrone Hill. There is no doubt in my mind that things will get better moving forward. We have anecdotal evidence from Temple & Baylor to assure us of this. Keep the faith.

Go Big Red!