Mid-November: The State of Nebraska

Josh Banderas (Photo by: BRR)

Haven't been following Nebraska recruiting very closely this season? It's alright, Big Red Report has you covered.

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LINCOLN, Neb. - With the addition of four-star running back Adam Taylor over the weekend, the Nebraska Cornhuskers moved up to No. 22 in the FOX Sports NEXT team rankings. With 15 total commitments and ten more likely before National Signing Day, the Huskers have the foundation for a Top 15 to 20 recruiting class in 2013.

While Nebraska no longer has home game-day environments to impress potential recruits going forward, a total of 35 percent of Nebraska's recruiting class in 2012 visited after the Huskers' last home game – game day officials are nice, but recruits can be won over without them.

With 35 game day official visitors over the 2012 season, Nebraska hosted more visitors in their second year in the Big Ten compared to their first.

"I think the numbers were pretty good," said Nebraska recruiting coordinator Ross Els. "We had some really good weekends – Wisconsin and Michigan. It's dwindled down a lot, because a lot of guys still playing are in the playoffs. I think the number was pretty good."

With 56 official visitors allowed each year by Division I teams, Nebraska should have a few big visitor weekends going forward after the Big Ten Championship game and bowl game.

This could come in handy as many recruiting experts expect major recruiting turmoil in the next few months with multiple staffs possibly being shown the door.

"We were asked that in the summer. ‘Guys are making commitments earlier, are they going to decommit more?' I hope not," said Els. "I think when you are going to see them is when things start changing staff wise, obviously Tennessee, stuff like that. But when maybe they have had a bad year, I think then you could see guys really changing. But as long as a program did okay, I think most guys are glad to have the decision made.

"If a staff is let go, we will certainly look at those kids, because they committed to that University and that staff, so we will look there. But believe me, I have been in this too long to want to recruit over someone getting fired. It's the worse thing that can happen to a family. The head coach is fine, but it's the assistants, their families – the kids. When you have to go to your kids and say ‘come'on, let's go we are moving,' that's hard. I don't want that to happen to anybody, but when it does happen, yes we will look at the recruits, especially the ones we have previous relationships with."

So who are the stars?


The most common question Big Red Report has been asked over the last few weeks is who will be the cornerstone in the class?

It's a tough question to answer with ten spots still open in the class and multiple five-star/high four-star players considering the Huskers.

But as time goes on, indications point to Lincoln Southwest senior Josh Banderas being the Huskers' gem. The four-star linebacker racked up over 120 tackles this season and also ran for 1,200 yards as a running back. Much like linebacker Michael Rose the year before, Banderas has been a great recruiter for Nebraska, being a consistent face of the 2013 class at Nebraska home games. An Army All-American selection, Banderas really didn't consider any other schools, but still could be Nebraska's most important get in the class.

"Banderas' senior film I was really impressed with," said FOX Sports NEXT recruiting analyst Greg Powers. "He loves the Big Red, he's literally going to bleed for that team. He keeps the traditions alive there. There will be continued players that grow up in the backyard and want to be Huskers."

After Banderas many would point to Milton high school (WI) defensive end A.J. Natter as the Huskers' next big get.

Natter is the No. 1 player in the state of Wisconsin for the 2013 class and had a Badger offer, yet the Huskers were able to steal the senior away from his home state. A four-star prospect, the senior is currently rated the No. 13 defensive end in the country.

"An aggressive 6-foot-6, 230-pound athlete, he has the tools to compete early if need be," said FOX Sports NEXT national recruiting analyst Allen Trieu.

If Banderas and Natter are No. 1 and No. 2, California quarterback Johnny Stanton is a close No. 3 behind the pair.

Stanton led Santa Margarita to a state title in 2011 and things even looked better in 2012. The Husker commitment was coming off an Elite Eleven performance and tearing up the competition. But an ACL tear ended his season prematurely. At the time, the Ranchos were 5-0 and rated one of the top five teams in the country by FOX Sports NEXT, they finished 9-3 overall.

In the shortened season, Stanton completed 59-of-88 passes for 949 yards with 11 touchdowns, while rushing for 386 yards on 47 carries.

His presence means there will likely be a quarterback competition down the road, after Nebraska signed four-star prospect Tommy Armstrong at the position last year.

Position breakdown:

QUARTERBACKS
Need: 0

Departing Scholarship Players: None

Committed Players: Johnny Stanton

Pictured: Johnny Stanton: (four-star and No. 31 QB in the country)

Notable: I agree with FOX Sports Director of Scouting Scott Kennedy, I don't think Nebraska takes another quarterback in this class because of Stanton's current injury. The only reason I could see another quarterback taken is if Armstrong decided to leave the program or Stanton had a setback.
 

RUNNING BACKS
Need: 0 (But have flexability)

Departing Scholarship Players: Rex Burkhead

Committed Players: Adam Taylor (four-star and No. 31 RB in the country)

Pictured: Terrell Newby: (four-star and No. 24 RB in the country)

Notable: Nebraska scored a really solid running back in Adam Taylor over the weekend. But don't for a minute think they won't take California prospect Terrell Newby if the Chaminade College Prep back decided he wanted to be a Husker. According to a West Coast BRR source, Newby is leaning Nebraska, despite a much wanted UCLA offer. The Huskers were the first to jump into the mix, which has held a special place in his heart. He also definitely enjoyed his visit to Lincoln.

"Newby is a small back that runs big. He has track speed and can run away from most defenders in the open field, but he has better change of direction and shiftiness than most track stars," said Kennedy. "Despite his size, Newby isn't afraid to run between the tackles or initiate contact. A defense must defend the entire width of the field against him. He'll never be a power back, but he's tough and strong enough to keep a defense honest."


 

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT END
Need: 1 WR / 1 TE (flexibility at both positions)

Departing Scholarship Players: Steven Osborne, Kyler Reed, Tim Marlowe, Ben Cotton

Committed Players: WR.) Kevin Gladney and TE.) Greg Hart

Pictured: Demorea Stringfellow (four-star and No. 11 WR in the country)

Notable: At the tight end position, junior college four-star prospect Beau Sandland is the Huskers No. 1 target, but we continue to hear the highly-rated prospect won't be likely coming to Nebraska. If that happens, the Huskers could look to offer in-state tight end Casey Sayles. The Omaha North product is committed to Ohio, but has repeatedly said he would flip his commitment if Nebraska offered. Even if the Huskers landed Sandland, offering Sayles is not out of the question. The senior has versatility, also playing defensive line.

At wide receiver, Nebraska is hoping they can sway Demorea Stringfellow from his commitment to Washington. Stringfellow liked his visit to Lincoln and according to sources, is getting pressure from people close to his recruitment to switch.

"Stringfellow fits the mold of the big, physical receivers that are all the rage when the NFL Draft rolls around every year," said FOX Sports NEXT national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins. "When you have the size of Stringfellow, you're never covered because he can either outmuscle or out-leap a smaller defensive back. He has strong hands, catches the ball away from his body and even though he may not be a burner, he can run well enough."

Another player Nebraska could be interested in for wide receiver is Louisiana prospect Trevelll Dixon. Once committed, then decommited, and now interested again, Dixon left Lincoln this weekend on his official visit feeling he was best suited to play for Coach Fisher.

"Nebraska is one of my top choices," said Dixon. "I am going to visit Arizona State and maybe TCU or Houston. I don't have a list of favorites, but I know that there is a really good chance I go there (to Nebraska)."
 

OFFENSIVE LINE
Need: 3

Departing Scholarship Players: Brandon Thompson, Seung Hoon Choi, Justin Jackson

Committed Players: Dan Samuelson (four-star and No. 26 OT) and Zach Hannon (three-star and No. 51 offensive guard)

Pictured: David Knevel: (three-star and No. 95 OT in the country)

Notable: The position is young, but Nebraska didn't land a true offensive tackle in the 2012 class after missing out on Andrus Peat last year. Samuelson is a guy who looks versatile, but probably is best suited to play guard at the next level. Meaning Nebraska has to land an offensive tackle in the next couple of months. Knevel has visited twice and looks to have upside, but he's raw and is a couple years away.

Nebraska has hosted prospects like Christian Morris and Kenny Lacy throughout the year, but all seem Pac 12 bound.

Maybe the most interesting prospect on the position still left on the board is Fountain Valley HS (CA) offensive lineman J.D. Hinnant. Rated the No. 42 offensive tackle in the country, Hinnant was severely injured in a car wreck earlier this month. It's still not been reported if Hinnant will be ready to sign with a team before National Signing Day.

Other prospects include: Aaron Cochran.
 

DEFENSIVE END
Need: 0-1

Departing Scholarship Players: Joseph Carter, Eric Martin, and Cameron Meredith

Committed Players: A.J. Natter (four-star and No. 13 DE in the country) and Randy Gregory (three-star juco)

Pictured: A.J. Natter

Notable: Nebraska could look to take another player at the defensive end position, but don't have anyone dangling from the string at this point.
 

DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Need: 2-3

Departing Scholarship Players: Baker Steinkuhler

Committed Players:None

Pictured: Toby Johnson (four-star juco)

Notable: Nebraska has talented young defensive tackles in their system, but might need a stop gap next year, which explains why the Huskers have been hosting so many junior college products of the last few weeks.

One Big Red Report source says they would take all five juco DTs who have visited over the last two weeks, but we project three at the moment.

A prospect list includes: Quincy Russell, Lavon Hooks, Toby Johnson, Ben Bradley, and Kyle Peko.

Out of those, BRR feels best about Peko, who said his visit to Nebraska last week was a 10.

"I can definitely see myself fitting in," said the juco product. "I met with all of the defensive linemen and I was comfortable. They told me that I could come in, work hard and start. The scheme is what I am looking for when it comes to playing a three-technique."

Johnson, who Nebraska has been recruiting the longest, recently tore his ACL and will not be ready to play next season, but with a redshirt year, it's not something that has hindered the Huskers' interest in him.
 

LINEBACKERS
Need: 0

Departing Scholarship Players: Will Compton, Alonzo Whaley, Micah Kreikemeier, and possibly Sean Fisher

Committed Players:Banderas, Courtney Love and Marcus Newby

Pictured: Love (three-star and No. 31 OLB)

Notable: With three high-caliber linebackers committed, Nebraska is done at the position in 2013 class.

Banderas has already been discussed, but Courtney Love and Marcus Newby were also high-offer prospects. Nebraska beat out schools like: Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Penn State in the process of the two.

"Although it didn't appear Love had as good of a year as he did as a junior, there is still a lot to like about him," said FOX Sports NEXT Ohio recruiting analyst Bill Greene. "There were reports that he was not entire healthy his senior season, but you never heard a peep out of Love about it. First and foremost, Courtney Love is a physical football player, which is exactly what you expect from a Cardinal Mooney player. His strength would be moving forward, taking on a lead blocker at the point of attack, and attacking the ball-carrier. Love is a knock-down tackler, not a drag-down tackler, and runs through ball-carriers. He might benefit from a redshirt season at Nebraska, but he is reporting in January of 2013, so he will go through spring football."
 

SAFETY
Need: 1

Departing Scholarship Players: Courtney Osborne, P.J. Smith, Daimion Stafford, Justin Blatchford

Committed Players: Nathan Gerry (three-star and No. 73 safety in the country) and Marcus McWilson (four-star and No. 17 safety in the country)

Pictured: Drake Martinez (three-star and No. 83 in the country)

Notable: It appears there is room for one more player at the position, but Nebraska doesn't have too many fish they are chasing after at the moment. That could change over time, but the most likely to commit could be starting quarterback Taylor Martinez's little brother Drake.

Defensively in 2011, Martinez recorded 121 tackles and have five interceptions.

If they don't land another at the position, they would probably be okay, with Dixon having the versatility to also play in the secondary.

Marcus McWilson committed to Nebraska early in the process, not racking up some of the offers he could have, but is a high-caliber talent according to Greene.

"At 6-foot-1, 195-pounds, McWilson is an impressive athlete, combining speed and quickness with a physical style of play. He is the perfect safety, because he can drop into the box and help stop the running game, but has cornerback ability in defending in coverage," said Greene. "He has the frame to add 10-15 pounds, while keeping his speed, and should be a player that will be ready to play as a freshman at Nebraska. He also played on offense at Mooney, and served as their punter, showing off his athletic ability at both spots. Although his team did not fare well this season, Marcus more than lived up to expectations, and had a fine senior year.
 

CORNERBACK
Need: 2

Departing Scholarship Players: Antonio Bell (who already is no longer with the team)

Committed Players: Jonathan Cook (three-star and No. 43 CB in the country)

Pictured: Priest Willis (five-star and No. 3 in the country)

Notable: Nebraska might only have one departure this year at the position, but four leave next year at corner, meaning Nebraska will want more than one commitment in the 2013 class.

Five-star Priest Willis is at the top of the list, but it sounds like he could be headed to UCLA, despite just cutting his list to seven this week.

"Willis is a physical specimen. Has the size/speed combo to play major college football," said Biggins. "Currently plays corner where he shows tremendous tackling ability and has the size to manhandle receivers. But as he continues to grow, he could transition into a safety."

Other prospects include: Jeryl Brazil (LSU commitment), Dashon Hunt (visited), Boaz Joseph.
 


Maybe the biggest thing to remember is it's only November and new names can emerge. At this point last year, Nebraska fans hadn't even heard of a Georgia running back named Imani Cross.

The total number of commitments being around 15 at the moment was no accident by the staff. Big Red Report was told this summer by a source that the Huskers wanted to make sure they had scholarships late in the year, because the coaching staff anticipated possible late commitments because of a stellar season.

A Rose Bowl trip for Nebraska could definitely mean a late surge of momentum for the Huskers, especially on the west coast.

Josh Harvey has covered college football and recruiting for Fox Sports & Scout.com since 2008. He is now the Publisher of Big Red Report, covering Nebraska athletics.
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