LINCOLN, Neb. - With the addition of safety/athlete Trevell Dixon on National Signing Day, the Nebraska Cornhuskers signed 26 scholarship players in the 2013 class.
As of Wednesday night, Nebraska was No. 11 in the FOX Sports NEXT team recruiting rankings, with a lead sizeable enough they should not drop outside the Top 12.
So who are the stars?
The most common question Big Red Report has been asked over the last three months is who will be the cornerstone in the 2013 class?
As more and more time has gone on, it's become evident that it's hard to pick just one or two players to feature. California running back Terrell Newby is the highest ranked prospect, while local four-star linebacker Josh Banderas is an All-American.
Wisconsin defensive end A.J. Natter finished his state's No. 1 player, while Nebraska will have multiple junior college products who could see the field early and play for three seasons.
Listed below is a complete breakdown of the 2013 class.
Departing Scholarship Players: None
Signed Johnny Stanton
Pictured: Johnny Stanton: (four-star and No. 31 QB in the country)
Notable: It does seem a little weird to not lose anyone to graduation and still have a need. When the 2013 season started there were three scholarship players at the position; Taylor Martinez, Brion Carnes and Tommy Armstrong. During the 2013 season Carnes moved to wide receiver creating the need to add a third scholarship player and Nebraska did so by bringing in a four-star, Elite 11 quarterback in Stanton.
A knee ligament tear is always a scary thing, but Nebraska can take it slow with Stanton over the next 12 months with Martinez back for one more year. Stanton and Armstrong could provide great drama in the spring of 2014, as both will look to take the starting job.
Departing Scholarship Players: Rex Burkhead
Signed: Adam Taylor and Terrell Newby
Pictured: Newby (four-star and No. 17 RB in the country)
Notable: Graduation is the only kryptonite that was going to truly stop Nebraska's Superman, Rex Burkhead from coming back. Ameer Abdullah was called into a huge role this season when Burkhead lost time to a knee injury and showed that he took a huge step forward. But, without a Burkhead coming back and the third string running back now gone because of transfer the new kids in the stable, Newby and Taylor, will likely see playing time immediately in Lincoln.
Nebraska fans gush over sophomore wide receiver Jamal Turner's ability to make plays with the ball in his hands – Newby is even a bigger home run threat. He's not going to carry a defensive end and linebacker downfield on his back, but he's not afraid of contact and has the speed to run away from anyone. The Husker coaching staff will find a way to get him on the field next year.
"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."
All Taylor did was rush for 44 touchdowns in 2012, helping Katy win the Class 5A State Title in Texas, earning National Champion runner-up.
Unlike his quick counterpart, Taylor prefers to run over people.
"He's a downhill very physical runner. He's the type of guy who's running the same on his 30th carry compared to his first carry," said Katy head coach Gary Joseph. "He's got a punishing style that really wears on people. He's a throwback to the old Nebraska I-back days. That is what fans should expect from him.
"He will be a great short yardage guy, but has the ability to beak the long ones as well. He had several for us this year. I think they are getting a quality character kid he's going to do the right things on and off the field. He's going to will his teammates to win."
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT END
1-2 WR and 2 TEs
Departing Scholarship Players: Tim Marlowe (WR), Steven Osborne (WR), Ben Cotton (TE), Conor McDermott (TE) and Kyler Reed (TE)
Signed: Kevin Gladney (WR), Cethan Carter (TE) and Greg Hart (TE)
Pictured: Hart (No. 32 TE in the country)
Notable: Nebraska lost a couple of blue collar players at the receiver position in Marlow and Osborne, but not a lot of production. Gladney isn't a burner, but he's solid all the way around. Good size, good hands, good route-runner and gives Nebraska that possession guy they didn't have.
At tight end, it's a different story. Nebraska had to replace their top two receiving targets. The coaching staff originally set out to get one high school and one junior college prospect. Nebraska missed on their top junior college target and elected to go after a second high school target. The need to find 42 receptions between both Reed and Cotton may not shift to either of the new prospects, but might default to the existing members of the team. I could see Nebraska supplementing this spot too by possibly moving a player to this position as well as requiring Sam Cotton to really get ready.
Departing Scholarship Players: Sueng Hoon Choi, Justin Jackson, Brandon Thompson and Nick Ash
SignedMatt Finnin (OT), David Knevel (OT), Chongo Kondolo (OG), Dwayne Johnson (OT/OG) and Zach Hannon (OG/C)
Pictured: Finnin (four-star JUCO)
Notable: Whether it was caused by injury, the game plan, or how someone had been practicing, Nebraska moved offensive lineman around week to week during the 2012 season.
It was a unit that needed to play more consistently as well as develop depth. Nebraska loses two starters and a couple of reserves with limited experience. The Huskers needed to get bigger at the tackle position, but more athletic. Nebraska also had to get physical all the way along the line. Nebraska gets players in Finnin and Kondolo that should be in the two deep rotation immediately and players like Knevel, Johnson and Hannon to really mold. Good group of players; good balance of immediate contributors and developers. Nebraska did a great job of taking a class that was down to just two offensive line commitments on Jan. 12 and finished with five in the class.
Departing Scholarship Players: Joe Carter, Eric Martin and Cameron Meredith
Signed: A.J. Natter, Randy Gregory, Dimarya Mixon and Ernest Suttles
Pictured: Natter (four-star and No. 19 DE in the country)
Notable: Nebraska lost three defensive ends to graduation and outside of returning senior Jason Ankrah, there isn't much experience. There is some word that Ankrah might be moving inside to defensive tackle as well. Nebraska really needed to stockpile talent with this class as well as get players that could come in and immediately produce. Gregory is the immediate contributor while a player like Natter could be the most physically ready to go of the high school defensive ends. Like the offensive line, the defensive ends have good balance of contributors and developers. Lots of potential here as well as instant impact.
"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 of A.J. Natter.
Departing Scholarship Players: Baker Steinkuhler and Chase Rome (transfer)
Signed: Kevin Maurice and Maliek Collins
Pictured: Collins (four-star and No. 22 DT in the country)
Notable: When Steinkuhler went down to injury last year, a hole in the depth chart was exposed partly because of additional injuries. The hole was also partly because the position behind Steinkuhler and Rome were just young and inexperienced. Nebraska needed to find at least one junior college defensive tackle. The coaching staff had a lot of offers extended to JC guys and missed on all of them. Nebraska, like at tight end, improvised and went out and got a couple of real square bodied, strong prospects. The question is can either of them be ready next year? Because of the lack of experience might be one of the big reasons why Ankrah's names has been thrown around to moving inside some. I like the two players, but as far as the actual "need" there is a bit of a miss here.
Departing Scholarship Players: Will Compton, Alonzo Whaley, Micah Kreikemeier, and Sean Fisher
Signed: Josh Banderas (ILB/OLB), Marcus Newby (OLB) and Courtney Love (ILB)
Pictured: Love (three-star MLB)
Notable: Nebraska loses all three of their starting linebackers from last year and really only returns David Santos and Trevor Roach that have any experience. The recruiting class in 2012 was talented and the 2013 class is as well. Nebraska needs help at all three spots as well as upgrading the overall athleticism at the positions and they did a very good job doing so.
Newby is a player that looks like a natural fit at WILL, Love looks like he will probably be the MIKE and Banderas actually could play all three of the linebacker spots. Nebraska is going to be young at linebacker next year, that's for sure, but all of the spots will be young and talented.
"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 reported in January, so he will go through spring football."
Departing Scholarship Players: Courtney Osborne (S), P.J. Smith (S) and Damian Stafford (S), Justin Blatchford (DB)
Signed: D.J. Singleton (S), Drake Martinez (S), Nathan Gerry (S), Trevell Dixon (S) and Boaz Joseph (CB)
Pictured: Martinez (three-star and No. 62 S in the country)
Notable: Like at defensive end, Nebraska loses their three top safeties. Nebraska needs to get more physical, athletic and consistent at both of the safety spots. Another consideration for this class might have been to find another player like Eric Hagg to play the PESO spot. At cornerback, the Huskers don't lose anyone to graduation, but one of the most promising cornerbacks in Charles Jackson is supposedly moving to the safety spot. Nebraska has liked the longer and more physical corners which they got in Joseph, but they really needed a compliment to him.
One forgotten piece here was the transfer of Jonathan Rose (Auburn) and his addition to the cornerback position. Rose could be a starter at corner next year. I would have liked to see another body at corner in the class considering the group of seniors next year in Andrew Green, Jean Stanley-Baptiste and Mohammed Seisay.
Overall, this is a class that is highly talented. Nebraska addressed nearly all of their needs, addressed a need for depth and did a great job of keeping in mind the need to upgrade team speed and athleticism.
Departing Scholarship Players: Brett Maher (P/PK) and P.J. Mangieri (LS)
Signed: Gabriel Miller (LS)
Pictured: Miller (No. 2 LS in the country)
Notable: Mangieri was an unsung hero for Nebraska. How many times over the past four years did he have a bad snap? I can't remember one. That's how good Mangieri was. Miller is rated the No. 2 long-snapper in the nation and Nebraska will probably have the luxury of putting Miller right where Mangieri was an forget about the position again. The Huskers lose a valuable weapon in Maher, but still has Mauro Bondi on the roster and added a walk-on kicker to help compete at the kicker spot.
Nebraska's biggest misses were a junior college defensive tackle (or two), a junior college tight end and another cornerback. Nebraska got a very good quarterback, pair of running backs, solid receiver and tight ends as well as the quality and quantity of lineman on both sides of the ball, the linebackers and safety spots. Good enough for a No. 11 class in the FOX Sports NEXT ranking and a very good grade.
Overall Grade: A-