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February 2, 2012As I start to size up the 2012 recruiting year for Nebraska, the one thing that comes to my mind is it was a lot like the 2011 season on the football field for the Huskers.
2011 had some great moments and some quality wins, but at the end of the day it was a 9-4 season with some major missed opportunities.
The 2012 Husker signing class for Nebraska almost had the same feel. There were some great moments like snagging Greg McMullen early from Ohio State, getting junior college cornerback Mohammed Seisay and convincing wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp not to switch to Notre Dame.
However, there were also some missed opportunities where the Huskers felt like they had some momentum on top targets, but just couldn't close.
They were very close to landing players like offensive lineman Andrus Peat, tight end Brent Wilkerson, linebacker Quanzell Lambert, athlete Devin Fuller, offensive lineman Evan Goodman and safety Jordan Diggs, but game up empty.
Just like on the field this past year the Huskers won some good battles in recruiting, but lost some very important ones.
You do have to commend defensive coordinator John Papuchis for the job he did as recruiting coordinator. Papuchis had an aggressive approach that brought 17 four-star and two five-star prospects on campus for official visits.
Instead of settling for "filler guys," Papuchis's strategy focused on getting the best. I think we've seen NU gradually change to this philosophy after a different approach with their 2009 and 2010 recruiting classes.
It's amazing what Peat's commitment would've meant to this class in terms of perception. Instead of talking about a disappointing finish, we'd all be talking about how this was Pelini's best recruiting class in four years.
It's still a darn good class, ranked third in the Big Ten and 25th overall. The only thing missing was that one or two names like Peat that could've pushed this class into the top 15. The same could be said about this past season. It was a darn good year, but the only thing missing was a signature win over Wisconsin, Michigan or South Carolina.
QB depth building back up
It was interesting listening to offensive coordinator Tim Beck talk at the Omaha Metro Coaches meeting earlier this week.
Beck said because of NU's lack of quarterback depth, they really had to be cautious with how they used quarterback Taylor Martinez in 2011.
Plain and simple Beck said they couldn't afford to let Martinez suffer an injury, because the other quarterbacks in the program weren't ready to step up. I think that makes more sense now when you watched Martinez this year, because he didn't seem to run near as much as last year and he slid or ran out of bounds more often than not.
Going forward Nebraska has to build the depth back up at quarterback, and with Tommy Armstrong and Brion Carnes now in the program they are heading in the right direction. I also really like walk-ons and Tyson Broekemeier and Ryker Fyfe. I think at least one of them will battle hard for playing time before their careers are all said and done.
My take on Peat
I think a couple of things factored in to Peat picking Stanford over Nebraska. First and foremost Stanford is an unbelievable academic institution valued at over $55,000 per year.
Secondly, I think Peat looked at both programs and realized that the Cardinal offered him the best opportunity to get ready for the NFL.
Nebraska has never been known for producing NFL tackles, but more a guard/center producing program. (Yes Zach Wiegert and Carl Nicks played tackle at Nebraska, but both players ended up being guards in the NFL.)
If Peat would've picked the Big Red, he arguably would've been the highest profile offensive lineman in recent history to come to Nebraska.
I can tell you it was a hard decision, as Peat told HuskerOnline.com he didn't make up his mind until an hour before signing. Peat was the only recruit that announced on ESPN who didn't give the network notice of his decision the night before. The decision was so hard for Peat that he didn't even phone his brother Todd Peat or the Husker coaching staff on Wednesday before making his announcement.
The new Texas and Oklahoma
When Nebraska was in the Big 12 it was Oklahoma and Texas that dominated the recruiting rankings each year.
With their first full-year in the Big Ten, it looks like Ohio State and Michigan will become the new Oklahoma and Texas in pulling in top 10 classes each year.
It's very impressive what Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke did this year pulling in top 10 classes. The Huskers were the only other Big Ten team ranked in the top 25. Purdue was the next team in the rankings at No. 35.
In-state: By the numbers
In terms of Division I scholarship talent, it was another down year for the state of Nebraska. Just four players signed Division I-A scholarships, which is unofficially the lowest number in modern day history for Nebraska. Over the last four years alone only 26 players have signed D-I in the state, compared to 45 from 2002 to 2005.
Of Pelini's four full recruiting classes at NU, in-state recruiting has been in a downward cycle. In my opinion it all starts with Omaha.
Pelini has signed just two players from the Omaha-Metro since the class of 2009 - Millard South's Bronson Marsh and Omaha Gross Catholic's C.J. Zimmerer.
Traditional Husker hot beds like Millard North and Omaha Central have not been as kind to Nebraska like they were in the 80's, 90's and early 2000's. Millard North has produced just two Husker signees since 2002, while Central has had just one NU signee since 2005. Nebraska could always count on these two schools for a handful of players, particular Omaha Central.
For whatever reason the landscape of Omaha high school football has changed, hopefully it can find its way back to producing five to six quality Division I players per year.
Sean Callahan can be reached at email@example.com and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.