This is likely to be the last full update before national signing day Feb. 6. Lots of ground for Nebraska’s football coaches still to cover, and a key transfer to discuss.
In fact, let’s start there. Braylon Heard — a fast, athletic back who was fourth on the team in carries last year — will head to another school after this semester. A guy with almost-effortless burst and decent moves, Heard’s a guy who could have helped NU in a variety of ways in his last two years. The same could be said of Aaron Green, who transferred last spring. The more elite athletes you have, the better.
But neither, it seems, was going to beat out the all-around skills of Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah’s every bit the competitor that Rex Burkhead was, and isn’t going to give up his playing time easily. In my own hindsight, offensive coordinator Tim Beck and running backs coach Ron Brown could have managed the carries between the two speed backs better — after all, Abdullah was clearly worn down by the end of the regular season, and Heard outplayed him against Iowa and in the Big Ten Championship — but Imani Cross’ emergence as a power back also took some of Heard’s carries.
When a player sees himself as a feature back — and is, let’s face it, essentially a feature back at some programs — he’ll desire those opportunities. It’s that way at quarterback and running back more than any other position.
The silver lining for NU is this: Incoming freshmen Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor have a lot of high school carries under their belt and won’t hesitate to jump into the fray. Can true freshmen running backs serve as suitable backups and starters? Well, yes. They have at Nebraska. Lawrence Phillips in 1993. Ahman Green in 1995. DeAngelo Evans in 1996. Correll Buckhalter in 1997. David Horne in 2002. Brandon Jackson in 2004. Cody Glenn and Marlon Lucky in 2005. Quentin Castille and Roy Helu in 2007. Burkhead in 2009. Abdullah, Green and Heard in 2011. Cross in 2012.
(Notice that seven of those backs either left school early for the NFL or transferred.)
It’s happened a lot. Newby and Taylor can make it happen again.
On to the Update.
First, here’s where, right now, Nebraska’s recruiting rankings stand:
247Sports Composite: 21
ESPN: 23 (last updated Jan. 28)
Now to the prospects, listed with name, height/weight, position, town/school and top schools involved.
After each recruiting service’s designation (247: 247Sports; 247C: 247Sports Composite ranking; R: Rivals; S: Scout; E: ESPN), you’ll see numbers. Here’s the key for those: Star ranking/National ranking/Position Ranking.
An “NR” means they’re not ranked at this time. A bolded ranking denotes the prospect’s highest evaluation. An italicized ranking denotes the prospect’s lowest evaluation.
Maliek Collins, 6-2/285, DT, Kansas City (Center) Mo.: Nebraska
Collins, a key commit in the 2013 class, is still getting pursued by Missouri. Huskers Illustrated reports that Collins remains wholly committed to NU.
Dwayne Johnson, 6-6/275, OT, Bellaire (Texas): Nebraska, Arkansas
Nebraska’s top remaining offensive line target is down to the Huskers and the Hogs. Bo and Bielema. He’ll make a decision by the end of the week. NU sorely wants the kid in the fold.
Chongo Kondolo, 6-4/290, OG, Fresno (Calif.) City College: Tennessee, NU, FSU
Kondolo appears to be a heavy lean toward the Volunteers, and may have even committed to UT this week. But Kondolo hasn’t made it official.
Donald Gage, 6-0/180, WR, Zachary, La.: Houston, Nebraska
Just this week, Nebraska offered Gage — who’s been committed to Houston since April 2012 — and the slot receiver is considering the offer. He told Big Red Report that he’ll host coach Bo Pelini and defensive backs coach Terry Joseph for an in-home visit Thursday. After that, he’ll decide if he wants to take an official visit on Friday.
Gage said his father is a Nebraska fan.
“Oh yeah, he’s a Husker all the way,” Gage said to BRR. “I told him when I got the offer. I told him that I was talking with Bo Pelini and they offered. He was just giggling.”
Jaquille Veii, 5-10/175, CB/WR, Gaithersburg (Md.) The Avalon School: Maryland, Iowa, NU
Here’s another late athlete offer for NU. Veii doesn’t have a lot of star hype surrounding him, but his offer list — Maryland, Iowa, Pitt, BC, Purdue — isn’t bad. Veii looked to be an Iowa lean after a visit to the Hawkeyes last weekend, but now Nebraska’s angling its way into the conversation.
“Nebraska needs a cornerback and needs a receiver,” Veii told Huskers Illustrated. “I could play either side of the ball. I could also make a really early impact as a kick returner. Nebraska said they were looking at me as an athlete. I’d rather be a corner, but whatever they most need, I’d do.”
Veii told HI he’s been in contact with 2013 Husker commit and Gaithersburg native Marcus Newby. He told Husker Online that he’s mulling over a late visit to NU this weekend.
“My thoughts on Nebraska are it’s an amazing school, and they are as advertised,” he said to HO. “They’ve got a great fan base and they handle their business on the field. And from what I’ve heard from their coaches, they handle things pretty well academically. They are somewhere in the 90 percentile in graduation rate in the Big Ten.”
Drake Martinez, 6-2/200, WR/DB, Laguna Beach (Calif.): Nebraska, Michigan State, others
Remember Taylor’s younger brother? NU’s still in this hunt. Drake may take another visit — Rivals lists it as Vanderbilt — but the Spartans and Huskers are in a top group. MSU’s certainly seen what the oldest Martinez brother could do to them.