Published Wednesday, January 30, 2013 AT 1:26 PM / Updated at 2:08 PM
Mad Chatter, Jan. 30
Dirk Chatelain Omaha World-Herald

I typically don’t cite recruiting rankings in making an argument. The idea of ordering the top 250 players in the country, for instance, seems preposterous when they play different positions in different systems and never set foot on the same field. Besides, who knows what a 17-year-old will play like when he’s 21?

But one thing the recruiting services do really well is highlight the most popular girl at the party. They know who LSU and Alabama and Oregon want. And typically, their rankings reflect it.

Under Bo Pelini, these are Nebraska’s high school recruits who earned four or five stars from Rivals or Scout:

‘08:
Baker Steinkuhler
Will Compton
David Whitmore (didn’t qualify)
Josh Williams (transfer)

‘09:
Jason Ankrah
Rex Burkhead
Cody Green (transfer)
Dijon Washington (transfer)
Chris Williams (transfer)

’10:
Brion Carnes
Corey Cooper
* Braylon Heard (transfer)
Harvey Jackson
Mike Moudy
Andrew Rodriguez
Chase Rome

’11:
Aaron Green (transfer)
Charles Jackson
Ryan Klachko (transfer)
Tyler Moore (transfer)
Todd Peat (transfer)
Ryne Reeves
David Santos
Bubba Starling (baseball)
Zach Sterup
Jamal Turner

’12:
Tommy Armstrong
Greg McMullen
Alonzo Moore
Paul Thurston
Jordan Westerkamp

* Since Heard didn’t show up until January ’11, you could make an argument he should be part of the ’11 class, which is quickly becoming a disappointment.

Just because a recruit has four stars next to his name doesn’t mean he’s bound for stardom. Anyone with knowledge of recruiting will tell you that. There’s always more busts than standouts. But it’s alarming how many of those prospects either didn’t pan out or defected.

Look especially at those ’10 and ’11 classes. Who among those 17 players will be all-conference candidates in 2013? There aren’t many.

Now, Nebraska has developed a few prospects who weren’t blue chips. Kenny Bell. Quincy Enunwa. Ciante Evans. Ameer Abdullah. Coaches deserve credit for that. And this isn’t your daddy’s recruiting world — four-star kids would rather hit “reset” on their careers than wait three years to play.

But it’s still concerning to continually watch high-ceiling prospects — the guys Urban Meyer might recruit — walk out the door.

>> Without knowing exactly what Nebraska coaches said to Heard about changing positions, be careful about scolding anybody. But if indeed they only asked him to take some snaps at receiver — in addition to his running back duties — then it illustrates how upset Heard was by his role the past two years. It must have been the last straw.

Heard occasionally looked like the best back on Nebraska’s roster last year. He averaged 6.7 yards per carry — and that’s without busting any long ones. Could he have risen to No. 1 in 2013? Of course. If Tim Beck and Ron Brown suggested otherwise, they were selling the kid short.

My guess is they weren’t trying to pave the way for Terrell Newby, they were merely trying to add another wrinkle to the offense. But coming off two frustrating seasons, I understand why Heard took it as a sign of disrespect.

Where does it leave NU? Hard to say. If Abdullah stays healthy and either Newby or Adam Taylor can make an early impact, then the Huskers will be fine. But they’re one Abdullah hamstring from a bad situation.

>> There’s so many stories this week from Super Bowl week. Here’s one of the best — a profile on Ed Reed. I was talking to a friend last week about Reed and the famous 2001 Miami national championship team. (Had Nebraska beaten Wisconsin in Indy, I intended to write a story leading up to the Rose Bowl about those Hurricanes).

We started rattling off the starters: Clinton Portis, Andre Johnson, Jeremy Shockey, Najeh Davenport, Bryant McKinnie, Jonathan Vilma, William Joseph, D.J. Williams, Philip Buchanon and, of course, Reed.

The most amazing part of that Miami team, though, was the freshman class, only some of whom played against Nebraska. How ‘bout these names: Willis McGahee, Frank Gore, Kellen Winslow, Roscoe Parrish, Sean Taylor, Antrel Rolle, Rocky McIntosh, Vince Wilfork. All were freshmen! Has there ever been a better recruiting class?

Most losses, Nebraska fans walk away muttering, “We shoulda won, we shoulda won.” I’ve never heard anyone said that about the ’02 BCS title game.

>> Thursday morning at 9 a.m., on the 10th tee at the TPC of Scottsdale, John Hurley will hit his first PGA Tour shot of the ’13 season. I imagine it’ll go about 350 yards (a little farther if it’s playing downwind).

Hurley, an O’Neill native, shot 68 Monday in a local qualifier and gained entrance to the Phoenix Open, his second career PGA event — he missed the cut at last year’s John Deere Classic. Scottsdale traditionally attracts the biggest crowds on tour — especially at the par-3 16th. If Long John can stick around for the weekend, he could make a name for himself.

>> Speaking of small-town Nebraskans who made it big, Curt Tomasevicz won another world championship last weekend, this time in the mixed team event. One of his teammates: Lolo Jones. Tomasevicz, who won an Olympic gold medal in four-man bobsled in 2010, will go for another next year in Russia.

>> Three years ago, I went to Park City, Utah, to write a profile of Tomasevicz. And guess who was there to speak to the bobsledders? John Harbaugh. The Ravens coach, accompanied by his offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, rode the sled down the track with Tomasevicz’s team. I still remember the look of amazement on his face at the bottom.

I didn’t talk to Harbaugh very long that day, but we did shoot the breeze about a superhuman defensive tackle about to enter the NFL Draft. Now Ndamukong Suh is jumping into swimming pools to save 80s comedians. Three years feels like a long time.

>> If only Nebraska had Nerlens Noel last night at Minnesota…maybe the Huskers wouldn’t have given up 27 dunks. I don’t want to know what that score would’ve been had Ray Gallegos not channeled his inner Ray Allen.

>> A blogger’s breakdown of what happened to five-star high school quarterbacks the past 10 years.

>> It’s not a good day to be a Southern Mississippi tennis player. Sounds like something out of “Blue Chips.”

>> Tom Junod’s brilliant Esquire story on NFL injuries from the players’ point of view.

>> Big Ten athletic directors are finally getting smart about dividing the conference geographically.

>> Novak Djokovic was the star in Australia. But tennis badly needs Rafa back, says this Grantland writer.

>> Finally, Facebook does a little investigative journalism, finding what parts of the country root for which NFL teams. It’s pretty cool (though a little disturbing how many counties prioritize the Cowboys). When it comes to affection, Nebraska is perhaps the most diverse state in the country.

The Broncos, Packers, Vikings, Steelers, Cowboys, Chiefs, Lions and Rams are No. 1 in at least one Nebraska county. You know who’s not? The Redskins. We got work to do, Robert.

About Dirk Chatelain

Dirk Chatelain is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and general assignments. You can follow Dirk on Twitter (@dirkchatelain) or email him at dchatelain@owh.com