Published Friday, May 17, 2013 AT 12:02 PM / Updated at 1:38 PM
Big, Fat Recruiting Update, May 17
Sam McKewon Omaha World-Herald

Time for another big, fat recruiting update!

But first, a few thoughts about Nebraska’s recruiting strategy, and comments NU recruiting coordinator Ross Els made to ESPN about the lack of early commits to the Huskers. The comments that had many of Nebraska’s most ardent recruitniks clicking the “send” button on message boards.

First, the key comment Els made, comparing Nebraska to Ohio State and Michigan’s ability to get early commits:

“You can’t compare us to Ohio State and Michigan and Notre Dame. We will not fill up that quickly. If we’re filling up that quickly, it’s either because we just won the national championship and everybody wants to play for us, or we might be not very selective in who we’re taking. We don’t throw offers out there just to throw ‘em out there.”

First, Nebraska’s offering more players this year than it has in any other year under Bo Pelini. There’s a strategy behind that, I think, and I’ll discuss in a minute. It doesn’t mean Nebraska’s “throwing” offers out there.

Second, while Nebraska’s second commit for the class, Jason Hall, is a relatively low-ranked player in Texas, he’s a late-bloomer still gaining weight, and he fits well with what Nebraska wants in a nickel corner. Hall’s rating will improve with the more offers he gets. And he will get more.

Third, Els has brought more clarity and organization to Nebraska’s recruiting process than other recruiting coordinators under Pelini. He did not rush or panic to hire giant recruiting staffs for NCAA rules changes that never made it past April. He created good Junior Day tentpoles in the winter and the summer with Big Red Weekend. Just months after the best class of Pelini’s tenure, it’s wildly premature to suggest the Huskers are lagging or lacking.

But there are times when Nebraska’s staff – with occasional encouragement from some local media – dwells too much on its limitations and not nearly enough on its considerable advantages. Even accounting for a decade of mediocre football, NU’s recruiting rankings tower over the rest of the Big Ten West. Here are the average Rivals recruiting rankings for the last 11 classes, 2003-2013:

Nebraska 25
Iowa 42.9
Illinois 43.8
Wisconsin 48.2
Purdue 52
Minnesota 53
Northwestern 66.3 (ten-class average, 2004 not available)

That gap between Nebraska and the rest of its division is larger than the gap between the Huskers and Ohio State (13.2) and Michigan (11.5). And that average takes into account the 2003 and 2004 classes, which finished 42nd and 58th in the Rivals rankings. NU’s average class rank over the last nine years is 19.4.

None of the programs in states surrounding Nebraska, historically, are fit to carry NU’s water. Is that arrogant? Probably. It’s also true. The Huskers are the Boston Red Sox of the Midwest. Have been for 50 years. And that’s how the coaching staff has to sell it. With that much swagger. More, even.

Unless it wants to troll with Minnesota and Purdue for every third-tier flyer down south, Nebraska will lose more recruiting battles than it wins in SEC country. But the SEC can’t win in the Huskers’ wheelhouse.

That means winning battles this year for Hiawatha, Kan., defensive tackle Peyton Newell (who likes South Carolina) and Kansas City-area players Monte Harrison and Jimmie Swain. It means knifing into Iowa’s near-monopoly on the best prospects in Iowa. And it means continuing to win on Nate Gerry, the South Dakota freak athlete who signed with Nebraska and would be a high four-star – on speed and measurables alone – if he played in Texas.

Now – back to the offering strategy. What do so many offers – especially in Florida, Texas and now Arizona – mean? That NU’s dropping its fish traps all over the lake, so to speak, to see where the kids are biting.

A number of these athletes already have impressive offer lists. They’re not going to swoon at a Nebraska offer, commit immediately, and load up NU’s relatively small class (15-20 signees, for now) before the Huskers want that. I know what Els means about “wanting to be done” and it’s this: Nebraska wants to be done when it has what it considers a top class. Not when the numbers fill up.

So you see a bevy of recruiting updates out there reporting this offer and that offer, and you can bet NU coaches – who can’t visit much with these players in person during school evaluations – want those updates, and want to see which players have warmed to a potential visit to Nebraska.

Folks have asked me in email whether Nebraska’s off to a bad start in the 2014 cycle. I’m neutral on the answer. Once it became clear – based on Els comments to me and others in the spring – that NU coaches were going to evaluate hard in the spring, the chances of accumulating a ton of commits early went down.

But it puts more pressure on the summer and fall months for the Huskers to get the players they evaluated on campus for official visits. And it puts a greater onus on winning the local battles for players who have already been here.

On with the update.

The prospects are listed with name, height/weight, position, city (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.

Enjoy!

* * *

Demornay Pierson-El, 5-9/175, ATH, Washington D.C. Area (West Potomac): NU, Boston College, UNC, Marshall

247: 3/NR/104

247C: 3/NR/94

ESPN: NR/NR/NR

Rivals: 3/NR/49

Scout: NR/NR/NR

This might be an example of Nebraska’s scouting. Pierson-El has a modest rating and modest offers, but NU apparently likes what it sees from him as a return specialist/all-purpose player. According to Husker Online, he’ll be there for Big Red Weekend.

* * *

Marvin Stewart, 6-0/185, CB, Washington D.C. Area (Yorktown): NU, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, West Virginia

247: NR/NR/NR

247C: NR/NR/NR

ESPN: NR/NR/NR

Rivals: 3/NR/37

Scout: NR/NR/NR

Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis doing more work near the nation’s capital, which will be getting a big dose of Big Ten football when Maryland joins the league.

“I might go to Nebraska with my friend Demornay Pierson-El,” Stewart told Rivals.

* * *

Alin Edouard, 6-1/185, QB, Hialeah (Fla.): Miami, Louisville, NU, Vanderbilt

247: 4/NR/11

247C: 3/390/11

ESPN: 4/NR/9

Rivals: 3/NR/16

Scout: 3/NR/51

The Miami commit appears still open to overtures from other schools. Nebraska and Louisville have filled the vacuum. Edouard told Huskers Illustrated that he knows current Husker corner Stanley Jean-Baptiste.

* * *

Chavas Rawlins, 6-4/190, QB, West Virginia transfer: Open

247: 3/NR/21

247C: 3/776/23

ESPN: 3/NR/33

Rivals: 3/NR/20

Scout: 3/NR/54

Nebraska offered this quarterback last May; shortly after that, he committed to West Virginia and enrolled early. But the assistant he committed to went to Texas A&M, so Rawlins announced his transfer Friday. His high school coach says Rawlins options are “open.” More of a runner than a polished passer, Rawlins might be an intriguing pick-up for some school. He has the height to be a pretty QB or WR. I suppose Rawlins loses a year, but it’d simply be his redshirt season anyway.

* * *

Tony James, 5-9/170, ATH, Gainesville (Fla.): Florida, Ohio State, Kentucky, Ole Miss, NU, Oregon

247: 3/NR/15

247: 3/328/7

ESPN: 4/NR/11

Rivals: 4/152/2

Scout: 3/NR/41

So it ought to be a slam dunk that a kid just miles from The Swamp would head there with an offer in hand. But James doesn’t necessarily fit whatever offense the Gators are trying to build (In two years, it’s stunk), so top spread offenses like Nebraska, Oregon and Ohio State are in the mix. Tim Beck is leading the recruitment of James and wide receiver teammate Kenric Young, who doesn’t have a Florida offer.

“Nebraska, Oregon, Ohio State, Ole Miss and Kentucky,” James told Husker Online of his top five. “They all have a spread offense, a speed offense, and they’re all recruiting me for running back/slot receiver.”

“The style of offense that Nebraska runs … is very similar and I was like ‘Ok, now they’re talking,’” James told Huskers Illustrated of comparing NU and the Ducks. “I think that’s where I fit, in that kind of offense. I’ve got speed, agility, toughness and vision.”

* * *

Alex Dalton, 6-4/280, OL, Troy (Ohio): Oklahoma

247: NR/NR/NR

247: NR/NR/NR

ESPN: NR/NR/NR

Rivals: NR/NR/NR

Scout: NR/NR/NR

After expressing interest in visiting Nebraska, this unranked Big Ten-area linemen pulled the trigger for the Big 12 and the Sooners Friday.

* * *

Bubba Starling, 6-4/180, QB, Gardner (Kan.): Kansas City Royals (baseball)

ESPN: 4/115/7

Rivals: 4/119/6

Scout: 4/NR/10

The former Husker quarterback recruit-turned-poor-minor-league-hitter is getting LASIK eye surgery to improve his night vision.

On 810 WHB in Kansas City this week, “The Program” host Soren Petro cited sources that said if Starling wanted his full signing bonus, he’d have to commit three years to playing pro baseball. He’s in the midst of year two.

* * *

Brandon Harris, 6-3/190, QB, Bossier City (La.): LSU, A&M, Bama, Baylor

247: 4/240/4

247C: 4/329/9

ESPN: NR/NR/NR

Rivals: 3/NR/11

Scout: 3/NR/23

One of NU’s top QB targets now has offers from Alabama, Auburn and LSU, and Nebraska is not in his top 7. Ohio State is, though.

About Sam McKewon

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him at sam.mckewon@owh.com. And follow him on Twitter at @swmckewonOWH. And call him at 402.219.3790.