Published Monday, July 8, 2013 AT 12:30 PM / Updated at 8:31 PM
Recruiting: Losin’ that lovin’ feeling, Part 1
Sam McKewon Omaha World-Herald

So Nebraska had its first decommit of the 2014 recruiting class in Grand Prairie (Texas) defensive back Jason Hall. Such is the recruiting game. It probably won’t be the last decommit NU has in this class. And that’s no knock on the Huskers. That’s how the business works today. Nebraska will likely benefit from one or more decommits from other teams in this class. That’s no knock on the teams those players leave. That’s how the business works today.

NU had five decommits last year, and a sixth player (Antoine Miles) committed without some of the Husker coaches knowing who he was. He promptly parted ways with Nebraska. Again, nature of the business.

Why is it that way? Because programs have accelerated their recruiting process and want to fill up classes quickly, which means kids are made to know that the offer in their hand might be burning up as they chat over Facebook. The nightmare scenario is what happened to Louisiana Tech’s football program last year: Instead of scooping up an Independence Bowl bid right in front of him, Tech AD Bruce Van De Velde held out for the Liberty Bowl, a spot lost once Northern Illinois made the BCS, triggering a chain reaction that ended with Iowa State playing Tulsa in an awful Liberty Bowl rematch while Louisiana Tech stayed home. Van De Velde stepped down as AD two weeks ago.

No recruit wants to be left without a chair when the music stops. And schools often play on the fear and uncertainty of a 17-year-old. I just don’t know how many more spots we have in the class Devon/Billy/Thomas/Reggie. We’re looking at four guys for one scholarship, and I’m calling you. It’s an advertising pitch, essentially, advanced telemarketing, and darn right coaches use it. They use it if they want to keep their jobs. It’s much easier to work the “word as bond” angle once the kid commits rather than the “I thought we had an understanding” angle if he balks.

So kids commit. Sometimes too early. And, for some kids, even Signing Day’s too early, with all the drama to which they subject themselves.

So coaches roll with the punches and stay hungry. Trevell Dixon — who still hasn’t arrived on campus — flip-flopped 2,568 times in the last 48 hours. It’s like trying to deliver a pop star from the airport to his gig in 45 minutes through traffic. It’s constant worry.

It does make for a decent retrospective looking back, though. By the time Bo Pelini officially took the job at Nebraska in late 2007, several top-flight recruits that Bill Callahan had assembled — Blaine Gabbert, Trevor Robinson and Jonas Gray among them — had already jumped ship. Dirk Chatelain’s story about the handful of commits who stuck around provides a biographical glimpse at the ones who didn’t, too. So I’ll merely survey the Husker decommits from the 2009-2012 classes. We’ll leave out the 2013 bunch, since it’s so fresh, and none of them have played a down of college football yet.

What you’ll find: In most cases, the Huskers benefited from the player decommitting, or at least had a player at the decommit’s particular position who was better than the decommit himself. But, in a few cases, the decommit stung. And in more than a few cases, it was Nebraska, not the player cutting ties to create the decommit. (And spare me the quibbles on how the decommit happened, and how academic casualties really aren’t, you know, decommits, and I’m not sure you should, etc, etc, etc. They’re in the retrospective because it’s interesting).

The next decommit blog will look at the Pelini-era players who switched to Nebraska and how their careers have turned out.

In chronological order. (Hat tip to Husker Max, which does a nice job of keeping track of decommits.)

2009

Kevin Young, DE/DT (Kansas)

The flip: Arguably the coldest of all the decommits, the Kansas City-area talent committed to Kansas in the summer, switched to Nebraska in late November, stuck with it for awhile and was wavering between NU and the final wooing days of Mark Mangino when he appeared to seal his commit to the Huskers after a barbecue lunch with John Papuchis. But just before the early-enrollee was to go to classes in Lincoln, he switched to the Jayhawks and called the Huskers one day before he was to move in. This was in a three-year window when KU nearly beat the Huskers in 2006, made Kevin Cosgrove cry in 2007 and lost 45-35 in 2008, and still sort of clung to the idea of being a respectable football program. Thus concerned Nebraska fans wondered CAN WE EVEN BEAT KANSAS FOR A RECRUIT NOW?

The career: Young never played a down for Mangino and has started 15 games at defensive end and nose tackle from 2010-2012, playing for uniformly awful teams and two coaches. He could have helped the Huskers in 2012, though.

Emerson Evans, DE/DT, (Blinn JC)

The flip: The two-star Houston prospect committed to Nebraska in the summer of 2008 to then linebackers coach Mike Ekeler. By December, Evans admitted he slacked off in the classroom and did not qualify for NU.

The career: He played at Blinn. After that, I couldn’t find.

DeAndre Byrd, DB (None found)

The flip: Husker fans flipped over getting Byrd, a three-star corner from Tallahassee (Fla.) who played aggressively like Alfonzo Dennard and had offers to Michigan State, South Carolina, and others. Academics felled his signing with NU, as well.

The career: I couldn’t locate a junior college for Byrd, though he was supposed to attend one. Byrd was arrested in March 2012 for battery.

Earnest Norman, LB (Yuba College)

The flip: A tremendously gifted, instinctive linebacker for power Euless (Texas) Trinity, Norman committed in November 2008, following former NU running back Tray Robinson, who also played at Euless. Nebraska severed the relationship when it became clear Norman wouldn’t academically qualify.

The career: He was supposed to play at Portland State, but didn’t, instead heading to Yuba College in California. He played there last in 2011. He was arrested in March 2012 and May 2012 in Yuba County for various offenses.

Shawn Bodtmann, LB (Maine)

The flip: Nebraska got a commit from the kid in April, he got hurt and lost weight during his senior year, and NU pulled the scholarship late in the process — mid-January — to offer a grayshirt instead, causing a long, powerful wail from Bodtmann’s high school coach. Bodtmann indeed wasn’t good enough for NU, but the way the Huskers delayed their decision created unnecessary, bad publicity.

The career: Bodtmann redshirted, contributed on defense in varying degrees for three years and is not on the roster in 2013.

2010

Tyler Gabbert QB (Missouri/Central Florida)

The flip: He was short (6-foot), not particularly accurate in high school and part of a family that had already once spurned Nebraska for Missouri. Still, when Tyler Gabbert committed in late June 2009, I recall the euphoria. Shawn Watson will do wonders! He’s really the better Gabbert aside from the five inches of height! The arm strength! The leadership! Blaine still regrets not following through with Nebraska! Yeah, man!

Then Missouri booted one of its quarterbacks for illegal pill-popping and drinking. Then Gary Pinkel flew in on his helicopter to one of Tyler’s games while Blaine watched on the sidelines. Nebraska humiliated Blaine a few days later in the pouring rain, and Tyler claimed to still be committed after his official visit in November. The Internet reports just weren’t true. Not at all.

“I’m coming to Nebraska,” Gabbert said to Husker Online. “That’s plain and simple.”

Two weeks later, he decommitted because he said Watson told him the offense was changing.

(Indeed, it was. But Watson couldn’t have known then that Taylor Martinez was winning the job for 2010, or that NU would go to a spread no-huddle offense without him.)

The career: He hasn’t had one. James Franklin narrowly beat him out for the starting job at Mizzou, and instead of backing up an injury-prone QB or even trying to, you know, improve, Gabbert bailed looked around for a new school (including Louisville and Wyoming) and finally settled on Central Florida, where he’s a junior and a backup to a guy who’s the same age and four inches taller. Gabbert probably wasn’t going to beat out Taylor Martinez for much of anything. But few players have been as coveted and as disingenuous, in recent years as Gabbert.

Curtis Carter WR (TCU)

The flip: Carter was a four-star athlete who played option quarterback in a Louisiana high school –- I recall all the disbelieving posts from Husker fans marveling at how LSU couldn’t find room for the kid –- and was supposed to morph into a elite slot receiver by college. He committed to NU in late October, right as the 2009 Husker offense was shifting into full Bo Pelini-approved lockdown mode of power formations to go with jaw-droppingly clutch defense. Carter flipped in December, saying that Nebraska didn’t use a slot receiver and didn’t run a spread offense, and thus he had no place in the offense. Huh. If only the kid had known. Since he was on his Missouri visit at the time of the comments, NU fans pointed a collective finger at Gabbert poisoning the well.

The career: Nebraska dodged a bullet. Carter’s done nada, zero, zilch for the Horned Frogs in his first three years. And the Huskers have Jamal Turner — a converted, four-star quarterback — for their slot receiver. Still, the gnashing of teeth over Carter walking away … it’s worth remembering.

Keeston Terry, WR/DB (Kansas/Pittsburg State)

The flip: The four-star wide receiver from the Kansas City area had a summer fling with the Big Red, committing in May. Alas, the romance ended by August, as Terry was wooed by Mark Mangino. And again the Husker fans cried, Kansas.

The career: Terry was a regular contributor under Gill, moving to defensive back. But when Gill was fired and Charlie Weis was hired, Terry inquired about a transfer because he was “dog cussing the players.” Weis just tossed him off the team instead. He transferred to Pitt State, where he started as a defensive back last year. He returns for his senior year.

Anterio Sloan, DB (None)

The flip: The Arkansas four-star prospect committed to Nebraska out of the blue, sight unseen, in April 2009. He cited the reasons as Marvin Sanders and the strength of NU’s pharmacy program. Another summer dalliance, as Sloan decommitted in late August in part, Sloan said, because the Huskers curiously lost interest –- and perhaps Sloan’s phone number. He was supposed to attend Kentucky, but the Wildcats pulled away days before Signing Day.

The career: Sloan didn’t attend college according to his Facebook page.

2011

Niklas Sade, K (North Carolina State)

The flip: The Raleigh (N.C.) kicker committed to NU during the Huskers’ kicking camp, made his official visit in November and then decided, in January, he wanted to stay home because his dad couldn’t find a job in the Lincoln area. Nebraska signed Mauro Bondi instead.

The career: Sade has been the Wolfpack’s starting kicker for his first two years. He wouldn’t have started at Nebraska, though. Brett Maher was better.

Aaryn Bouzos, DB (Air Force)

The flip: The La Mirada (Calif.) two-star safety committed to NU in May 2010 (Rivals labeled it a “steal”) as high school coach and former Colorado quarterback Mike Moschetti gushed at length about the talent of a 5-foot-9, 180-pounder. Those measurements seemed generous. Bouzos held the commit through NU’s 2010 football season, then switched in late January 2011 to Air Force.

The career: Bouzos is no longer listed on Air Force’s football roster.

Darien Bryant TE/DE (Vanderbilt)

The flip: The William Henry Harrison of decommits, Bryant pledged to Nebraska in mid-December and decommitted 24 hours later because of “cold feet.” In January, he visited Vandy and picked the Commodores. More heartburn for the Huskers’ tight end recruiting.

The career: He was thrown off the team in spring 2012, allowed to rejoin in fall 2012, and became a contributor at defensive end last season.

Tevin Mitchel, CB (Arkansas)

The flip: The son of a former Oklahoma wishbone quarterback, Mitchel, out of the Dallas area, was one of the best DB recruits the Huskers had in years. He committed in June, stuck with Nebraska through the 2010 season (a rather good one for Husker defensive backs) before deciding to take just one visit to Arkansas. He committed to the Razorbacks a few weeks later.

The career: Mitchel’s played a lot in his first two seasons, emerging as Arkansas’ best corner, arguably. He was involved in a scary helmet-to-helmet collision last season and missed several games because of it, but returned to finish the year. He’s an NFL prospect.

Dylan Admire, OL (Kansas)

The flip: The Kansas City-area prospect committed at Nebraska’s Junior Day in late February. He camped at NU –- where he weighed just 245 pounds –- and stuck with the commit for another month. Then, out of the blue, he decommitted, saying he was “starstruck” by the Huskers’ facilities. He committed three days later to Kansas, fueling speculation that his low weight was just too much of a concern for Nebraska’s coaches.

The career: After a redshirt season, Admire played in 12 games last year and was listed as the starting center in spring ball. He weighs 280 pounds. Two prominent, four-star recruits from the 2011 Nebraska recruiting class –- Ryan Klachko and Tyler Moore –- have transferred.

2012

Deion Jones LB (LSU)

The flip: Jones, out of New Orleans, was an under-the-radar prospect when he committed in August 2011. In the midst of his senior season –- where he had 179 tackles –- LSU took a full shine, with coach Les Miles taking a home visit to Jones’ house mere days before the SEC title game — and more than a week before NU coach Bo Pelini was to make his home visit. Jones became a Tiger.

The career: As a true freshman, Jones had 23 tackles. He’ll vie for a starting job this year.

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.