LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska made up for a lack of star power in its recruiting class with a bevy of beef up front.
Eight of the 24 players are offensive or defensive linemen, and some of them could play right away to help fill areas hit hard by graduation. The Cornhuskers also signed five defensive backs Wednesday in a class that includes players from 13 states.
Recruiting analysts said the class won’t wow fans that put a lot of stock in star ratings. That didn’t matter to coach Bo Pelini.
”Look at the rosters from the Super Bowl. There are very few five-stars, very few four-stars,” Pelini said. ”There are lots of three-stars, lots of two-stars, lots of guys who were unranked. I feel good about the potential of this group. It’s our job to develop them into what we saw when we recruited them in the first place.”
The class has four four-star players, according to Rivals.com. Among them are offensive lineman Tanner Farmer of Highland, Ill., and Nick Gates of Las Vegas. The others are running back Mikale Wilbon of Chicago and receiver Monte Harrison of Lee’s Summit, Mo.
”Bo Pelini doesn’t go out and chase stars, so they’re not going to go out and sign a bunch of five-star guys just to sign them. We saw how that worked in the Bill Callahan days,” ESPN.com analyst Jeremy Crabtree said. ”It’s real important for Bo to find guys he can develop into quality players. With that context in mind, I think Nebraska fans have to be pretty pleased with how they’ve done considering the needs that needed to get filled.”
The major recruiting services had the Huskers ranked between Nos. 30 and 40 nationally and in the middle of the Big Ten. It’s one of the lowest-rated of the seven classes signed by Pelini and well below the 2013 group that was pegged as high as No. 11 by one service.
In addition to big-name offensive linemen Farmer and Gates, Pelini signed the top in-state player in 6-foot-3, 310-pound lineman D.J. Foster of Lincoln. Junior-college transfer Joe Keels, who enrolled in January, probably is the most game-ready of the four defensive linemen who signed and can help immediately at end. The Huskers suffered an 11th-hour blow when defensive lineman Blake McClain of Jacksonville, Fla., backed out of his verbal commitment and signed with South Carolina.
National Rankings (Rivals 32; Scout 34).
Best in class: Monte Harrison, WR, Lee’s Summit, Mo. He’s a dynamic athlete who led his West High team to a state championship. The question is whether he’ll show up in Lincoln or turn pro in baseball. A speedy and strong-armed outfielder, he’s pegged as a top-50 MLB draft pick.
Best of the rest: Tanner Farmer, OL, Highland, Ill. He made an impressive showing at the Under Armour All-Star Game and is ranked among the best offensive line prospects in the country. He and fellow O-lineman D.J. Foster out of Lincoln will make bids for early playing time.
Late addition: Mikale Wilbon, RB, Chicago. He flipped from Vanderbilt after James Franklin took the Penn State coaching job. He’s been injury prone but has the tools to be a great one.
One that got away: Blake McClain, DL, Jacksonville, Fla. He flipped twice down the stretch, de-committing from Florida State, pledging to Nebraska and signing with South Carolina.
NOTE: Nebraska secured verbal commitments from a half-dozen players in the two weeks before signing day, but the strong finish was mitigated by the loss of McClain and three others who went elsewhere.