Nebraska Football Recruiting: Looking Ahead to 2018, Five Early Targets

Sep 3, 2016; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers fans watch the game against the Fresno State Bulldogs in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska won 43-10. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, you thought that just because the Nebraska football coaches wrapped up the 2017 class that we were going to take a break? That’s not how recruiting rolls. The coaches don’t stop for rest and neither do we.

For those of you just getting into the swing of the wonderful world of recruiting, coaches have been sending out offers not only for the 2018 class but 2019 and even 2020! We’re not going to look that far into the future, though.

Exciting times are ahead for Nebraska football recruiting and head coach Mike Riley made it clear that the Huskers’ 2017 finish wasn’t good enough at a press conference late Tuesday afternoon.

“That’s whatever you look at [rankings] as high teens early 20’s, I want to do better next year. We are on our way to start to do that.”

Let’s start our overview back in Calibraska. Where else, right? We’re going to do it big, too.

Five-star running back T.J. Pledger

Currently at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., the West Hills, Calif. native is a high priority for the Huskers and from what we understand, the love is going both ways.

After the Big Red didn’t lock down a second back in the 2017 class, there’s a definite necessity to hit a home run in the 2018 group. That’s not a knock on Jaylin Bradley who should contribute at some point in his career, but it’s always nice to have depth when faced with the unknown.

That said, Pledger is an amazing athlete and his rankings reflect that. The 247Sports Composite Index currently has him touted as the No. 2 all-purpose back overall and the 25th-best prospect in the nation.

He’s already been invited to next year’s U.S. Army All-American Game and his numbers have only improved over the course of his career.

In 12 games as a junior, he rushed 231 times for 1,881 yards and 32 touchdowns averaging eight yards per carry and 157 yards per game. While it’s unknown just how much Bradley will contribute during Nebraska’s 2017 season, Pledger could vie for immediate playing time in 2018.

Four-star wide receiver Manuel Allen

Let’s note right off the bat that Allen is currently committed to USC. As we learned with Jamire Calvin, the word “commitment” can be a rather loose term. Somehow, it seems safe to say that Allen won’t bounce around as much as Calvin did.

Well, hopefully.

Anyway, he’s committed to the Trojans, but current Nebraska defensive back Lamar Jackson looked like he’d be throwing up “V” for Victory for a long time before signing with the Huskers.

Also, one has to take into account that not only will Keith Williams be hot on his trail, but the other half of the Williams group (cornerbacks coach Donte) likely tails along considering his connections in the Los Angeles area.

Allen’s Centennial High School happens to be in Corona, Calif., a scant 45-minute drive from L.A. where the latter Williams has major connections.

What should help Keith Williams sell the receiver most will be the work of either Tanner Lee or Patrick O’Brien in offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf’s system.

It doesn’t hurt that 2017 recruits Tyjon Lindsey and Jaevon McQuitty look like they have every opportunity to see the field during this upcoming season.

With a combination of a system that could highlight his skills, an opportunity for immediate playing time and a school with an excellent academic background, the Huskers may very well shock the Trojans and yank Allen away.

Center Will Farniok

If the name sounds familiar, it should. Will is the younger brother of current Nebraska offensive tackle Matt Farniok.

To give you an idea of the kind of fight being put up for the younger Farniok’s signature, he currently holds offers from Nebraska, Iowa and Iowa State.

That may seem like cause for concern if you’re a Nebraska football fan, but let it speak to how much of an uphill battle other teams face for his signature.

Honestly, it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise if he became the fourth member of the Huskers’ current 2018 class along with four-star tight end Cameron Jurgens, four-star wide receiver Eric Fuller and three-star defensive tackle Masry Mapieu.

The younger Farniok projects as a center at 6-3, 255 pounds. Look for offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh to get him a little work in at guard since not only does Cavanaugh like his linemen to be versatile, but Farniok pulls exceptionally well, even from the center position.

He’s yet to be rated by any service which might turn off stargazers, but let the camp season come and go before damning him.

There may be some schools that toss an offer Farniok’s way in the hopes of catching his eye, but if he commits within the next month or two, it’s a likely bet that he’ll be a Cornhusker in about a year’s time.

Four-star defensive tackle Calvin Avery

You say you need a nose guard for your brand new 3-4 defensive alignment? You say you want one where you’ve already got connections? Look no further than Calvin Avery!

Interestingly enough, 2017 defensive tackle commitment and potential nose guard Damion Daniels happens to be an alum of Dallas, Tex.’s Bishop Dunne High School. Avery currently plays there. It’s a match made in Heaven!

At 6-1.5 and 310 pounds, Avery is ranked as the 24th-best defensive tackle in the country and 264th-best recruit overall. He’s the perfect squatty guy that can plug the middle and this hoss has a motor under the hood.

In 12 games as a junior, he posted 68 tackles (40 solo), 18 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. John Parrella’s already on him hard, but it’s going to be a battle as Oklahoma also has their eyes on him.

Expect Tom Herman and the Longhorns to try making a run for him considering he’s in their backyard, but for all of the talk of Herman’s name bringing clout to the Longhorn program right off the bat, the Horns lost out on quite a bit of 2017 in-state talent.

At this point, it looks like Avery could be added to that list, though where he ends up is the unknown at this point. Still, he likes the Huskers and if Parrella can continue the momentum he started with the 2017 class, he could get defensive coordinator Bob Diaco a serious big man in the middle.

Four-star defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles

Some call him Brendan. To Nebraska fans, he’s “Bookie”.

The Calibraska pipeline may provide again as Radley-Hiles has held down the secondary for Calabasas High School. If that school sounds familiar, that’s because Nebraska snagged quarterback Tristan Gebbia and legacy wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, Jr. out of the very same academic institution.

He’s been out to Lincoln a few times and gotten to know head coach Mike Riley pretty well. He had the following to say after the 2016 Spring Game:

“Primarily, I feel like I took a different route with Coach Riley,” Radley-Hiles told HuskersOnline. “I feel like I have a different relationship with him. As of right now me and him look at each other eye-to-eye as somewhat of a mentor to a young man type of situation.

We look at each other as like as if he’s just my mentor and like we’ve known each other for years now. It’s crazy because that was the first time I’ve ever seen him before so that was big for me.

“He’s just great and I’ve never really seen anybody like that before. Him and his wife really sat down with me. We ate together in his office and talked about family and what I planned to do academic-wise. Never once did we talk about football.”

Radley-Hiles actually played both ways for Calabasas in 2017. In 13 games, he had 51 receptions for 806 yards and 10 touchdowns.

On the defensive side of the ball, he had 54 tackles (31 solo), two tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble.

He transferred to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. to get work against some of the best competition available during his senior year.

Much like the other Calibraska commits, he may surprise and pull the trigger early in the 2018 cycle.

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