February 3, 2010

Late additions boost NU's recruiting ranking

Nebraska's 2010 recruiting class was highlighted by a late push that saw the Huskers close things out by signing Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee quarterback Brion Carnes and Maywood (Ill.) Proviso East safety Corey Cooper.

The four star duo pushed the Huskers 2010 signing class into the top 25 of the Rivals.com recruiting ranking as things came to a close on Wednesday.

Carnes' signing was somewhat a surprise on Wednesday, as two days ago he reportedly committed to Western Kentucky. Carnes helped the Huskers replace Tyler Gabbet, who decommitted from Nebraska in December. However, NU head coach Bo Pelini said it wasn't necessarily crucial the Huskers signed a quarterback in 2010.

"We didn't have to get a quarterback," Pelini said. "Like at any position, we take the best guys available for the most part. Obviously, you always sit and say we have certain needs, certain numbers, and you want to have your numbers at certain levels at different positions, but you're not going to take somebody just to take somebody. We look at a lot of factors. Just because somebody is a talented guy and he's right for a lot of people doesn't mean he's right for us at Nebraska.

"We were fully prepared not to take a quarterback, but we had a few guys that we felt were right for us and in the end, we found one that was the right fit for us."

The one that got away for the Huskers on signing day was five-star defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa. The Portland native informed NU late Tuesday evening of his plans to sign with UCLA.

Pelini said defensive ends coach John Papuchis took the news pretty hard on Tuesday, but at the end of the day one player doesn't determine the fate of your recruiting class.

"You just move onto the next one," Pelini said after losing Odighizuwa. "You recruit them because I think he'd be a good player. In the end, he's not going to make or break what we are going to do as a football program. I'm not going to lose sleep over it. (Papuchis), now he took it real hard.

"Obviously you want to see them say yes because you are a competitor. I believe they do themselves a disservice. That's the kind of confidence I have in myself and my staff and what we could do for him. If it's not right, go ahead."

-Sean Callahan

Lee to most likely miss spring ball

Pelini said on Wednesday that senior quarterback Zac Lee will most likely not take part in spring practice next month.

Lee is continuing to recover from the surgery he had on his flexor tendon last month.

"Probably not, but there are a lot of things that could happen there," Pelini said when asked if Lee will take part in spring practice. "I know he won't be there for at least the beginning of spring."

However, Pelini did say that sophomore quarterback Kody Spano will participate in spring practice. Spano tore his ACL for the second time in the past year last August, but appears to be ready for spring ball.

-Sean Callahan

NU's perception continues to rise on recruiting front

Nebraska has made numerous strides since Pelini and his staff took over in 2008, but one was more evident than ever during Wednesdays letter-of-intent press conference.

Looking over the Huskers 2010 recruiting class, 21 players from 11 states across the country will be making their way to Lincoln this offseason. If the geographical range of players is any indication, it seems Nebraskas perception on the recruiting front is getting better by the year.

Pelini talked about the change he and his assistant coaches have seen in how recruits view Nebraska now compared to just three years ago. After two successful campaigns followed by two impressive, nationally-televised bowl game victories, young players are starting to take a little more notice of the Huskers once again.

(They see) where the program is and where its headed, Pelini said. We have a nice group of kids committed for next year already. People are starting to take notice of what were doing. I always say: The best recruiting tool is to win. Were starting to do that. Were right on that verge of doing some things with the program that will help get peoples attention, and I believe weve gotten some peoples attention. Now weve got to take it to the next level.

One could argue that Nebraska took a big step towards achieving that next level after its blowout win over Arizona in the Holiday Bowl back in December. In a game that was featured in prime time across the country, the Huskers dominated the Wildcats in every aspect on both sides of the ball.

As a result, potential recruits across the country got a chance to see first-hand what Nebraska football has become or at least where it appears to be headed.

Kids watch football, and they saw the momentum we had at the end of the year, Pelini said. They see a program thats getting better and playing good football and playing an exciting brand of football. The more we do that, the easier it is to walk into homes and walk into schools and get peoples attention. The Holiday Bowl played a big part in that, but I think there were a lot games leading up to that that also played a part.

- Robin Washut

Husker bulk up in the trenches

While Pelini wouldnt say it was recruiting priority to add a bulk of offensive and defensive linemen to the 10 class, the numbers seem to suggest otherwise.

Altogether, Nebraska signed a total of nine linemen on both sides of the ball, including six on the defensive side. Considering the loss of guys like all-everything defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and senior leader Jacob Hickman at center, the Huskers obviously wanted to added some depth in the trenches with their latest class.

Defensively, Pelini said he and his staff happened to find six linemen which they felt both added depth and gave the team players capable of eventually helping it win a national championship.

We wanted to increase our depth on the defensive line, and we were fortunate enough to get good players and guys who fit us, Pelini said. In the end, I dont know if we had six guys targeted going in or if that was the number that we wanted, but if its a really good player who we feel could help us win a championship, were going to take him in the end and figure out a way.

On the offensive side, two of the three incoming linemen are players who could eventually become standouts for the Huskers in the very near future in tackles Jermarcus Hardrick and Andrew Rodriguez.

At 6-7, 315, Hardrick is regarded by many as one of the top junior college linemen of the 10 class, and the 6-6, 300-pound Rodriguez was an Army All-American and arguably one of NUs most high-profile high school recruits.

Add in Mike Moudy, who was listed as one of the top-35 prep tackles in the country by Rivals, and the Huskers look to have added some serious competition to the o-line mix.

Compared to what NUs offensive line looked like when Pelini first took over, theres no doubt the depth has improved significantly.

We were very thin at the offensive line position when I first got here, Pelini said. Really we were thin at all the line positions. I believe right now weve really added depth. I just look at our overall depth chart now, and it looks mighty different from when I got here. Im really happy about that, especially if the guys develop and become the types of players that we feel we can help them become.

- Robin Washut

Fort Scott connection

Over the last two years Nebraska has signed three different players from national junior college power Fort Scott Community College in Kansas.

Highlighting this year's Fort Scott recruits for NU is 6-foot-7, 315 pound offensive tackle Jermacus Hardrick. The Mississippi native is one of three 2010 signees that will be on campus for spring ball and Pelini is expecting big things from him in the future.

"He's got a lot to learn, but he's a big, physical talented football player who we've been following for a while and I've been familiar with for a while," Pelini said. "I think he can have a big impact for us."

Nebraska's relationship with Fort Scott and head coach Jeff Simms stems back to Jeff Jamrog, who originally hired him as his defensive coordinator at Minnesota State when Carl Pelini left his staff to join Frank Solich at Ohio in 2005.

"We trust Coach Simms and his staff and what they say about the young men," Pelini said. "We get some added insight to what they are and what those kids bring to the table and that obviously helps us. We aren't big junior college recruiters, but if they are specific guys that we feel fit us we are going to go on them and (Simms) obviously gives us the insight we like."

-Sean Callahan

Heard could be 'special'

Not very often does the top running back from the state of Ohio escape to a place like Nebraska. NU was able to convince Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney's Braylon Heard to deccommit from West Virginia and Pelini is very excited about the potential impact he could make in a Husker uniform.

Pelini said many people he talked to around the state of Ohio felt that Heard was the No. 1 ranked player in the entire state. Heard also resides from both Pelini and running backs coach Tim Beck's former high school in Youngstown.

"He's the real deal," Pelini said of Heard. "People in the state of Ohio tell me he's the best player in Ohio. He has a tremendous burst. He can take it to the house any time he touches the ball. I think he has the chance to be a pretty special player. We think that he's an explosive guy who can put the ball in the end zone."

Pelini did say Heard still has to score one more point higher on his ACT in order to academically qualify, but they are not worried about that.

NU wasn't even planning on taking a running back this year according to Pelini, unless it was an exceptional difference maker like Heard.

"We only looked at four guys," Pelini said. "We didn't really feel like we needed a back, but if there was a back that we felt could be a real difference maker we'd take one and we found one. The kids we recruited brought a dimension to our offense that could make us better."

-Sean Callahan

Quick hits

***Redshirt freshman Cole Pensick has moved from defensive tackle to center. Sophomore defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler will not be moving positions this spring.

***Pelini said safety Rickey Thenarse has been granted a medical hardship year for 2010.

***Pelini said NU is currently sitting at either 84 or 85 total scholarships heading into this fall based on some players that have been put on medical scholarship. Pelini did not want to get into which players have been granted medical scholarships.

***Millard South athlete Bronson Marsh was a hot topic during Wednesdays press conference, as everyone wanted to know whether he would get a shot at playing quarterback this offseason. Apparently the fact that he was recruited as an athlete, will start off as a safety and that Pelini never once mentioned him as a potential quarterback candidate got overlooked a bit.

As far as Marshs grayshirt situation, Pelini declined to comment on it other than that an official decision had yet to be determined.

Its a numbers thing, Pelini said. We wanted him to be a part of our program. Whether that becomes a grayshirt or not, that still remains to be seen.

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