Leading up to Signing Day Nebraska was still vigorously pursuing numerous defensive line targets, but they missed on many of them:
DT Jamiyus Pittman (6-2/280) of Moultrie, Ga. stuck with his pledge to UCF; DE Antonio Simmons (6-4/210) of Jacksonville, Fla. signed with Georgia Tech; DE Lloyd Tubman (6-3/228) of Louisville, Ky. flipped from Penn State to Kentucky; and DE Kevin Bronson (6-3/247) of Delray Beach, Fla. chose Virginia Tech.
However, the Huskers were able to add DE’s Sedrick King (6-4/230) of Plant City, Fla. and Deandre Wills (6-4/260) of Lineville, Ala.
King chose NU over Louisville, South Florida, and UCF. His only visits were to Lincoln and UCF. Playing in Florida’s second-largest classification, he recorded 50 tackles (11 for loss) with six sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries as a senior. Michigan State, Missouri and Oklahoma also showed interest in King.
Wills turned down offers from Clemson, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, along with interest from Auburn and Alabama, to sign with Nebraska. An explosive edge rusher with size, Wills totaled nine sacks as a senior despite teams game-planning around him.
NU actually had another defensive lineman, Blake McClain (6-4/280) of Jacksonville, Fla. committed before Wills pledged. McClain was initially a Florida State commit, but when the Seminoles asked him to take a grayshirt season he reopened his recruitment.NU quickly secured an official visit, and McClain committed Feb 1.Then he went home, talked to his parents, and on Feb. 5 signed with South Carolina.
Another late addition to the class was QB A.J. Bush (6-4/214) of Norcross, Ga. who led Norcross to the state title in Georgia’s largest class as a senior. Bush threw for over 2,100 yards and 16 TDs while running for 764 yards and 13 scores. He turned down offers from Kansas State, Cincinnati and Boston College to choose NU. An athletic player with 4.6-second speed and good size, Bush could move to receiver if fellow QB Zack Darlington (6-1/210) of Apopka, Fla. recovers from his concussion problems.
The only real drama on Signing Day was whether OT Kenyon Frison (6-5/290) of West Valley City, Utah would sign with Oklahoma or Nebraska. Word leaked Tuesday evening that Frison would sign with the Sooners, and that’s exactly what happened Wednesday morning.
With all of the comings and goings during the last week, NU ended up signing the consensus No. 6-ranked class in the Big Ten and No. 35 nationally. They built most strongly along the offensive and defensive lines.
Guys like Wills, King, Peyton Newell (6-3/285) of Hiawatha, and Joe Keels (6-4/280) of Highland CC are all solid additions on the defensive side. Keels is already enrolled at NU and will go through spring practices. NU would like to redshirt the other three, but with the lack of scholarship players at defensive end they may be needed on the field.
Along the offensive line, tackle Nick Gates (6-4/272) of Las Vegas, Nev., guards Tanner Farmer (6-4/315) of Highland, Ill. and D.J. Foster (6-3/312) of Lincoln, and versatile Mick Stoltenberg (6-5/250) of Gretna help build the pipeline.
Farmer dominated on the national camp circuit last summer and then blew away the competition during practices for the Under Armor All-American game this January. He was so dominant that he jumped from outside the Rivals top 250 to the No. 82-ranked overall player and the fourth-ranked guard nationally by Rivals in the final rankings.
Foster turned down schools like Florida, Georgia, Missouri and UCLA, choosing to stay at home for college and giving the Huskers among the top interior line classes nationally.
Gates was NU’s top target at tackle since January 2013. Alabama, Texas A&M, Oregon and UCLA were the top competition for his signature. An aggressive run blocker who will likely play right tackle in college Gates opens a door at Bishop Gorman high school which is annually among the top 25 high schools in the nation.
Stoltenberg could play anywhere from center to tight end or even defensive line, depending on his growth and team needs. He lost his senior season due to a knee injury, but his rehab has gone well and he will be ready for fall camp.
It’s become common for recruiting analysts to name their top six signees after Signing Day, so I’ll throw my hat into the ring. I’ll look at this from a career perspective, not necessarily who will contribute most quickly.
If the strength of this team is on the lines, it would stand to reason that some of the top overall prospects come from those spots. I expect both Farmer and Gates to earn all-conference honors before they’re done in Lincoln.
WR Monte Harrison (6-3/200) of Lee’s Summit, Mo. might be the most physically talented receiver NU’s had since Irving Fryar. Harrison has FBS-level ability in football and basketball, and is rated among the top 25 high school baseball prospects nationally. If he foregoes professional baseball, he will make an impact immediately next fall and could challenge for all-American honors before he leaves Lincoln.
CB Trai Mosley (5-10/171) of Pflugerville, TX is similar athletically to former Husker Alfonzo Dennard. He also plays with tremendous technique and has competed at a very high level in Texas.
Kicker Drew Brown (5-10/170) of Southlake, TX will compete for the starting job this fall and could be a four-year starter as his brother Kris was during the mid-90s. He was tremendously accurate during his high school career.
After one quarter of seeing LB Jaevon Walton (6-0/236) play last fall, Bo Pelini knew he wanted Walton on his team. Walton plays with tremendous speed and “bad intentions,” exploding through tackles and tracking down ball carriers from behind. With the youth and talent in Nebraska’s linebacker corps, Walton has a chance to redshirt and learn before really making an impact. In his fourth and fifth years in Lincoln, he should be among the Big Ten’s best.
Those who just missed the cut for me include Foster, Newell, TE Freedom Akinmoladun (6-4/240) of Grandview, Mo., WR/returner Demornay Pierson-El (5-9/174) of Alexandria, Va. and CB Chris Jones (6-0/175) of Jacksonville, Fla.
As the 2014 class was wrapping up, Nebraska got a jump start on 2015 with four early pledges. Colorado CBs Eric Lee (5-10/176) of Highlands Ranch and Avery Anderson (6-1/172) of Colorado Springs are both among the top 250 players nationally at all positions. OT Christian Gaylord (6-6/270) of Baldwin City, KS is among the top players in what’s a very strong year in the Midwest and RB Kendall Bussey (5-9/195) of New Orleans, La. brings 4.3-second electronic speed and continues the Huskers’ recent run of success in the Big Easy.