LINCOLN — A two-week run of commits has created significant recruiting momentum for the 2014 recruiting class, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Thursday after practice.
Since a 38-17 loss to Iowa Nov. 29, the Huskers have landed four pledges for the defensive side of the ball, including two junior college players — East Mississippi Community College cornerback Byerson Cockrell and Highland (Kan.) Community College defensive end Joe Keels — who signed with the program Wednesday. Dodge City (Kan.) Community College defensive tackle Terrell Clinkscales and Montclair, N.J., defensive end Darius Slade also committed.
Overall, NU has 19 commits and could get “pretty close” to 25, Pelini said, by the Feb. 5 signing day.
Pelini spent most of 14 days on private planes visiting prospects before an NCAA-mandated no face-to-face contact period and said he's pleased with the feedback he's received from recruits.
“The reception we got on the recruiting trail was very good,” Pelini said. “I like the way it went. We got a lot done. We covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. We're going to have to do the same when the middle of January hits. We're still in on some pretty good football players, some of whom I think could go right down to the end. But we've had good reception. I think we have a chance to really finish this class off well. I like our class.”
As of Thursday afternoon, Rivals ranked the Huskers' class 31st nationally, 247Sports ranked NU 32nd, 247Sports Composite ranked NU 36th and Scout ranked the Huskers 36th. ESPN doesn't have Nebraska's class ranked in its top 40.
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Pelini had high praise for signees Cockrell, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound, high-two/low-three star corner, and Keels, a 6-foot-4, 275-pound, high-three/low-four defensive end.
On Cockrell: “He's our style of corner. He can get up and press and get in people's faces. He gives you some experience, an older guy, a more veteran guy.”
On Keels: “He can kind of do it all. He's a big-bodied defensive lineman who can play on the strong side ... but also is athletic enough to do some things as far as rushing the passer. I like his overall skill set.”
Pelini said Keels could play a “five” or “six” technique in NU's defense. A five-tech is an end who lines up directly over an offensive tackle, sometimes in a 3-4 alignment. A six-tech lines up outside the tackle and can help turn running plays back toward inside linebackers.
Though NU can still contact players via email and Facebook, face-to-face, in-home visits won't start again until mid-January. Pelini said he expected his staff to hit the road hard again in those weeks.
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Video: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini after practice Thursday