LINCOLN — Charlton Warren's arrival to the Nebraska coaching staff has made the final two weeks of the 2014 recruiting cycle as much of a mad scramble for commits as last year.
Can this class finish as strongly as the 2013 group did? It's too early to know for sure, but I still expect the 2013 class to be Bo Pelini's best out of his first seven. The worst class — 2011, where out of 20 signees, only Ameer Abdullah, Jamal Turner, David Santos and Daimion Stafford have been regular starters — was rated by recruiting services as Pelini's best.
As of late Thursday afternoon, the Huskers — with 19 commits — ranked 40th nationally and sixth in the Big Ten according to the 247Sports composite team rankings, 38th nationally and sixth in the Big Ten according to Scout, 37th nationally and sixth in the Big Ten according to Rivals, and 40th nationally and seventh in the Big Ten according to ESPN. Decommits from Terrell Clinkscales and Darius Slade dropped Nebraska a few rungs. Although NU could get up to 25 commits, cracking the top 30 will take the Huskers hitting on some late visits — including some key visits this weekend.
It may in part depend on Warren, the new secondary coach who spent his playing and coaching career at Air Force before being hired by Nebraska last Friday. In a week, he's done a lot of legwork.
First, Warren's in-home visit cemented the commitment of Pflugerville, Texas, cornerback Trai Mosley, who'd been mulling a visit to TCU after former NU assistant coach Terry Joseph left for Texas A&M. Mosley posted a picture of he and Warren on Twitter with the words “sealed the deal.” The 5-foot-10, 171-pound three-star got late offers from Oklahoma and Baylor and strikes me as a cross between Josh Mitchell and Ciante Evans. He's a keeper.
Second, Warren started plumbing his contacts in Georgia. One to watch includes three-star defensive tackle Jamiyus Pittman, from Moultrie, Ga. He committed to Central Florida. Two quarterbacks — Hogansville's Tez Parks and Griffin's Jaquez Parks — are on the radar. Tez Parks looks like a safety prospect, too; he ran a wingbone offense at Callaway High School.
Jaquez Parks was the Atlanta Journal-Constitution all-class player of the year after leading his team to a 15-0 record and AAAA state title. He amassed 4,969 total yards and 45 touchdowns in his senior season. He operates out of a spread, five-wide attack and has received little to no attention from area schools. His top choices for now: Army, Air Force, Harvard and Yale. Jaquez Parks told Husker Online Thursday that he'd met with offensive coordinator Tim Beck, but had no offer yet.
A prep quarterback with an NFL dad — Jeff George Jr. — has also received interest from Nebraska, according to the Indianapolis Star and Huskers Illustrated. George's dad, Jeff George, played at Illinois, which wants the son to greyshirt. SMU is an option, too. Jeff George Jr. told Huskers Illustrated that NU was looking for “a more pocket-passing style kind of guy.” The Huskers had a 61/39 run-pass split last season. The closest NU came to a 50/50 split was in 2008 (53/47).
One target apparently no longer on Nebraska's radar: Omaha Creighton Prep's Easton Stick. Stick impressed Husker coaches over the summer, but didn't get an offer then and told me by text he hasn't talked to them recently. Stick is committed to North Dakota State, which might as well be an FBS program, considering how many of them the Bison would beat. I thought Stick would have made a good No. 2 quarterback in this class.
Another key piece to Nebraska finishing the class right: closing its hands on at least one offensive tackle prospect — and possibly two.
The guy at the top of NU's board, Las Vegas Bishop Gorman's Nick Gates, canceled a weekend trip to UCLA and is likely to make his final decision this week, Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound three-star has offers from Texas A&M and Oregon, but Gates camped at NU over the summer and has long had the Huskers as a high choice. Gates, who played a lot of right tackle at Gorman, is agile and physical. He reach blocks with a strong first step. He blasts guys, and he plays in a spread/zone read offense. If Nebraska gets its guy here, he'll have a chance to compete for early playing time.
One of Friday's official visitors, Kenyon Frison, is the other tackle target. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound Frison, a four-star who decommitted from Utah and has Oklahoma in his top group, was the best player on a 2-8 team. Frison is bigger than Gates, and engulfs opponents. On his Hudl tape, he doesn't seem to have Gates' technique, though.
If Nebraska can land both, it's quite a coup and two strong offensive line classes in row.
The biggest remaining need, however, is at defensive end, where Slade's flip to Michigan State leaves the Huskers with one junior college signee (Joe Keels) and one high school pledge (Peyton Newell) who's probably going to slide inside to tackle. If Newell moves to tackle, and Avery Moss doesn't return to the program, the scholarship depth chart is Randy Gregory, Greg McMullen, Keels and A.J. Natter.
So which prospects are left on the board? The best is a Moss clone, Delray Beach (Fla.) three-star Kevin Bronson, who has a big base and a quick first step. Bronson's slated to visit Jan. 31; he visits Virginia Tech this weekend. Another Jan. 31 visitor, Louisville (Ky.) three-star Lloyd Tubman, is one of the players who flipped from Vanderbilt to Penn State when James Franklin switched jobs. Tubman's apparently still slated to visit Nebraska. I don't blame him. State College isn't for every prospect, regardless of how exciting Franklin makes it seem.
Besides Frison, here are the other official visitors this weekend:
Ľ Corey Avery: the 5-foot-11, 180-pound athlete out of Dallas Carter High School is being recruited by NU as a running back. He visits Kansas next weekend.
Ľ Monte Harrison: The Husker wide receiver commit from the Kansas City area will be profiled more in length soon by The World-Herald's Jon Nyatawa. Of the 19 commits, Harrison is my No. 2 overall prospect, a potential star. That presumes, of course, that he doesn't choose to play pro baseball.
Ľ Jariah Tolbert: At 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, the New Orleans Edna Karr product is one of the tallest Husker wide receiver commits in recent memory.
Ľ Glenn Irons: Tolbert's teammate at Karr. At 5-10, 170 pounds, he'd be a slot receiver, though at Edna Karr he often lined up opposite Tolbert. Outside receivers shorter than six feet are generally a great combination of athleticism and perfection in route running.