LINCOLN — Nebraska couldn't have expected a faster, more profitable start to its 2015 recruiting class. The Huskers have four commitments, including a top-flight offensive tackle (Christian Gaylord of Baldwin City, Kan.) and two four-star standouts from Colorado — defensive backs Eric Lee and Avery Anderson — whose poise and passion should make them strong ambassadors and recruiters.
And the top grab of the class — New Orleans Isidore Newman running back Kendall Bussey — doesn't have the flashiest ratings yet. But should he stay healthy, don't worry, he will.
So with that early core in place, the Huskers have few excuses not to put forth a top three class in the Big Ten — and a top 20 class nationally. Even with a class of 18 to 20, there are enough prospects Nebraska has already identified — and enough of them are local — that NU should generate significant momentum through the offseason. And the better that class looks, the better Bo Pelini's case that he's found the formula to control the Big Ten West and win the Huskers' first conference title since 1999.
Pelini and his staff have paved roads toward top defensive linemen. Can they close? Recruiting successes in the 2012 and 2013 classes form the bedrock optimism for the 2014 front seven. The 2015 class of linemen has a chance to be that good if Pelini pulls an inside straight. We'll start with defensive prospects, shift to offense, and look local after that.
Adam McLean, 6-foot-3/275 pounds, DT, Gaithersburg (Md.) Quince Orchard: With Jason Ankrah and Marcus Newby, Nebraska has built a mini-pipeline to defensive coordinator John Papuchis' alma mater. McLean is one of the top defensive line prospects on the East Coast, and Maryland just became Big Ten country. Michigan State and the Terps are hot in pursuit, too.
Carlos and Khalil Davis, 6-3/260, DT/DE, Blue Springs, Mo.: The talented twins made the trip to Nebraska for junior day, and John Garrison — named one of the nation's top recruiters Tuesday by Rivals.com — hails from Blue Springs. Nebraska badly wants to win this battle. I think it will.
Jashon Cornell, 6-4/250, DE, St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall: Every Big Ten team wants this five-star end. He's the No. 1 player in the 2015 class, according to ESPN. Fast enough to play outside linebacker in a 3-4, but better suited as a pass-rushing end. Great size and pursuit. When someone tells you there aren't any good athletes north of Tennessee and west of Chicago, drop this guy's name.
Terry Beckner, 6-4/270, DE/DT, East St. Louis, Ill.: Hefty, strong base end/tackle who sits at the intersection of Big Ten and SEC country.
Jason Strowbridge, 6-4/220, DE/LB, Deerfield Beach, Fla.: Long, quick hybrid type. The three-star has Florida and Miami offers. Underrated.
Jackson Perry, 6-2/275, DT, Las Vegas Bishop Gorman: The Huskers offered first. Perry has been a role player on a dominant team until now. He told Rivals.com he wants to be a doctor.
Justin Hilliard, 6-2/225, LB, Cincinnati St. Xavier: His older brother, C.J., will play running back at Iowa.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, 6-1/190, CB, Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's Prep: Fitzpatrick and linebacker Jordan Fox are both targets from this school, alma mater of current NU safety D.J. Singleton.
Kevin Dillman, 6-4/220, QB, Denton (Texas) Guyer: Easily the most intriguing of all Nebraska's 2015 targets. After missing some of his junior season because of an Achilles injury, Dillman is transferring from California to Texas for his senior year. Originally from Sweden, he's very raw — as his 2013 stats (five touchdowns, 10 interceptions) and shot putting throwing motion attest. Exciting prospect, though. Anywhere from a three-star to a five-star. And thanks to Rich Fisher, Nebraska is in the mix.
Alex Delton, 6-0/190, QB, Hays, Kan.: A canny-if-undersized spread quarterback who makes plays, distributes and efficiently runs the offense. Nebraska hasn't offered yet, but I suspect it's coming, and he'll be NU's quarterback recruit for 2015.
Hale Hentges, 6-4/230, TE, Jefferson City (Mo.) Helias: The Huskers' top tight end prospect has made two trips to Lincoln already, but has an impressive slew of offers (Florida State, Michigan, Mizzou, Iowa).
Alex Ofodile, 6-3/190, WR, Columbia (Mo.) Rock Bridge: His dad, A.J. Ofodile, played tight end at Mizzou. Tough pull. But the Huskers beat the Tigers for Monte Harrison.
Cordell Broadus, 6-2/200, WR, Las Vegas Bishop Gorman: Snoop Lion's son. Long, lean, good in and out of breaks. Almost a lock to go to USC, but NU has the Gorman connection.
Martez Ivey, 6-6/280, OT, Apopka, Fla.: When the Huskers discovered quarterback Zack Darlington, it was Ivey they were interested in. Ivey seems bound to stay in Florida, but Nebraska has worked at recruiting him. Don't be stunned if he visits.
Chandler Cox, 6-2/220, FB/ATH, Apopka, Fla.: Love this kid. Played single-wing quarterback after Darlington suffered his second concussion. Cox could be a fullback or a tight end.
A.J. Harris, 6-4/290, OG, Stilwell (Kan.) Blue Valley: Another solid offensive line prospect. Most Midwestern Big 12/Big Ten teams have offered, plus Ohio State.
Michael Decker, 6-4/280, G, Omaha North: He has a Husker offer and may need to move quickly on it to secure a spot in the class. Nebraska has made a strong pitch. Decker's one of the top guards in the country, I suspect, once he's rated. Few get to the second level better than he does.
Calvin Strong, 5-8/190, RB, Omaha North: Strong may have to show he's an academic qualifier before the NU offer — and many others — start flowing in. Strong fits a downhill, pro-style offense as well as he does a spread attack, if not better. Tough and hard to tackle.
Matt Clark, 6-5/290, OT, Syracuse: His junior day visit to NU indicates the Huskers are interested. If Nebraska doesn't offer, Clark is likely to be a Division I player somewhere.
Adam Holtorf, 6-5/260, DT/DE/OT, Seward: Wyoming likes the kid, as do several Big Ten schools, including Nebraska. The Huskers have to swing at the five-star defensive linemen initially, but Holtorf will get a look, too.
C.J. Johnson, 6-1/190, WR, Bellevue West: Son of former Husker Clester Johnson, C.J. shows much of his dad's athleticism. He's a little taller, too. Clester could run like a bull after he caught the ball, though. Nebraska's watching, as are other Big Ten teams. Already has an offer to South Dakota State.
Malik Hluchoweckyj, 6-0/175, CB, Bellevue West: Though his future might be brighter as a high jumper, his leaping skills make him an interesting prospect at defensive back. He visited for Wisconsin's junior day.