Amid one of the biggest recruiting weekends this cycle, Nebraska is looking to put the final pieces into place for its 2018 class. On Saturday, we published mock class 3.0 on the offensive side of the ball. Now it’s the defense’s turn.
After looking like Nebraska would sign between 20 and 22 prospects, it’s now looking like the Huskers could sign roughly 24 members. Transfers on the current roster would allow them to bring in even more players. Overall, the Huskers currently have 13 signees and two commitments.
For reference, here’s a look at the class projection for defense in December.
* means prospect is already SIGNED
Cornerback (2): Braxton Clark, Deontai Williams*
My December prediction included 4-star cornerback Taiyon Palmer, who was on campus for an official visit this weekend. While that’s a good sign for Nebraska, he also recently received offers from Notre Dame and Clemson, which muddies the likelihood of Palmer ending up with Nebraska.
But the Huskers have done their homework, and a backup plan is in place. Here, “in place” also can translate to “on campus”. Three-star cornerback Braxton Clark, who received some Nebraska predictions on his 247Sports Crystal Ball after the Cornhuskers offered him in December, was also on his official visit this weekend. Clark is a rangy defender (6-foot-3) with athleticism to complement his height. The Orlando, Fla., native was a one-time Virginia Tech commit.
I’m including signee Deontai Williams as a cornerback because Nebraska likely will use the junior college transfer in its five-DB sets. Williams is a hard hitter who specializes in playing nickel, making him an ideal candidate for that formation. He signed his letter of intent in December and is enrolled on campus. Williams also could be classified as a safety.
Safety (2): C.J. Smith, Cam’ron Jones
When all is said and done, bringing in two 4-star safeties just may be Nebraska’s most impressive position group in this class. C.J. Smith became the Huskers’ first commit to pledge to Scott Frost and the new staff, but he opted to wait until National Signing Day to sign, rather than taking care of that during the early signing period. Nebraska fans shouldn’t worry much, though. He’s solid to the Huskers.
Cam’ron Jones is another ball hawk Nebraska is widely expected to land. His official visit in December blew him away, and he’s back on campus this weekend for an unofficial visit. The Huskers are in an extremely favorable position. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he leaves the weekend telling the coaches he is committed. A public announcement could be on the horizon. Jones is a former UCLA commit.
Linebacker (3): Will Honas*, David Alston*, Breon Dixon
Will Honas is enrolled early as the country’s top junior college inside linebacker. By the end of the offseason, expect him to be in position to at least crack the two-deep on the depth chart and contribute. David Alston, a 3-star high school recruit, should command an outside linebacker position in a 3-4 defense and rush the passer. He also signed his letter of intent in December.
Breon Dixon was a 4-star recruit out of high school and played his freshman season at Ole Miss, seeing action in his six games. After the NCAA handed down postseason sanctions on the Ole Miss program at the conclusion of this season, he pursued a transfer. That decision is now down to Nebraska and Wisconsin. He is on campus for an official visit this weekend. If all goes well, he will just stay at Nebraska and begin classes on Monday, which is also the first day of team offseason workouts. The favorite here is clearly Nebraska.
Dixon is a hybrid linebacker and defensive back, so it will be interesting to see where he winds up playing most.
Defensive line (3): Masry Mapieu, Daniel Carson, Tate Wildeman*
Tate Wildeman signing during the early period was a big win for the Huskers, who had a lot of competition for the 4-star end. Nebraska has another commit in the trenches in Masry Mapieu, a 3-star tackle, but academic questions cloud his ability to sign in February. Nebraska will not send him a letter of intent if he cannot qualify academically. But we’ll give Mapieu the benefit of the doubt and include him in our class projection.
Nebraska is hosting 3-star end Daniel Carson this weekend, and things are trending positively for Carson to wind up committing to the Huskers. Carson would be a quality complement to Wildeman at the end spots. After his visit this weekend, Carson is said to be done taking official visits. He then will decide between Nebraska, Miami and Texas.
If Mapieu cannot qualify, a couple of names to keep an eye on: Casey Rogers and Habakkuk Baldonando.
Special teams (1): Barret Pickering*
Barret Pickering signed his letter of intent in December and is already on campus. He will compete for the starting kicking job.