No recruiting class is perfect. There are needs and holes to fill, prospects coaches just have to have and plenty of other combinations that make recruiting the spectacle it is. Even in coach Scott Frost’s first recruiting class at Nebraksa, there were prospects the staff zeroed in on but couldn’t get to sign on the dotted line.
Of course, several de-commitments occurred during the transition from Mike Riley’s staff to Frost and his assistants. For our purposes, we will not include those in this discussion.
Luckily for Huskers fans, Nebraska capitalized on most of its top targets once Frost and company took over. But they weren’t perfect. Here are some key names Nebraska missed on in this recruiting cycle.
Hometown: Lincoln, Neb. (Southeast)
Position: Defensive tackle
Ranking: 3 stars, No. 67 DT, No. 969 overall prospect (247Sports composite ranking)
What happened: Riley and the former staff largely ignored Bryson Williams, who did not receive an offer from the Huskers until Frost took over. Then, the full-court press was on. Frost visited Williams’s home the night of his introductory news conference and the staff made him an immediate priority. But it was too late. After feeling the pressure, Williams affirmed his commitment to Wisconsin, signed on the first day of the early signing period in December and enrolled early. Of course, it’s unfair to pin this on Frost and his staff; essentially all of the blame lies with the Riley regime. However, it’s still a big miss for Nebraska as a whole, exacerbated by the fact Williams will be playing for a Big Ten West division rival.
Hometown: Oradell, N.J.
Position: Outside linebacker
Ranking: 4 stars, No. 16 OLB, No. 219 prospect overall (247Sports composite)
What happened: The reality is we will never truly know exactly what happened with Nebraska and Javontae Jean-Baptiste. The Huskers led for him heading into the week of National Signing Day. But something changed following his official visit to Texas A&M, and he wound up committing to Ohio State. While somewhat mitigated by the addition of 4-star edge rusher Caleb Tannor, perhaps it was Tannor’s silent commitment that dissuaded Jean-Baptiste from the Huskers, although that’s unlikely. This recruitment was interesting, and his follow decision flip-flopped all the way to the odd way his decision was made public, with Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano announcing on BTN they had received his letter of intent.
Hometown: Tallahassee, Fla.
Position: Athlete (recruited as a quarterback to Nebraska)
Ranking: 3 stars, No. 23 athlete, No. 383 overall prospect (247Sports composite)
What happened: Marcus Riley not signing with Nebraska during the early signing period hurt because he left his official visit the weekend before that committed to the Huskers, according to reports. But he never followed through when it came time to put pen to paper. Nebraska then spent time recruiting a quarterback throughout January, only to come up empty at the position again (although that seems a staff decision). Instead, Riley stuck with Louisville, where he had been committed while Nebraska courted him.
Hometown: Norco, Calif.
Position: Offensive line
Ranking: 3 stars, No. 21 guard, No. 445 prospect overall (247Sports composite)
What happened: Nebraska had all of the momentum with Jarrett Bell leading into his official visit the weekend of Jan. 12-14 and the goodwill between the two parties was only strengthened during his trip. With Bell as the staff’s priority target on the line, they tried to lock him up throughout the next week. Instead, he took an official visit to Arizona State and still took time to make his decision despite not taking any more trips. Nebraska could not afford to wait on him, so it began pursuing other offensive line targets more aggressively. And at the end, Bell chose the Sun Devils.
Michael Thompson Jr.
Hometown: St. Louis
Position: Defensive tackle
Ranking: 4 stars, No. 4 DT, No. 74 overall prospect (247Sports composite)
What happened: Nebraska clearly has a whole at defensive tackle in this class, and the staff tried to bring Michael Thompson Jr. on for an official visit throughout January to no avail. Instead, he narrowed his choice to Oklahoma and Missouri before signing with the Sooners. This was a regional recruit the Huskers should have had a better shot with.
Hometown: Cedar Hill, Texas
Position: Wide receiver/running back
Ranking: 4 stars, No. 50 wide receiver, No. 311 prospect overall (247Sports composite)
What happened: Joshua Fleeks was a priority target for the staff in the aftermath of their transition to Nebraska. He was an official visitor their first weekend on campus. The hope was to convince the then-Baylor commit to hold off signing during the early signing period. Initially, that goal looked to be achieved. However, he signed with the Bears on Dec. 20. Fleeks could have been a perfect fit for Frost’s system in the backfield or out wide.
Hometown: Florissant, Mo.
Ranking: 3 stars, No. 27 safety, No. 379 prospect overall (247Sports composite)
What happened: The Huskers’ previous staff liked Craddieth and that interest carried over to the current staff. Frost even visited with the prospect for an in-school meeting. The two seemed to be on good terms and an official visit was in the works for January, since Craddieth did not plan on signing until February. However, he pulled the trigger on the first day of the early signing period in favor of Iowa. Nebraska managed just fine at safety with the signings of C.J. Smith and Cam’ron Jones, but Craddieth would have been another nice addition to a secondary that requires some revamping. Moreover, losing him to a division rival is not ideal.