Stay updated with Nebraska Cornhuskers football recruiting in the latest edition of The Harvest, which posts at 7:30 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. Be sure to check out previous editions of The Harvest here.
The early signing period resulted in several wins for Nebraska recruiting, especially considering this is a transition class with new coach Scott Frost and his staff building on a class that was originally recruited by Mike Riley and his assistants. Between Dec. 20-22, the Huskers signed 12 of their 14 commits.
Right in the middle of the holiday season, think of all those signings as a specially-wrapped present. But we all know that some presents are just better than others, so let’s take a look at which ones Nebraska fans were especially glad had their names on this time of year.
Arizona Western Community College
Recruiting junior college prospects fell by the wayside during Riley’s tenure, and no former JUCO player has made a significant impact on the field with the Huskers for quite some time. Expect that to change, though. Four of the 14 commits and one-third of Nebraska’s signees are former junior college players, with two of them coming from the same program.
Arizona Western Community College is considered one of the top JUCO programs in the country year in and year out. This year, their leading running back, 3-star Greg Bell, and leading receiver, 3-star Jaron Woodyard, both became hot commodities on the recruiting trail.
The Huskers wound up with both.
Snagging one would have been nice, but landing both is like unwrapping a deluxe, special-edition version of a gift. Bell can play all over the field, so he’ll be a factor in both the running and passing game, while Woodyard’s speed can certainly make him a game-changer when used properly.
The walk-on program
This is like a present from your childhood that’s all of a sudden cool again. Everyone still loves it. You’re nostalgic for it. You’re not even sure why it left in the first place, because all of your friends — those other college football programs — were jealous of it. But that doesn’t matter anymore, since you’re just glad it’s back.
A strong walk-on program separated Nebraska during the championship years of the 1990’s. Frost, who played during that era, has made it a priority. In the middle of preparing his former Central Florida team for their Peach Bowl matchup against Auburn, he flew from Orlando to Lincoln one night for a ‘Homegrown Husker’ event.
Nebraska is already reaping the benefits of reinvesting in in-state talent and prioritizing the walk-on program. They signed six preferred walk-ons during the early signing period and are expected to bring in approximately 12 walk-ons total.
“The response has been great,” Frost said. “I’m looking forward to the talent we can add to the program through the walk-on program. That’s part of what made Nebraska great in the past. When I was the quarterback at Nebraska, not much attention was paid to these recruiting classes, but I can’t imagine Nebraska ever had a top-10 recruiting class. Nebraska won because we got a lot of kids on campus that cared about Nebraska. They went to work in the weight room, got a lot of reps on the field and Nebraska developed the players better than anybody else.
“That’s where we’re going to get to. It’s going to be a process. A walk-on or scholarship player, they’re going to get the same opportunity. I fully believe there are kids that are hopefully going to walk-on next fall and, after a year or two in our weight room and on the practice field, are going to develop into good players and starters for us. That’s an important part of what made Nebraska great and it’s an important part of what will make Nebraska great again.”
Linebacker Will Honas is the stocking-stuffer that you almost forgot to open. Sometimes, they really do save the best for last. The latest Huskers’ commit, Honas sent in his letter of intent on the second day of the early signing period. After an official visit to Nebraska two weekends ago, his decision came down to Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas State, but a late offer from Wisconsin almost threw a wrench in the whole process.
But the Huskers came out on top with Honas, and he could potentially be a game-changer on defense right away. He already has two seasons of JUCO experience at Butler Community College (Kan.). He’ll enroll early, participating in offseason conditioning programs, and then spring ball. By the time fall camp comes around, don’t be shocked if Honas is being talked about as an impact player at the inside linebacker position. Although he’s more of a 4-3 ‘Mike’ linebacker, those skills and instincts should translate fine into the Huskers’ 3-4 scheme.
An added bonus of landing Honas is keeping him away from either Iowa or Wisconsin, two Big Ten West division rivals. This is the gift that will truly make your siblings jealous.
The 4-star dual-threat quarterback is one you’ve had an eye on for a while. You let out a little fist pump once you realized in the middle of unpacking what it was. This is the shiny new toy you want to take for a spin right away, even though looking at the instruction manual may be prudent. You might even have a couple of toys similar to him, but this is the one you needed this holiday season.
Landing Martinez was obviously one of Nebraska’s biggest wins this recruiting cycle. The No. 8 dual-threat signal caller in the class will enroll next month, giving him the chance to compete for the starting job. His high school coach feels he’s a perfect fit for Frost’s offense. And Frost himself had identified Martinez as his favorite target when evaluating 2018 quarterbacks quite a while ago.
“Any freshman coming in that has spring ball before their first fall is a huge advantage and gives them an opportunity to compete,” Frost said last week. “They’re not coming in in the fall behind everybody else. I think we have a couple good quarterbacks on campus and I’m looking forward to that competition. When I was evaluating quarterbacks for this class a long time ago, Adrian was my favorite guy in the country. We didn’t think we had a chance of getting him at our previous school, but now getting to Nebraska, he was interested.”
Maybe the best gift of all for Nebraska this recruiting cycle is the guy in charge of it all. Athletic director Bill Moos is officially the cool uncle who spoils his nieces and nephews. Frost was arguably the most sought-after coach on the carousel this time around, and Moos made sure he brought Frost home to Nebraska, with no drama or even doubt.
Frost’s recruiting tactics have already yielded success. Bringing back the walk-on program, landing Martinez, keeping key commits from the old staff in Cameron Jurgens, Tate Wildeman and David Alston — these are all examples of how Frost can connect with recruits and convince them to buy into the vision he has for Nebraska. Frost’s hiring, above all else, will be the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to recruiting.
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