With new coaching staffs at both programs, Tennessee and Nebraska had to move quickly to establish a foundation in their respective 2018 recruiting classes. Hired in early December, Nebraska coach Scott Frost and Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt squared off in a series of recruiting battles leading up to the inaugural early signing period and all the way to National Signing Day.
Nebraska recruiting vs. Tennessee recruiting: Early signing period
We already broke down the battle of Huskers vs. Volunteers following the early signing period. In that piece, I determined the contest to be a draw. Tennessee brought in more players in a 5-3 decision, but Frost and Nebraska pilfered former Tennessee commit Adrian Martinez and flipped him.
Martinez, a 4-star quarterback and early enrollee, became the headliner of Nebraska’s class. Every recruiting circle lauded the signing as a massive win for Nebraska and rightfully so.
Still, Tennessee secured JUCO defensive end Jordan Allen, Cordova (Tenn.) teammates Jeremy Banks (running back) and Jerome Carvin (tackle), JUCO tackle Jahmir Johnson and JUCO tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson.
Nebraska survived a late push from Tennessee and signed Arizona Western teammates Jaron Woodyard, a wide receiver who will arrive at campus in June, and running back Greg Bell, who enrolled in January.
Nebraska recruiting vs. Tennessee recruiting: Signing Day
Both Tennessee and Nebraska were late offers for Joseph Norwood, an unheralded defensive back who picked up his first Power 5 offers from the programs less than a week before the Feb. 7 Signing Day. He considered a visit to Nebraska during the final weekend before Signing Day, but opted to check out Tennessee instead. The 3-star athlete, who will be a defensive back in college, signed with the Volunteers. In reality, the Huskers never really had room for Norwood, a Chattanooga, Tenn., native.
Shortly after the new staffs settled into their respective campuses, 4-star wide receiver Jacob Copeland considered both schools. Copeland enjoyed a solid relationship with Pruitt, who recruited him when he was the defensive coordinator at Alabama. He thought about visiting Nebraska, but never made the trip. The Volunteers certainly had a shot, with the wideout making an official visit just before the early signing period. But Copeland stuck with Florida, another program that went through a coaching change this offseason. Copeland had been previously committed to Florida, but backed off for two months to fully assess his options and take more visits.
Other prospects who held offers from both programs included 4-star wide receiver Tommy Bush (Georgia), 4-star outside linebacker Javontae Jean-Baptiste (Ohio State) and 3-star defensive end Daniel Carson (Texas). Nebraska was the closer of the two in landing all three, but ultimately signed none of the trio. The Huskers did not make the cut for Bush’s final list of schools. They received official visits from Carson, who quickly committed to Texas following the trip, and Jean-Baptiste. In fact, Nebraska was the front-runner for quite some time with Jean-Baptiste, before he spurned the Huskers on Signing Day in favor of Ohio State.
Nebraska recruiting vs. Tennessee recruiting: Final verdict
After the early signing period, Tennessee picked up a 1-0 victory in the second leg of this battle (Norwood). Now, how pivotal of a win that is can certainly be debated.
In this case, the numbers don’t matter as much as the quality of prospects and the importance of each recruit. For example, the signing of Martinez outweighs the signing of any battle Tennessee won over Nebraska. When looking at the finished product though, the scales tip back to even, or perhaps even in slight favor of the Volunteers.
In terms of rankings, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, Tennessee finished just ahead of Nebraska at No. 20 in the country (No. 8 in the SEC), while the Huskers finished 22nd nationally and fourth in the Big Ten.
Nebraska and Tennessee will likely never settle the score on the field unless they face off in a bowl game, like they did in the 2016 Music City Bowl. If that happens in the next couple of years, it will be interesting to see which 2018 recruits impact the outcome. Then we’ll gain a better idea of who truly came out on top of the many recruiting battles Tennessee and Nebraska waged last cycle.