Cameron Jurgens/Twitter
Four-star tight end Cameron Jurgens signed with Nebraska during the early signing period, a big win for the Huskers on the recruiting trail.

Nebraska recruiting mailbag: Does early signing period give schools like Nebraska an edge?

Welcome to the Nebraska recruiting mailbag. Each Tuesday, Land of 10 Nebraska recruiting reporter Chris Bumbaca will tackle the latest recruiting questions from readers. Ask your question for a chance to be featured in the next mailbag by tweeting him @BOOMbaca. As always, thank you for the questions.


The first mailbag of the new year! Happy 2018, everyone — hope there’s plenty of mailbags to go around. This week we take a look at the potential advantages or disadvantages of not filling a recruiting class during the early signing period, fullbacks in Scott Frost’s offense, pass-rush options, and plenty more.

Do u know about what percentage of prospects signed during the early period?  And also what percentage based on how many 5 star, what percentage of 4 star, etc Since OHIOST and other top schools may only have room for a couple of players left this year, my question is perhaps it might be smarter to not have a full class sign (like NU) but actually could work to NUs advantage because the supply and demand could work better in NUs favor? — Dusty

My man Dusty left me a super-long message with plenty of detail, but this set of questions is what we’re going to focus on. Basically, Dusty’s premise is that with other blue-blood programs filling their programs, having only 12 signees right now actually benefits Nebraska since the competition for the best remaining prospects has lessened for the Huskers between the early signing period and February.

Of the top 100 prospects in the 247Sports composite rankings, 33 did not sign during the early signing period. A handful of them are committed and simply opted to not sign. Most of those prospects’ recruitments, however, are still open. Nebraska doesn’t have any serious headway with any of them, although former commits Brendan Radley-Hiles and Joshua Moore are in that group.

Since you brought up Ohio State, let’s use the Buckeyes as the barometer here. That’s a little unfair, since the Buckeyes have the No. 2 class in the country, but it works for this argument. Ohio State currently has 21 players signed in its class. As a top choice for prospects, it makes sense for the Buckeyes to be ahead of the curve and lock up as many recruits as possible. It clearly worked.

But I get what Dusty is saying. With a nearly full class, Ohio State won’t be as active on the recruiting trail from here on out, at least when compared to Nebraska, which needs to fill about seven spots. Sure, that benefits Nebraska. I’m not sure it will bother Ohio State, and the remaining blue-chip prospects aren’t picking Nebraska this cycle, anyway. So yeah, right now, in a transition class with a new coaching staff and a revamped recruiting class, the early signing period worked for the Huskers.

This isn’t where Nebraska wants to be every year, though. Like I said, it works for this cycle because of the circumstances, but in a couple of years the Huskers are going to want to lock up their commits as early as possible. It makes everything so much easier. Moreover, with large classes signing early, it would likely mean the product on the field is excelling.

After looking at the UCF roster, I noticed something was missing: a fullback. Does this mean under Frost’s offense the fullback is going to disappear or that Frost struggled to get one to come to UCF? If one thing we as Husker fans love to see is a fullback blocking or getting his hands on the ball (Makovickas, Cory Schlesinger, Andy Janovich, etc.). — William

Oliver Connolly recently published a solid piece looking at how Nebraska’s offense may look under Frost. I encourage all of you to take a look at it — it’s extremely informative.

Unfortunately, William, I don’t see too much of a fullback presence in Frost’s offense. The spread simply isn’t conducive to the position. Rather, I think you’ll see more tight-end/H-back usage closer to the line of scrimmage rather than I-formation. So it won’t be in the mold of the names you mentioned, but the theory of a fullback won’t be extinct.

Backs are also active in the receiving game in Frost’s offense. Perhaps some fullbacks can find a role there. Otherwise, the days of using a traditional fullback are largely over.

In case you missed it, Frost and the staff capped off a 13-0 season with a 34-27 victory against Auburn in the Peach Bowl on Monday. It was a fitting end for a magical season for the Knights. Shaquem Griffin, the player in question here, is a linebacker for the Knights. With only one hand, he was looked at as an example of the heart UCF showed all season.

So yeah, every team (not just Nebraska) can use a player with Griffin’s skill and fortitude. They just don’t come around very often.

From a personnel standpoint, Nebraska is definitely looking for an edge rusher to complement what it already has in the incoming class. Tate Wildeman and David Alston were signed as defensive ends, although Alston will probably move to outside linebacker. The thing about a 3-4 defense is that it’s usually the outside linebackers who are doing the majority of the pass rushing, so we’ll focus there.

Javontae Jean-Baptiste is the first name that comes to mind. He’s a 4-star outside linebacker from Spring Valley, N.Y. Nebraska has a chance of hosting him for an official visit this month, and he’s a priority. Daniel Carson would play on the line, but he’s a defensive end prospect to watch, as is Casey Rogers, who recently picked up an offer.

While it’s true recruits around the country have started to notice what Frost is building with someone such as 4-star quarterback signee Adrian Martinez, whether it will pay off in this cycle remains to be seen. Martinez has said before he wants to take on a peer-recruiting role in the class.

I’m not so sure the Under-Armour All-America Game, which Martinez will be participating in Thursday, is the place where he’ll have the most success peer recruiting, though. A vast majority of those prospects are already committed or signed. And other than Martinez, there aren’t many recruits with serious ties to Nebraska.

But in the larger scheme of things, I think Martinez’s recruitment will help Nebraska this cycle. His signing signified there’s a clear plan in pace and some highly ranked recruits, such as Martinez, want to be a part of it.

I want to be clear that I like the current system. It’s far from perfect, but more on that in a second. I’m wary of growing the size of the playoffs. Too often we’ve seen the semifinal games result in blowouts. Pitting the No. 8 seed against the No. 1 seed? No thank you.

If they did want grow the size of the playoff, I think having six teams and having the top two seeds receive byes would be an appropriate place to start (like in the NFL).

UCF was unfairly treated in the rankings. Entering the Peach Bowl at No. 12 was a mockery. This was strictly because they were in the American Athletic Conference. Their case is the clearest example we have to date that the selection committee only values Power 5 programs.

Here’s how I’d go about it if I had the power:

I’ve always believed that this committee was created to make sure the four best teams are in the playoff. Words such as “résumés” and “criteria” are thrown at us. That’s all inconsistent, at best. The criteria can never apply to everyone and résumé matching is futile when not everyone is on the same playing field.

The solution? Throw out criteria and résumés. It’s all hogwash, anyway. Make it based on only the “eye test” of the people in the room and expand the committee from 13 to 21, with two or three representatives from the Group of 5 conferences. I think that’s a fair way to fix it for now.

Just make sure the four best teams are playing each other. I’m not so sure that’s happened every year.