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 post-Signing Day mailbag is here. This week we take a look at the top positions of need in the 2019 recruiting class, gauge Nebraska’s chances of landing a 5-star prospect, and why bringing in a bunch of walk-on specialists makes sense.
Top 3 positions of need in the 2019 class?
— 3rdLargestCity (@3rdLargestCity) February 11, 2018
The 2019 class will be another important one for Scott Frost and his staff. It will be their first full recruiting cycle with the Huskers. If they could pull off the No. 22 class in the country in about two months, imagine what they could do with a full year under their belts. There will be positions Nebraska needs to focus on:
- Running back
- Offensive line
- Defensive tackle
If I could add another position group, it would be defensive backs. Expect Nebraska to continue revamping that unit in future classes.
Running back: Nebraska probably will bring in two running backs in 2019, similar to this year. The staff needs to keep recruiting backs who fit their offense, meaning prospects who can contribute in the running and passing games.
Offensive line: After landing only two offensive line prospects in this class, the Huskers likely will seek three or four prospects on the line. Two of those recruits should be tackles.
Defensive tackle: The Huskers missed out on this position in 2018. A recruit who can play nose tackle will be more than necessary.
Do you see Nebraska picking up a 5* Recruit, or Two if Nebraska has success on the field next year?
— Jeff Lewis (@Mobilfarmersmkt) February 12, 2018
Nebraska is in the running for one 5-star 2019 prospect at this point — Owen Pappoe. The No. 7 overall prospect in the class, according to the 247Sports composite, Pappoe told Land of 10 on Monday he will take an official visit to Nebraska at some point next season.
Two more 5-star prospects to keep tabs on would be running back Noah Cain, who likely will set his sights on other schools, and athlete Isaiah Williams, who is from the St. Louis area, which be a priority for Nebraska beginning in the 2019 cycle.
Nebraska rarely is involved with 5-star prospects. Last year, Micah Parsons (Penn State enrollee) was the only one on Nebraska’s radar. Perhaps the Frost era will usher in a new perception of Nebraska and will lead to the recruitment of more 5-star recruits.
Chris, even though a team may have scholarship long snapper, punter and kicker, why not try and get these each year as a walk-on? (1) It doesn’t cost the team a scholarship. (2) You are just an injury away. (3) You would have a number of guys practicing so legs don’t get tired. (4) The NFL can go to free agency, there is no free agency in college. (5) Competition for every position is always good. — John
John, those are good points. In this walk-on class of 19 prospects, there actually are two long snappers. There is only one scholarship long snapper, punter and kicker on the roster. I would expect an influx of walk-ons at those spots in the coming years. It makes sense. I’m not saying all three positions will have a walk-on every year, but every other year seems reasonable.
These things also depend on talent. If a kid cannot kick or snap the ball in the Big Ten, what’s the point of having him on the roster? If you want to play the competition card, they have to actually compete. So depending on bodies, that could be tough to pull off.
In addition to coaching outside linebackers, Jovan Dewitt will be in charge of special teams. Dewitt has four seasons of being a special teams coordinator under his belt.
Will the special teams improve?
Among Big Ten teams, the Huskers finished third in average kick-return yardage and eighth in punt-return yardage. Kicker Drew Brown (59 career field goals) did a solid job as a four-year starter. He graduated, though, and it’s unlikely his replacement will perform at the same level. Punter Caleb Lightbourn averaged 42.1 yards per punt, right around the league average.
The one area in which the Huskers struggled on special teams was kickoff coverage. They finished 12th in the conference in kickoff length and net average of kickoffs.
If Dewitt can improve that area, I’d say Nebraska’s special teams will be in fine shape.