Randy York’s N-Sider
If you think Nebraska’s excited about its 2014 recruiting class, you should have been at the Devaney Center Wednesday night when Bo Pelini and his two coordinators shared center stage with Larry the Cable Guy at the first #Boom Husker Football Official National Signing Day Party. Pelini is leveraging every resource to help Nebraska win its first conference football championship in 15 years.
The influx of new talent, combined with the proven abilities of returning talent, has heightened expectations for Pelini and John Papuchis, his defensive coordinator. “We have a young group coming back and a good group coming in,” Papuchis said. “If we can continue to make some strides over the next seven, eight, nine or 10 months like we made between September and January last year, we’re going to be exactly where we want to be when they start selecting that four-team College Football Playoff next year."
Papuchis’ projected positive power was bold, but no braver than his boss, who poured more potential into the pile 45 minutes later. “I like our nucleus. I like our experience. I like our chances for next year,” Pelini told donors, season ticket holders and fans. “We have a good mix of young and older guys. I think we have all the ingredients – on offense, on defense and on special teams. Everybody’s on the same page, and we’re going to have to take it day by day (and get better and better, just like the chant goes). We need to do what we need to do to get our opportunity to win a championship. We’re not talking about anything else. Our aim is to win ‘em all, so we can be one of the four teams at the end. If we work hard and improve every day, we’re going to try to make that happen.”
Huskers’ Haul Includes Two Junior College Players
Nebraska coaches are pleased with their 2014 recruiting class. Wednesday afternoon, Pelini hosted a press conference, giving the 7th-year head coach the chance to introduce the Huskers’ 24-man 2014 recruiting class that includes 22 incoming freshmen and two junior college transfers. Pelini also welcomed and acknowledged a talented 18-player class of recruited walk-ons (16 in-state players; two out-of-state).
It was a balanced, double-barreled recruiting effort that differentiates Nebraska from the vast majority of Division I schools. It also explains why Pelini arrives at the office early, runs to stay in shape and keep his head straight, then makes every minute count in his strategic plan to move the Huskers closer to their goal of winning a Big Ten Championship and positioning Nebraska to contend for a national title. Some may ask why, but Husker coaches, players and staff all appear to be on the same page and asking the same question – why not?
Pelini is understandably proud of the Husker haul that was the result of a marked increase in private aircraft and a beefed up budget that allowed him to manage everything he needed or wanted to get the job done. The reinforced support eventually will lead to a bigger football staff that will help elevate Nebraska’s year-round approach to recruiting. Pelini showed heartfelt appreciation for this year’s recruiting support at both the press conference and the party to celebrate signing day.
Pelini: Every Signing Class is a True Team Effort
A signing class “is a team effort,” Pelini said, referring to those who worked nights and weekends behind the scenes and are so important to the process. Pelini mentioned Nebraska Senior Associate Athletic Director Dennis Leblanc (Academics) and NU Associate Athletic Director Keith Zimmer (Life Skills) for their departments’ key recruiting roles. He also expressed his sincere appreciation for “everybody associated within our administration. Without everybody’s efforts, this class wouldn’t be possible.”
Big Red boosters, coaches and senior staff athletic administrators were all in the same room at the Devaney Center to celebrate a recruiting class that required extraordinary effort to help the Huskers land a class that coaches, players, fans and donors can embrace as one.
Wednesday night’s joint celebration moved almost as quickly as Husker coaches who scattered across the country to sign players from 13 states, including four players from Texas, three each from Nebraska, Florida and Louisiana, two each from Illinois and Missouri and one each from Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Nevada, Virginia and Wisconsin. Overall, the Huskers recruited 13 offensive players,10 defensive players and one kicker, Drew Brown, the younger brother of Kris Brown, who ranks second in Nebraska career scoring with 388 points from 1995 to 1998.
Coaches Become Interviewer Instead of Interviewee
The Huskers broke from tradition Wednesday, hosting one recruiting event in Lincoln instead of the usual recruiting banquet in Omaha on Signing Day followed by another banquet in Lincoln the next night. Papuchis and Husker Offensive Coordinator Tim Beck shared a lead role, intermingling their observations to include live Skype interviews with first-year recruits.
Papuchis interviewed four players – Lincoln defensive back Luke Gifford; Kenosha, Wis., defensive end Joe Keels; Hiawatha, Kan., defensive lineman Peyton Newell; and New Orleans linebacker Jaevon Walton. Beck interviewed four offensive players – Apopka, Florida quarterback Zack Darlington; Las Vegas lineman Nick Gates; Lincoln lineman Jerald Foster; and Alexandria, Va., wide receiver Demornay Pierson-El.
The superior interviews – by far – were Papuchis with Keels and Beck with Darlington because both recruits were able to answer questions in Memorial Stadium's studio, which features the superlative technical support of HuskerVision.
As Always, Larry the Cable Guy Steals the Show
Nebraska Athletics Fund organizers made several smart moves, hiring dueling pianos as entertainment, getting Larry the Cable Guy to keep everyone in stitches when technology didn’t always comply with player interviews and bringing out the Nebraska Pep Band and Cheer Squad following Papuchis’ prediction and preceding Bo’s prognostication.
Larry the Cable Guy, whose real name is Dan Whitney, has done much more than his share of athletic events and his ever-expanding group of faithful followers always consider him a headliner who's worth the price of admission alone.
Nebraska views its recruiting success on a much different scale than the so-called experts. "Look at the rosters from the Super Bowl,” Pelini said at his press conference. “There are very few five-stars, very few four-stars. There are lots of three-stars, lots of two-stars, lots of guys who were unranked...I feel good about the potential of this group...It's our job to develop them into what we saw when we recruited them in the first place."
Even Tom Osborne would say amen to that.
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