Nebraska kicked off its first game of the 2020 season Saturday against Ohio State, but it is never too early to take a look at the future leaders of this program.
The 2021 recruiting class will be uniquely impacted by the ruling that this year will not count toward eligibility for NCAA athletes.
National signing day is in February, and 85% of the top 250 recruits in the 2021 class have already committed to a college. Nebraska is likely almost done with its recruiting cycle, with just a few open spots left.
The past five years, Nebraska has had an average of 22.6 enrolled recruits per year, and the Huskers have 19 commitments already for the 2021 class. While most players may not see the field early, many of Nebraska’s 2021 recruits still have the potential to be early contributors.
Nebraska has signed three four-star recruits for the 2021 class, half of what they averaged in each of the last five recruiting classes. Nevertheless, there are still a couple of four-stars the Huskers are hoping to sign in the coming months.
Perhaps Nebraska’s biggest focus of this recruiting class was tight end Thomas Fidone from Council Bluffs, Iowa. Fidone, rated as the second-best tight end nationally in the 2021 class, committed to Nebraska Aug. 26 over Notre Dame, LSU, Iowa and 32 other teams. He profiles as a big, physical receiver capable of blocking linebackers.
Despite joining what is currently a pretty deep position for Nebraska, the 6-foot-5-inch Fidone will be one of the most talented pass catchers on the roster. And, if he lives up to the hype, he should be able to contribute or even start right away.
One of the other four-star recruits came from another neighboring state. Randolph Kpai, an outside linebacker, is the highest-rated recruit from South Dakota since 2003. Kpai chose the Huskers over offers from Oregon, Minnesota and Wisconsin, among others. He is lean but plays fast and aggressive. Nebraska is not necessarily thin at outside linebacker, but Kpai will instantly become one of the most talented players on Nebraska’s front seven. He will, however, need to add some bulk before receiving significant Big Ten playing time.
The Huskers’ final four-star commit is Omaha-native Teddy Prochazka, who signed with Nebraska over a year ago. Prochazka is a 6-foot-8-inch offensive lineman from Elkhorn South who should help solidify a position group that has been a weakness in recent years. Given that Nebraska has one of its most experienced offensive lines in years, Prochazka should not be forced into action right away and will have an opportunity to get even bigger.
In addition to Prochazka, Nebraska has signed four in-state recruits for the 2021 class. While the Huskers lost the top recruit in the state, four-star Omaha Westside cornerback Avante Dickerson, to Minnesota, and three-star Bellevue West wide receiver Keegan Johnson to Iowa, they were able to sign five of the top seven.
Heinrich Haarberg hails from Kearney Catholic, a school of less than four hundred students across seven grades, yet is the 17th-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the nation. Haarberg has a big arm and considerable speed. He is the highest rated quarterback from Nebraska this century, but will likely begin fourth on the depth chart next season behind current-junior Adrian Martinez, redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey and freshman Logan Smothers.
The Huskers also secured commitments from three-star safety Koby Bretz from Omaha Westside and three-star tight ends AJ Rollins of Creighton Prep and James Carnie of Norris. The three will add depth early on to their respective strong position groups. Head coach Scott Frost has placed an emphasis on not letting top in-state talent slip away, and while the Huskers did sign five of the top seven Nebraska natives, he has failed to sign both of the top two in-state players in each class for the past two years.
The Other Twelve:
While Nebraska’s three top rated recruits came from in-state or bordering states, the Huskers signed over half of their 2021 recruits from at least 800 miles away. Latrell Neville, a wide receiver from Texas, may not be a four-star, but he received 42 other offers highlighted by Alabama, LSU and Ohio State. He is a big, physical pass catcher that will add to Nebraska’s young but talented receiving core.
Patrick Payton, an outside linebacker from Miami, Florida, chose Nebraska over schools like Miami, Georgia and Penn State. In fact, it seemed to be a recurring theme that many of Nebraska’s 2021 commits received offers from some of the top programs in the nation. Gabe Ervin, a running back from Georgia, is not ranked in the top 50 in his state or top 600 nationally but picked the Huskers over Michigan, Florida State and Tennessee, among others. Regardless of rating, it is clear many of these signees were highly sought-after recruits and had their share of suitors, many of them far more successful than Nebraska in recent years.
Perhaps the most underrated recruit of this class is receiver Shawn Hardy from Kingsland, Georgia. He played in the highest division of one of the top high school football states. Not only did he put up productive numbers, with two straight seasons of over 700 receiving yards, but his tape is really impressive, as the 6-foot-3 wideout looks long and explosive.
The Huskers did well stocking up at one of its weaker positions by grabbing four linebackers and continued a trend by signing a handful of skill position players. Unfortunately, they failed to sign a defensive lineman, one of Nebraska’s weaker position groups. This is a pretty well-rounded, diverse class that could be further bolstered by a couple more commitments. As always, player development will prove most important in determining how much of an impact this class will have in leading Nebraska back to national relevance.
Top Remaining Prospects:
There are still a handful of Nebraska’s top prospects that have yet to commit and are still in play for the Huskers. Tiaoalii Savea, a four-star defensive end from Nevada, is projected to choose Nebraska by five out of six recruiting analysts.
According to 247Sports, Nebraska is also the favorite to land Wynden Ho’ohuli, a four-star inside linebacker from Hawaii.
Nebraska Football Class of 2021 Commits
6-5 225 lbs.
Council Bluffs, IA
6-8 280 lbs.
6-3 185 lbs.
Sioux Falls, SD
6-3 195 lbs.
Missouri City, TX
6-5 205 lbs.
6-6 320 lbs.
Mount Pleasant, IA
6-5 185 lbs.
6-2 205 lbs.
6-0 200 lbs.
6-2 220 lbs.
6-3 190 lbs.
6-2 185 lbs.
6-6 220 lbs.
6-7 330 lbs.
6-5 220 lbs.
6-3 195 lbs.
Lardarius Webb Jr.
5-10 170 lbs.
6-0 185 lbs.
6-0 190 lbs.
Cedar Hill, TX