In the 2019 recruiting class, Husker football coaches have currently signed players from 16 different states. Despite the thousands of miles of travel throughout the recruiting cycle, the state of Nebraska provided the Huskers with the largest number of signees, five in total.
Two players from Omaha Burke High School signed with Nebraska and enrolled at the university for the spring semester. Linebacker Nick Henrich and tight end Chris Hickman both chose Nebraska over a number of high-major options outside the state. Much interest came from inside the conference, as Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota offered both players.
The other early enrollee from in-state was Garrett Nelson, an outside linebacker from Scottsbluff High School. Nelson shut down his recruitment early, announcing his commitment to Nebraska under Mike Riley’s staff in 2017.
Garrett Snodgrass from York and Ethan Piper of Norfolk Catholic were the other two in-state players signed to scholarships. Snodgrass is one of a number of recruits listed as an athlete on the roster, while Piper will begin his career on the defensive line.
Three other players from the Midwest signed with Nebraska on the early signing date — defensive end Mosai Newsom from Iowa, offensive lineman Bryce Benhart from Minnesota and Dedrick Mills from Garden City Community College in Kansas.
Recruits from the eastern part of the country figure to factor heavily into the discussions for immediate playing time next season.
Arguably, the headliner of Nebraska’s class is wide receiver/athlete Wandale Robinson from Frankfort, Kentucky. Robinson’s path to Nebraska was abnormal as he appeared to favor the Huskers after his visit and conversations with recruiting experts. Shortly before signing day, he changed his mind and announced he was committing to Kentucky. Then on signing day, Robinson flipped again and put his name down on a letter of intent to play at Nebraska.
Another exciting prospect is linebacker Jackson Hannah, who hails from Nashville, Tennessee. Hannah stands at 6 feet, 3 inches tall, 220 pounds, and his mix of power, speed and recognition skills all caught the eyes of Nebraska coaches, especially linebackers coach Barrett Ruud.
Also from the southern and eastern ends of the country, Nebraska picked up commitments from running back Rahmir Johnson (New Jersey), defensive end Jamin Graham (Alabama) and offensive tackles Matthew Anderson (Louisiana) and Jimmie Fritzsche (South Carolina).
Another big win for Nebraska on the country’s east side was getting three recruits from the state of Georgia, widely believed to be one of the country’s recruiting hotbeds.
On offense, Nebraska head coach Scott Frost and running backs coach Ryan Held will work with all-purpose back Ronald Thompkins, who was not predicted to pick Nebraska. Defensively, coaches Erik Chinander and Travis Fisher got commitments from a pair of safeties, Myles Farmer and Quinton Newsome.
The south and west parts of the country also provided Nebraska with talent. The Huskers got one commitment each from Washington, Oklahoma and Texas and two from Colorado. Arizona was a key state for the Husker staff this year, and the staff’s work paid off in the form of three recruits.
Prior to signing day, Nebraska had only one commit from the state, cornerback Javin Wright. On signing day, Nebraska picked up a commitment from defensive end Ty Robinson, a prospect who had interest from most of last season’s top-25 teams, including Alabama, and many Pac-12 schools. The final commitment Nebraska received from an Arizona prospect came earlier this week. Safety Noa Pola-Gates officially announced his commitment on Saturday, Jan. 19 at the Polynesian Bowl.
After two classes, Nebraska’s current coaching staff appears to target different areas of the country than the previous staff.
The current staff has more connections in Florida, given that they came to Nebraska from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Despite signing no players from Florida this class despite a number of offers, they signed five in the 2018 class, almost equaling the entire total of seven signed by the last staff from 2015-17.
While the last staff focused on California and the “Calibraska” connection, the new staff appears to regard California like any other state. Frost has recruited only three players from California to Nebraska in his two recruiting cycles.
The only player from that state to play a key role for the Nebraska offense since 2015 is Adrian Martinez, the current quarterback. Frost’s staff also signed Greg Bell, who transferred, and Andre Hunt, who didn’t play his freshman season. Mike Riley’s staff tried to recruit quarterbacks from the West Coast, but neither Patrick O’Brien nor Tristan Gebbia played meaningful snaps in a Husker uniform.
Another area that could become a key difference in the staffs’ approaches is the way they recruit in Nebraska. From 2015-17, only seven players from Nebraska signed a scholarship to play for their home-state team. After one signee from the state signed in 2018, Frost signed five in-state players to scholarships this last cycle, along with a good number of walk-ons and preferred walk-ons.
In December, Frost said he thought that “it was a good year in Nebraska, talent-wise.” The staff may not sign five in-state players to scholarships each year, but they appear to be dead-set on keeping the talent they see within the state’s borders as opposed to letting them slip away to other Big Ten programs, like Noah Fant and Nathan Bazata to Iowa or Bryson Williams to Wisconsin.
The old staff’s Louisiana could be a model for what the new staff wants to accomplish in Alabama. At least one player from Louisiana signed with Nebraska each year from 2015-17, the most notable being Stanley Morgan Jr. This staff, on the other hand, has targeted players from Alabama heavily, signing two in 2018 and one in 2019.
From Texas, there may be a trend developing at the running back position. Nebraska’s primary back last year was Devine Ozigbo from Sachse, Texas. He led the Huskers in rushing in both 2017 and 2018.
Maurice Washington is on the short list of players in contention for Nebraska’s starting running back job and played high school ball in Texas. He overcame eligibility issues to join the running back room in 2018 and played in 11 games. The staff’s excitement for his eligibility showed as he received 77 carries and caught 24 passes, totaling 676 yards and four touchdowns.
Overall, Nebraska has currently signed 47 players the last two years and has improved in recruiting rankings from a fringe top-30 outfit to a consistent top-20 or higher recruiting machine. Through the last five classes, Nebraska has been rated either fourth or fifth in the Big Ten, a good starting point for a fresh staff, but something they hope to improve soon.
"Recruiting has changed and it hasn't," Frost said at Big Ten media days, also reiterating his desire for the conference to adapt to Nebraska and not the other way around.
What doesn’t need to change for Nebraska is the pursuit and influx of top talent, regardless of where the players are from. If that continues, what will likely change for the better is the team’s record, something Nebraska fans have been waiting for, like a head coach for a commitment, for years.