The narrative around Nebraska football has recently found itself centered on the personality of Bo Pelini. A casual google search for "Bo Pelini Rage" is like walking through the Louvre, if the Louvre was comprised entirely of paintings done by artists going through a tax audit. If you were to ask my mom her thoughts on Nebraska football, would she be able to recreate several of the colorful coach's rant faces- her knowledge of the on field product? Dubious.
And yet somehow, in spite of all of that, Nebraska has become this incredibly steady winning machine over the past few years. In spite of recruiting interactions like this one...
It was hard for Walker to make that call to Nebraska on Friday, but he knew he had to do it. He said he didn't handle the Vanderbilt situation as well as he could have back when he decommitted from the Commodores in October and he wanted to make sure and do the right thing this time.
Even his mom was afraid for him when he made the call to head coach Bo Pelini and his staff on Friday.
"It was a very tough decision. They were [mad]. They were very mad. But I thought I had to call them like a real man should," Walker said. "But yeah, they were mad. Coach Pelini said, 'Best of luck, you're going to need it.' "
Wide receivers coach Rich Fisher also was in on the call.
"Coach Fisher said, 'I can't believe you,' " Walker said. "It was really awkward."
The staff in Lincoln has managed to consistently churn out classes that end up ranking in the top half of the Big Ten come signing day. This is especially impressive when you consider the inherent difficulty of...well...being Nebraska.
"I want to be done now," Els told ESPN.com. "The problem is we aren't going to get a ton of commitments, obviously, until we get kids on campus. And because of our small population base around here, it's hard to get kids to come visit us right away when we're not paying for it. It's expensive."
A year after having a class headlined by explosive skill players (and Randy Gregory, who could probably be an explosive skill player if he wanted because Randy Gregory can do anything), Nebraska used the 2014 scholarships to reel in some big time trench players. In the recent trend of top players from the state of Illinois electing another Big Ten opponent over the Illini, offensive lineman Tanner Farmer committed to Nebraska on National Signing Day over offers from the hometown team and Minnesota. Although he was somewhat lightly recruited, he ended up with the highest 247Sports Composite Rating for this class. He doesn't look especially athletic on tape and I think he'll need to work on his balance (not getting too top heavy), but he has a good frame and strength to be a mauler at offensive guard.
Nevada OL Nick Gates was a bit higher touted. The athletic Bishop Gorman product had offers from up tempo teams like Oregon and Arizona (as well as one that's trying to go more up tempo in Alabama) on top of Texas A&M, who is producing offensive line talent right now like it's no one's business. It's an impressive victory for the Nebraska staff, and one that could pay huge dividends down the road. Gates, like every high school offensive lineman ever, needs significant polishing and weight, but he's a steal that could really come up big for the Huskers down the road. Kansas DT Peyton Newell, Nebraska offensive guard D.J. Foster, and Kansas DT Joe Keels all provide additional depth to both sides of the line.
Perhaps the biggest coup of the class, however, was Nebraska's ability to lock down Florida signal caller Zack Darlington, who chose the Huskers over Ohio State(!). The dual-threat quarterback enrolled early and took part in spring practices in an attempt to win playing time this year. At his disposal will be a trio of highly touted out of states in IL RB Mikale Wilbon, MO WR Monte Harrison and MO TE Freedom Akinmoladun. Wilbon was a bit of a late riser from Chicago who ultimately chose NU over Vanderbilt. He doesn't look like he has a whole lot of shake to his game, but his straight line speed and quickness, as well as his vision and solid build will help him in college.
All in all, it's hard to make conclusions about this class. On one hand, you might hope for a bit more star power from a school winning as consistently as they are. On the other, you have a somewhat polarizing coach at a program geographically isolated from many of the top prospects in the country. I think it's appropriate to wonder if Nebraska is scraping their ceiling at the moment: Big Ten championships are always going to be in reach for the Huskers, but how much further can they go? Unless they really begin to rally their on field consistency into better recruiting classes, this might always be the Nebraska we see.