The first commit for the 2023 Nebraska football recruiting class didn’t last. And the last commit for the class didn’t get a scholarship until 72 hours before signing day.
That’s the portrait for coach Matt Rhule’s first class at NU. Excluding transfers, it is 28 members strong — as big as Bo Pelini’s 2008 class but four short of Bill Callahan’s epic class in 2005. Eighteen committed to Rhule and his coaches, while two more, Malachi Coleman and Cam Lenhardt, recommitted to Rhule’s staff after decommitments.
The majority of the new commits had no recruiting relationship with NU before Rhule and company arrived. That was true of the last commit in the class, Aurora (Colorado) Regis Jesuit cornerback D’Andre Barnes, who came up in a conversation between Husker offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield and Regis coaches.
Like 23 more commits in the class, Barnes is a consensus three-star prospect. Just 14.3% of NU’s class garnered a four-star rating, according to 247Sports Composite service; that trends behind Scott Frost’s first class (6 of 24) or Mike Riley’s first class (4 of 21), while trending ahead of Pelini’s 2008 class (3 of 28, according to Rivals) or Callahan (2 of 20).
People are also reading…
Rhule is upfront about his desire to play the numbers game: His staff will go to a lot of schools and offer players other coaches may not. Several Husker signees — including Barnes; running back Kwinten Ives; receivers Brice Turner and Jeremiah Charles; lineman Jason Maciejczak; and linebacker Eric Fields — were headed to Group of Five or FCS schools had Nebraska not recruited them.
“The last couple years in the (NFL) Draft, where was I going to? Where was I looking? I was looking for guys at Northern Iowa, North Dakota State,” Rhule said. “I went to North Dakota State to see two first-rounders. And so, how do those guys end up there? Well, sometimes guys develop a little bit later, they hit maturity a little later. I want to be a team to recruit the top players in the country, but I never want to not look at a guy's senior tape. Because guys are going to pop their senior year.”
Tight end signee Isaiah Smith Flores was an example. He played only a little high school football, but the son of former Iowa football star Leroy Smith drew a “holy smokes” from Rhule when he saw Smith Flores’ tape. Landing the Arlington (Texas) Martin standout helped the Huskers fill the void left by Ben Brahmer, the first commit in the class who flipped to Iowa State more than 18 months after he originally pledged to the Huskers.
The effort was good enough to become the top-rated class in the Big Ten West Division. NU’s done that quite often since the East/West split began after the 2013 season — so recruiting rankings haven’t been very determinative in the division races — but the majority of the classes ranked in the 40s.
A deeper look at NU’s 2023 class by the numbers:
Nebraska composite/consensus four-star recruits
* Lincoln East receiver Malachi Coleman.
* Manor (Texas) edge rusher Princewill Umanmielen.
* IMG Academy (Staten Island, New York) edge rusher Cameron Lenhardt.
* Argyle (Texas) defensive tackle Riley Van Poppel.
Nebraska signees by position
According to Huskers.com roster.
Defensive line (seven): Vincent Carroll-Jackson, Sua Lefotu, Cameron Lenhardt, Maverick Noonan, Princewill Umanmielen, Riley Van Poppel, Kai Wallin.
Receiver (six): Demitrius Bell, Jeremiah Charles, Coleman, Jaidyn Doss, Jaylen Lloyd, Brice Turner.
Defensive back (five): D’Andre Barnes, Dwight Bootle, Ethan Nation, Syncere Safeeullah, Rahmir Stewart.
Offensive line (five): Mason Goldman, Gunnar Gottula, Brock Knutson, Jason Maciejczak, Sam Sledge.
Linebacker (two): Dylan Rogers, Eric Fields.
Kicker (one): Tristan Alvano.
Running back (one): Kwinten Ives.
Tight end (one): Ismael Smith Flores.
Nebraska signees by state
Nebraska (eight): four offensive linemen, one edge rusher, one kicker, two receivers.
Texas (six): two receivers, one edge rusher, one linebacker, one defensive tackle and one tight end.
Florida (three): two defensive backs, one edge rusher.
California (two): one defensive tackle, one edge rusher.
Pennsylvania (two): one defensive tackle, one safety.
Colorado (one): defensive back.
Georgia (one): defensive back.
Missouri (one): receiver.
New Jersey (one): running back.
Oklahoma (one): linebacker.
South Dakota (one): two-way lineman.
Tennessee (one): receiver.
Nebraska signees in order of final commitment
June 2021: Gottula.
January 2022: Bootle.
February 2022: Sledge.
June 2022: Doss, Knutson, Van Poppel, Noonan.
July 2022: Rogers.
December 2022: Turner, Ives, Safeeullah, Wallin, Alvano, Lloyd, Stewart, Goldman, Umanmielen, Maciejczak, Coleman, Fields, Carroll-Jackson.
January 2023: Nation, Lenhardt, Charles, Smith Flores, Bell, Lefotu.
February 2023: Barnes.
Nebraska signee's average sizes
Average size of offensive line signees: 6-foot-5, 293 pounds (including Maciejczak).
Average size of defensive line/edge rusher signees: 6-5, 257.
Average size of defensive back signees: 6-0, 174.
Average size of receiver signees: 6-1, 177.
Average size of linebacker signees: 6-2½, 218.
Tallest signee: Knutson (6-7).
Shortest signees: Bootle and Nation (5-10).
* Elkhorn South running back Cole Ballard.
* Gretna linebacker Korver Demma.
* Bellevue West tight end Cayden Echternach.
* Omaha Burke defensive back Mason Jones.
* Oakland-Craig offensive lineman Grant Seagen.
* Arlington (Texas) Martin running back Greg Wager.
Notable recruiting victories
* Van Poppel (picked Nebraska over TCU and Michigan).
* Coleman (NU over Colorado).
* Nation (NU over Auburn, Texas A&M and Oregon).
* Noonan (NU over Iowa and Stanford).
* Doss (NU over Oregon, Missouri and Iowa State).
* New Orleans Booker T. Washington running back Arnold Barnes, Tulane.
* Pierce tight end Ben Brahmer, Iowa State.
* Ellenwood (Georgia) Cedar Grove receiver Barry Jackson, Cincinnati.
* Vivian (Louisiana) North Caddo receiver Omarion Miller, Colorado.
* Aurora (Colo.) Regis Jesuit linebacker Hayden Moore, Michigan
* Springfield (Massachusetts) quarterback William Watson, Virginia Tech.
Notable Nebraska signees who decommitted from other schools
* Bell (Michigan State).
* Carroll-Jackson (Syracuse).
* Lefotu (Washington).
* Maciejczak (North Dakota).
Top 100 recruits by Big Ten school
According to 247Sports Composite.
* Ohio State, seven.
* Penn State, four.
* Nebraska, one (Coleman).
* Michigan State, one.
Five- and four-star recruits by Big Ten school
According to 247Sports Composite.
* Ohio State, 19.
* Penn State, 18.
* Michigan, 10.
* Michigan State, nine.
* Nebraska, four.
* Maryland, four.
* Illinois, three.
* Wisconsin, three.
* Iowa, two.
* Minnesota, two.
* Northwestern, one.
Big Ten team rankings
According to On3 Consensus.
* Ohio State, 4.
* Penn State, 14.
* Michigan, 19.
* Michigan State, 24.
* Nebraska, 29.
* Iowa, 38.
* Illinois, 40.
* Northwestern, 43.
* Minnesota, 46.
* Wisconsin, 47.
* Maryland, 48.
* Purdue, 58.
* Rutgers, 59.
* Indiana, 62.
National Signing Day: Meet Nebraska's 2023 class
Get a closer look at each Husker signee —rankings, evaluations and a look at how they landed at Nebraska.
Dwight Bootle had long wanted to follow in the footsteps of his older brother — former Husker Dicaprio Bootle — and now he will have his chance at Nebraska. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
Kwinten Ives’ height lends him more toward wide receiver than running back. But there’s plenty to like about having a pass-catching running back with tremendous speed.
Rahmir Stewart may be Nebraska’s first signee from Pennsylvania in over 20 years, but he’s far from the last. Look for Matt Rhule to keep recruiting the area heavily.
Omaha Westside's Jaylen Lloyd has a speed and explosiveness that coaches covet. Now he's bringing those skills to Nebraska.
Gunnar Gottula played tackle in high school, but he could easily move to a guard or even center spot under the right circumstances. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
Jaidyn Doss isn't necessarily a speedster like some receivers in Nebraska's class, but he’s polished and tough and can play relatively quickly. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
Nebraska plans to take Jason Maciejczak as an offensive lineman, although he could play defensive tackle.. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
Tristan Alvano's clutch performance and game-winning kick in the state final showed how much he meant to his Omaha Westside team. He could do the same for Nebraska. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
Elkhorn South's Maverick Noonan never quits on a pass rush. The Husker legacy is one of Nebraska's strong pass rushing prospects in a good class of defenders. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
Nebraska defensive backs coach Evan Cooper identified Syncere Safeeullah as a can’t-miss prospect, and he recruited him like it. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
Omaha Creighton Prep's Sam Sledge was the first offensive lineman to commit to coach Donovan Raiola. Since then, his recruitment has been as solid as his block. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
As one of the highest-rated prospects in Nebraska's 2023 class, edge rusher Princewill Umanmielen was a recruiting win. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
Capable of playing H-back on offense, Riley Van Poppel can move for his size, and will be a dynamic player on Nebraska's defensive line after some development. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
In recruiting Brice Turner, Matt Rhule and the Nebraska staff saw an athlete with game-changing speed. Now Rhule's first commit has signed with the Huskers. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
Scottsbluff's Brock Knutson has an edge to him that Nebraska offensive line coach Donovan Raiola will like. And he loves the Huskers. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
Dylan Rogers' violent closing speed on ball carriers is reminiscent of what Ernest Hausmann showed with the Huskers last season. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
Gretna's Mason Goldman has been one of the state’s best offensive linemen the last two years, and he's versatile enough to play wherever Nebraska wants to utilize him on the line. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
Kai Wallin should fit into Nebraska's defensive scheme easily, and the potential is there for him to be a multi-year contributor. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
Malachi Coleman would be a can’t-miss prospect anywhere in the country, making it crucial that Nebraska won out over Colorado. Now the Lincoln East wide receiver will be a Husker. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
While he might not have recruiting stars, Eric Fields was a big-time linebacker during his high school career. Now he's headed to Nebraska. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
Vincent Carroll-Jackson's signing day announcement of Nebraska makes him a late flip and a big addition to the Huskers' class. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.
Cameron Lenhardt’s highlight film shows a player with a high football IQ and the solid technique taught at a program such as IMG Academy. Now he's headed to Nebraska. Get more in our Signee Spotlight.