Nebraska will likely have recruiting visitors each of the next four weekends before National Signing Day arrives Feb. 7.
It’s unlikely, though, that the Huskers will host a gathering as big as the one expected this weekend.
The recruiting dead period ended Thursday and head coach Scott Frost and company are expecting to welcome more than a half-dozen prospects to campus this weekend before a week on the road to school and home visits around the country.
As signing day approaches and schools jockey to receive official visits from prospects, visitor lists remain very fluid. However, it’s clear this weekend will bring several priority targets to Lincoln.
The list of expected official visitors includes: four-star outside linebacker Javontae Jean-Baptiste (Oradell, New Jersey), four-star cornerback Taiyon Palmer (Lawrenceville, Georgia), four-star defensive end Caleb Tannor (Lithonia, Georgia), three-star defensive end Daniel Carson (Independence, Missouri), three-star quarterback/linebacker Matthew Tago (Lancaster, California), three-star athlete Miles Jones (Plantation, Florida) and three-star offensive lineman Jarrett Bell (Norco, California).
In addition, four-star Mansfield, Texas, safety Cam’ron Jones and teammate Corbin Fredrick are expected to visit unofficially. Jones used an official here last month, but is returning on his own dime with Fredrick, who has a walk-on offer from the Huskers.
“Things are changing every day and in some cases they’re changing by the hour,” HuskerOnline and Rivals recruiting analyst Nate Clouse said. “Your visits are fluid, your overall recruiting board is really fluid. Guys are rearranging trips and moving (teams) up and down their lists and (teams) are moving them up and down their lists. It’s constantly just a work in progress.”
Of course, the week has already included plenty of recruiting news, with former Central Florida quarterback and Wahoo native Noah Vedral’s Tuesday announcement that he’s transferred to Nebraska and also East Mississippi Community College wide receiver Mike Williams’ Wednesday night commitment.
Both are in school for spring semester and will be taking part in spring practice — Vedral had to transfer on his own as a walk-on because UCF blocked him from contact with NU, but he has already joined the team — and Williams announced his commitment well ahead of Monday’s midyear junior college signing deadline.
Tally up the numbers — 12 signees in the early period, two verbal commitments (four-star safety C.J. Smith and three-star Masry Mapieu), another scholarship transfer (Williams), another potentially being finalized this weekend in Ole Miss defender Breon Dixon — and NU could realistically be sitting at a class size of 16 before decisions from any of the official visitors.
“I think you’re going to see this signing class be somewhere between 22 and 24 and I’m inclined to say closer to 24,” Clouse said. “With the way this staff has put this class together in a short amount of time, they’ve made it pretty clear that they want to turn this roster over as quickly as possible and infuse as much talent into this roster as quickly as possible.
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“I think they’re going to maximize this recruiting class as much as they can. The Big Ten allows you to oversign by three and I think by the time Signing Day rolls around they’ll technically be at 88 scholarships and then we’ll see what happens.”
The Huskers are going to have to top some marquee schools to land the players they want. Consider Palmer and Jean-Baptiste.
On Thursday alone, Palmer landed offers from Clemson and Notre Dame. Earlier this week, Jean-Baptiste picked up offers from Ohio State and Texas A&M. Premier programs like those immediately become strong contenders, of course, though NU coaches Mike Dawson and Erik Chinander were the first to offer Jean-Baptiste when they were at Central Florida.
“They were the first real FBS school to offer him and they’ve stuck with him all the way through, and now they’re coming into Nebraska and I think he’s pretty excited about that,” Bergen Catholic coach Nunzio Campanile said of his New Jersey defensive player of the year. …“I know Coach (Greg) Schiano and Coach (Urban) Meyer pretty well and I think they have true, legitimate interest in him. … At the same time, there’s a lot of value in the fact that the guys at Nebraska have been with him for really the longest.”
Virginia Tech is also considered a strong contender for Jean-Baptiste, who had 88 tackles and 14½ for loss as a senior.
“He’s got tremendous growth potential,” Campanile said. “A lot of times you get those kids that are great high school players and they might be tapped out. He’s the opposite. He’s just getting going and he’s already a great player. There’s potential for some great things with him.”
Most of the players NU is bringing in this weekend and next are safely considered top-of-the-board prospects. Carson is one of the few left on the board that had an offer from the past staff, though he also had an offer from Frost’s UCF staff. A 500-mile radius player, Clouse thinks NU is in a good spot.
“He plays a position of need and I think he’s an excellent fit as a defensive end in the 3-4 defense,” Clouse said, adding that proximity to home may factor in as NU jockeys with Miami and Texas.
Unlike Carson, who’s a clear fit at a specific spot, though, several targets don’t fit cleanly into a single position. Tago is being recruited primarily as a quarterback but could play multiple defensive spots. Jones, the current Vanderbilt verbal commit, could play almost anywhere on offense and is a return threat. In general, NU looks to be prioritizing length and range on defense and speed and quickness on offense.
“They’re looking for playmakers,” Clouse said. “Not necessarily guys that fit the exact prototype for a position, but playmakers and guys that create mismatches on the football field and make things happen.”