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Michigan State vs. Nebraska, 11.17

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost leads the team onto the field to take on Michigan State on Nov. 17, 2018, at Memorial Stadium.

As far as pizzazz goes, this February signing date will not come close to matching last February’s for head coach Scott Frost and Nebraska.

That’s probably just fine by the Huskers.

The past seven weeks haven’t exactly been silent for NU. Junior college running back Dedrick Mills signed in mid-January and four-star safety Noa-Pola Gates made his December signing public a few days later. The Huskers hosted six players on official visits and are seemingly in good shape to land at least one of them — Oklahoma City wide receiver De’Mariyon Houston — when he makes his announcement at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Nebraska’s made headway for future classes with a big junior day last weekend and missed out on a few 2019 targets — particularly a trio of outside linebackers — in recent weeks. So there’s been some activity.

But nothing like last year.

Consider the February signing date alone in 2018 for NU: Three of the five true freshmen that eventually eschewed redshirts and saw regular playing time made their announcements on Feb. 7: outside linebacker Caleb Tannor, running back Maurice Washington and cornerback Cam Taylor. So, too, did receiver Andre Hunt and offensive lineman Willie Canty, who ended up failing to qualify and enrolling at Garden City (Kansas) Community College.

Before that, five other players — defensive lineman Casey Rogers, defensive backs Braxton Clark and Cam’ron Jones and receivers Miles Jones and Dominick Watt — gave their verbal pledges in January, helping to fill out what was a 13-signature day for the Huskers.

Those additions, combined with the December signees and transfer Breon Dixon, brought the Huskers to a grand total of 24 for the 2018 class.

That’s why it’s important to keep in mind where NU stands entering a late signing period that will be much shorter on fanfare: They’ve already signed 26 players for this class. It currently ranks No. 14 in the nation (third in the Big Ten) according to Rivals and No. 19 (fourth) according to 247Sports.

The yeoman’s work has already been completed. That’s the way Nebraska designed the 2019 cycle and the way it played out.

So whether the Huskers add Houston, him plus another — the only other possibilities would seem to be running back John Bivens (Dayton, Ohio) or junior college offensive lineman Desmond Bland (Arizona Western), though neither is anything resembling a sure bet — or nobody at all, NU’s 2019 class will eventually be graded not on what happened between Dec. 20 and Feb. 6, but for mostly what occurred before Christmas.

Back in December, when 25 signed, Frost outlined what he thought NU could still add.

“I still think we need to improve our depth at outside linebacker and pass rusher, so we will keep our eye out for that,” he said then. “If there’s another receiver that we can add, I think our depth there is not really where we want it to be through this first year. I still think we could use a young corner to try to get in here and develop to see if they can help us. So those are kind of areas that we’re looking (for). So it doesn’t really matter, skill player on offense, D-line, if we find a kind of player that can help us win games in the Big Ten, we’re going to take them.”

It appears unlikely the Huskers will add pass-rush help now, but they will also have some added flexibility for the remaining offseason. If Nebraska signs one, it will have three remaining spots in the class. Two signatures would leave two spots. Those can be used to explore the transfer market — graduate or otherwise — after spring ball, through the summer and on toward September.

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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