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The early National Signing Day arrives Wednesday and Nebraska is expected to sign about two-thirds of what will eventually be among the largest recruiting classes in recent memory at the school.

Entering Wednesday, the Huskers have 21 players who are expected to sign national letters of intent, a couple more prospects with unique situations and then a few who could provide NSD excitement.

All told, when the Huskers get to preseason camp in August, they expect to have up to 30 new scholarship players and 20 to 25 new walk-ons. Not all of that will get sorted out this week, of course, but what happens during the early signing period will chart the course for the rest of the offseason.

So, here’s a look at what we know and what’s still left to be learned.

Among the verbal commitments, who is (relatively speaking) a sure bet to sign with Nebraska this week?

Of Nebraska's 22 verbal commits, everybody except for junior college offensive lineman Desmond Bland (Arizona Western) is expected to sign during the upcoming period. Bland is most likely to sign in February and enroll in the summer. 

Where will that leave Nebraska?

If the Huskers get 21 signatures (plus anybody who commits from here out) on Wednesday, that will set them up nicely going forward. Those last nine or so spots will fill up quickly.

How?

Well, NU is on many more high school players that are not expected to sign early. They include longtime targets like four-star defensive back Noa Pola-Gates (Gilbert, Arizona), newer targets like four-star wide receiver Charles Njoku (Wayne, New Jersey), and players who are or were committed to other schools, like Pitt verbal commit outside linebacker Brandon Mack (Montgomery, Alabama).

They also may continue to pursue junior college targets, though Independence (Kan.) C.C. defensive back Tony Wallace committed to TCU late Monday night. 

Nebraska is also expected to be active in the graduate transfer market. The Huskers are expected to add Oklahoma graduate transfer defensive tackle Darrion Daniels, the older brother of NU’s Damion Daniels, though that move has not yet been made official by NU. The Huskers could also explore options at linebacker, in the secondary, at receiver or on the offensive line.

How does Nebraska have 30 spots?

It’s complicated. FBS rosters are governed by two main limits: 85 and 25. Teams can have a maximum of 85 scholarship players each season and can take a maximum of 25 “initial counters” or new players, each year. So how are the Huskers able to take up to 30 this year? The NCAA allows schools to back-count when their classes don’t hit the 25-man limit. In order to be back-counted, a player must enroll early.

NU was able to take all of its early enrollees last year — think Adrian Martinez, Greg Bell, Will Honas and others — and count them back to the 2017 class because Mike Riley’s final group was a small one.

Once all of the players for 2018 were accounted for — including summer additions like Vaha Vainuku and Tre Neal — NU's initial counter number finished at 20.

The Huskers are expected to have at least six early enrollees this year, so five can count back to 2018 to get to the 25-man max. Hence, Nebraska can sign 30, with five counting toward the 2018 class and the rest a full 2019 cycle.

Even that many players may not fill the roster to 85 by the time Aug. 31 rolls around, so even with a big incoming class and a small group of seniors upcoming (it’s at 17 before Daniels and any other graduate transfers arrive), NU still pegs 22 or so as it’s starting point for a 2020 class.

Is that complicated enough?

Who are those early enrollees you mentioned?

Good question. Here are the players who are expected to enroll in January and, as such, who Husker fans can look forward to seeing in the Red-White Spring Game on April 13:

* Quarterback Luke McCaffrey (Littleton, Colorado).

* All-purpose back Wandale Robinson (Frankfort, Kentucky).

* Linebacker Nick Henrich (Omaha).

* Tight end Chris Hickman (Omaha).

* Outside linebacker Garrett Nelson (Scottsbluff).

* Wide receiver Jamie Nance (Blanchard, Oklahoma).

If Houston defensive lineman Brant Banks picks the Huskers, he is also slated to be an early enrollee.

Who will we learn about on Wednesday?

The big one is four-star defensive end Ty Robinson of Gilbert, Arizona. He is making his announcement at 12:45 p.m. Central at his school, Higley High.

Joining the Huskers in his final group are Alabama, Oregon and USC. So, no competition, right?

Nebraska likes where it stands and had the final in-home visit with Robinson on Thursday. He enjoyed his visit to Lincoln back in November and the coaching staff has been after him basically since they arrived here last year. Robinson has family on his mom’s side in Omaha.

But this is big-time competition NU is up against, too. Regardless, it would be a mighty big win for the staff.

Four-star outside linebacker Lloyd Summerall (Lakeland, Florida) will make his announcement between 10 and 11 a.m. on ESPN2. His finalists are NU, Florida and Miami, though it would be considered a surprise if he picks the Huskers.

The other two to keep a close eye on are Banks and offensive lineman Jimmy Fritzche (Greenville, South Carolina).

Banks is a mid-year enrollee and is announcing his decision at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. The Huskers like him as a defensive lineman while others have recruited him for offense. NU appears to be in very good shape with the 6-8, 280-pounder.

Fritzsche visited Lincoln this weekend, but also has a brand new offer from Clemson on the table. He tweeted Tuesday morning that he will choose between the Huskers and Tigers at 11 a.m. at his high school in Greenville. 

What do we watch for in January?

The dead period in recruiting lasts until Jan. 10. At that point, coaches will have a little more than three weeks on the road before the Feb. 6 signing date.

Expect Nebraska to work heavily on 2020 in addition to trying to wrap up the 2019 class. With anywhere from five to nine spots available for 2019, there will be work left to finish. However, the Huskers will certainly be out trying to add to their 2020 class.

Among the remaining 2019 targets, it’s probably safe to assume that Pola-Gates, Njoku and potentially Mack will be among the primary high school targets. New players may well come onto the radar screen, too, depending on who signs and who doesn’t around the country. Then, Bland and other juco prospects will be worth keeping an eye on.

Predictions

There’s a lot more stability than this time last year, when the Huskers signed 10 players in December and several more in February.

The bet here is that Robinson and Banks both sign with Nebraska. Fritzsche is a tough call, but home is awfully hard to turn down.

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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