Gator Bowl, Nebraska vs. Georgia, 01.01.2014

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini pauses before addressing the crowd after defeating Georgia and winning the Gator Bowl on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.

Wednesday goes down as one of my all-time favorite Signing Days.

It helps that a good friend — a typical tailgating, season ticket-holding, Harvey Perlman-loathing, teeth-gnashing Nebraska football fan — called me around noon and wondered aloud, "Is it National Signing Day?"

There's hope for this world.

Bo Pelini, for the most part, gave the media the typical platitudes befitting the occasion and went on his merry way.

The seventh-year Nebraska head coach announced NU's class on a day distinguished by its lack of clamor and glamor.

By its decided lack of drama.

Such quiet isn't necessarily a bad thing because, as Pelini said, "Recruiting doesn't end, it just gets started when you get to Signing Day because now it's up to the coaches to develop these young men."

As Pelini also said, it'll be a few years before we can judge the class in a meaningful way.

That said, recruiting "experts" especially like the four offensive linemen in the class. Pelini said one of those four, 6-foot-5, 270-pound Mick Stoltenberg of Gretna, also possesses "tremendous potential" as a defensive lineman. The Huskers will play him where he can contribute the quickest, the coach said.

My read: Bo likes the big Gretna kid.

I particularly like that 13 of the 24 players in the class come from the South or Southeast regions — four from Texas, three from Florida, three from Louisiana and one apiece from Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. You've probably noticed that folks in those areas tend to be deadly serious about football. Has NU ever packed so much SEC flavor into a class?

"It changes," Pelini said of the areas that suit Nebraska the best. "It's a little cyclical. We're still trying to figure out how the move to the Big Ten changes us. We're evaluating that every single year. Now that recruiting is over (for the class of 2014), we've already started those conversations to figure out, 'Are we approaching it the right way? Is there a better approach?'"

Nebraska still is having success recruiting in Texas, but not as much in California "for whatever reason," Pelini said.

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"We've kind of moved east," the coach said.

East and south. I like it.

Pelini said he's still assessing whether Nebraska is perceived differently as a Big Ten school. He's assessing various other factors as well.

"You have to acquire data," he said. "That happens over three years. And you have to evaluate it. At the end of the day, you have to look at the facts as much as you can to try to determine your strategies going forward."

His comments illustrate the magnitude of Nebraska's move from the Big 12, which became official in late June of 2011. Most folks underestimate the inherent difficulties of the transition. Put it this way: Ohio State perhaps constantly tweaks its overall recruiting plan, but you can bet many areas are set in stone. Being in the league for 102 years helps matters.

The Buckeyes' class of 2014 is ranked No. 3 by Rivals.com, their third straight top-five class. Nebraska's class drew a No. 32 ranking from Rivals, behind No. 22 Michigan State, No. 24 Penn State and No. 31 Michigan.

Many Nebraska fans will look at the ranking and grumble. Pelini has produced only one top-15 class (15th in 2011). As I've stated before, I think Nebraska should more often be in the Nos. 15-20 range. But to expect NU to produce consistent top-10 classes — considering its location — is utter foolishness.

I believe in the value of recruiting rankings. But they obviously can be misleading at times. Nebraska's 17-player class in 2012 was ranked 25th, but history likely will show that the ranking was too low.

Consider some 2012 names: LeRoy Alexander, Zaire Anderson, Tommy Armstrong, Imani Cross, Aaron Curry, Greg McMullen, Alonzo Moore, Avery Moss, Michael Rose, Vincent Valentine, Mohammed Seisay, Jordan Westerkamp.

Say what you will about Nebraska's 2014 group, but the coaching staff closed it out impressively. During January, NU arguably covered more ground than any other coaching staff in the country.

Pelini seemed a bit worn Wednesday. Away from the TV cameras, he expressed frustration at the 11th-hour loss of three-star defensive lineman Blake McClain to South Carolina. I'm guessing the world will continue to spin on its axis.

McClain essentially was the extent of Nebraska's Signing Day drama. In other words, pretty quiet day. What's it all mean? Ask me in a few years.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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