Now that the Nebraska football recruiting class is signed, sealed, and delivered, here are our final takeaways for the Huskers.
The 2023 recruiting class for Nebraska football is finally in the books. D’Andre Barnes announced his signing on Wednesday, which pushed the total number of signees to 28.
Nebraska football also added 11 transfers and if those are included, that’s 39 players joining the program under first-year head coach Matt Rhule.
That’s the kind of roster overhaul that was needed and the Huskers aren’t done. More players will be added and subtracted from the roster before fall camp in August.
But as of right now, we at least know what the 2023 recruiting class is, and here are our final takeaways.
‘The fastest class in America’
That was how one 247 sports’ recruiting analyst dubbed Nebraska’s 2023 haul — the fastest class in America and here’s more on that from Andrew Ivins:
“I’m calling it — the fastest class in America,” 247Sports Director of Scouting Andrew Ivins said on the 247Sports National Signing Day Show on Wednesday. “When Matt Rhule was at Baylor, they recruited traits. At this past NFL Scouting Combine, two of the top three 40-yard dash guys were guys Matt Rhule recruited at Baylor. The third guy was one Rhule almost flipped — ended up going to UTSA…It’s just speed, right? What we’ve seen from Matt Rhule since he arrived there, is everything we expected. There’s headliners. They’re fast.”
This class certainly lives up to that billing. Malachi Coleman, Bryce Turner, Jalen Lloyd, and Jaidyn Doss all run the 100-meter dash in 10.5 or faster. That’s incredibly fast and during his press conference on Wednesday, Rhule said that Turner was as fast as any player in the country. He’s also 6-foot-2. Coleman is 6-foot-5 and all of them are expected to run track too.
Rhule likes players with speed and size and we have seen that. His focus is on the trenches and adding dynamic athletes. The Huskers definitely did that in 2023 and we’ll continue to see the athleticism of this program upgraded in the coming years under this new coaching staff.
One thing we have learned about Rhule and this Nebraska football staff is that they know how to close. A couple of weeks ago, they hosted four visitors on campus and all four wound up signing. Nebraska football also signed Cameron Lenhardt and Ethan Nation after visits.
The same can be said about a number of 2023 recruits. Trev Alberts always said once people get to Lincoln, Nebraska has a good chance of getting them and that was true in 2023. Almost every prospect that took an official visit after Rhule was hired wound up signing with Nebraska football.
That’s closing strong and Nebraska also closed strong by adding seven recruits to the class since Early National Signing Day. Lenhardt and Nation are each top-500 prospects. But Nebraska added five others since then, each with at least a three-star designation, and that ability to close is how Nebraska wound up ranked 24th in 2023 when it was all said and ranked ahead of teams like Colorado (30th) and Wisconsin (58th).
Development is key
Rhule talked on Wednesday about the ability to take really good athletes and find the right spot for them on the football field. Well, for Nebraska to succeed on the field, that development is going to be vital.
Rhule has a proven history of taking these kinds of players and turning them into NFL talents.
It’s intriguing to think about what Malachi Coleman can turn into or someone like Princewell Umanmielen or Eric Fields. Ismael Smith Flores is a guy I think has huge potential as a late addition and the same thing can be said about many of Rhule’s additions to this 2023 class.
The downside of that is that only six of the 28 Nebraska football signees are ranked in the top 500 of the 247 sports composite rankings. Trev Alberts said this needed to be the premier development program in all of college football and he’s right on point with that assessment.
If Rhule and his staff can develop these guys the way they believe they can, it’s going to be a great foundation for a Nebraska football rebuild. There are going to be misses but at least the Huskers will be sticking true to the idea of missing on size, speed, and potential.
Expectations are higher in 2024
Matt Rhule said it himself on Wednesday, “We should recruit well here.”
Nebraska is still Nebraska. This program isn’t what it used to be, but there is a lot to sell to the right kind of players and I see no reason why the Huskers can’t do under Matt Rhule what Michigan has done under Jim Harbaugh.
The Huskers certainly have a shot with Dylan Raiola, the top-ranked player in the entire 2024 class, but five-star recruits aren’t going to beat down the doors to come to Nebraska, especially with the way NIL is working.
But I see no reason why Nebraska can’t have a blue-chip ratio (percentage of class rated as four-star prospects or higher) that’s around 50 percent or higher. That’s where you need to be to realistically compete for championships and playoff spots and with Rhule, that’s a realistic target.
Nebraska landing top-10 classes is going to be difficult. Hell, Michigan has only had two of those in the last four cycles. it’s not a prerequisite to winning big. But you need some blue-chip talent. Nebraska got one this year in Coleman and hopefully, will develop some others that outplay their ranking in a big way.
If this program is going to become a blue-blood again, a real blue-blood, it needs to get blue-chip talent and that starts with Raiola in 2024.
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