Now that the 2023 Nebraska football recruiting class is in the books, here are the final grades and superlatives.
Nebraska football wrapped up its 2023 recruiting class earlier this week and the Huskers have the 24th-ranked class according to the 247 sports composite rankings.
The Huskers signed 28 total and four of them are four-star prospects — Malachi Coleman, Cameron Lenhardt, Riley Van Poppel, and Princewill Umanmielen.
Matt Rhule signed a top-5 class and it includes the most in-state signees in a couple of decades. With seven additions since the early signing period, including five in the last week or so leading up to signing day.
The class still doesn’t have a quarterback and it’s not perfect. But, it’s a solid haul based on the situation, and here is a final grade, as well as superlatives for Nebraska football’s 2023 recruiting class.
Nebraska football 2023 recruiting class grade: A-
Rhule did a stellar job and signed six of the top 10 players in the state of Nebraska. Losing Benjamin Brahmer to Iowa State hurt but there is only so much you can do in what was a small recruiting window.
Nebraska football still added three of the top five players in the state. Getting a top-100 prospect in Malachi Coleman is huge and he’s a guy with legit first-round potential.
Rhule got six players total from the state of Texas and that’s something you can expect to continue going forward. The Huskers took chances on a lot of athletes and guys with a chance to significantly outplay their ranking. There will be misses but those misses will be on speed, as Rhule has talked about.
One miss in this class came at quarterback. By the time Rhule took over, the board was pretty diminished, so there isn’t much that could have been done. If Dylan Raiola commits to Nebraska, it won’t be a concern, but the Huskers need a quality quarterback in 2024 and maybe even two.
In normal years, nothing outside the top 15 would get the grade of an A, especially without a quarterback and just one running back in Kwinten Ives. It’s a good haul in the trenches, although there needs to be some four-star offensive lineman. Grading on a curve due to the Rhule hire, an A- seems fair all things considered.
Here are the superlatives.
Instant impact: Malachi Coleman
The top-ranked player in the state of Nebraska didn’t enroll early but he showed plenty at the Polynesian Bowl. He sure looked ready to contribute right away next season. Not only is he physically ready for the Big Ten, but Nebraska also has an opening on the outside and I could easily see him starting next season from day one.
Biggest sleeper: Ismael Smith-Flores
This was a tough one because there are so many guys with huge upside in this class — Brice Turner, Jaylen Lloyd, Eric Fields, Mason Goldman, and others. However, Smith Flores is one of my favorites. He’s 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, and has just one year of high school football under his belt. He played some wide receiver in high school and if he can learn how to block too, he’s got a really bright future.
Best NFL future: Malachi Coleman
Princewill Umanmielen is another guy that has a really bright future. The truth is Nebraska has a bunch of guys with the raw talent to be NFL players if they can be developed. But Coleman has that and as we saw in the Polynesian Bowl, he’s pretty polished too. Matt Rhule has made a career of developing freak athletes into really good football players. Coleman is already a good football player and with his raw athleticism, it’s going to be fun to see what he can be molded into. He’s got definite first-round potential.
Biggest recruiting win: Malachi Coleman
Not to beat a dead horse, but Coleman was trending to Colorado until Matt Rhule turned things around. It was a huge victory for the Huskers, no doubt about it.
Biggest loss: Zane Flores
This wasn’t the fault of Matt Rhule but the one recruit that I think about more than any other in the 2023 class is Flores. The top-500 quarterback should have never been allowed to leave the state.
Future Nebraska football Fan favorite: Eric Fields
Fields would have been a good candidate for biggest sleeper in the 2023 recruiting class for Nebraska football, but Matt Rhule praised him so much, as have others, that I think the cat is out of the bag.
Fields played 5A football in Oklahoma and he’s a tackling machine. Eventually, I think Fields has the ability to be comparable to Lavonte David. That’s who he reminds me of. He can run sideline-to-sideline but he will need to bulk up to be effective in the Big Ten. He’s also not enrolling early so it could take him a minute to become a regular on defense.
However, I would expect him to get time on special teams and down the road, he’s going to be a tone-setter for Nebraska football on defense.
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