Tide rolls recruiting
Raise your hand if you’re tired of Nick Saban. And let me know if it would be nice to see different teams in the national championship game for once.
If I sound a little bitter, it’s only because I am. Saban has the Tide on a roll that the college football world has probably never seen.
Another title. Another top-ranked recruiting class.
But wait, not only do the experts claim it’s best in the land, but most are saying it’s now THE best of all time. Five 5-stars and 18 4-stars is simply unheard of.
Despite the fact that everyone needs to take a deep breath here, because after all, a lot of these players haven’t even arrived on campus yet, I’ve got to admit it’s a scary thought.
And yes, I’m jealous.
Nebraska, with five national championships to their name, is no slouch when it comes to recruiting, so I wondered, what year would go down as Big Red’s best recruiting class of all time? And in best, I mean the amount of players who made significant impacts to the program.
Starting in the modern era in the 1970s, the ‘74 class featured three future all-Americans in George Andrews, Kelvin Clark and quarterback Vince Ferragamo, who transferred in from Cal and went on to lead the L.A. Rams to a Super Bowl. Also in that class was high school quarterback signee Tom Sorley from Texas, who would lead NU to one of the most exciting games in Lincoln, a 17-14 win over top-ranked Oklahoma in 1978.
The 1980 class included future all-Americans Bret Clark, Irving Fryer, quarterback Turner Gill, Jeff Smith and tackle Mark Traynowicz. A good class, but the greatest?
In 1981, running back Mike Rozier signed out of Coffeyville Junior College and became one of if not the best in Husker history. Also in that class were Mike Knox, Bill Lewis, Grand Island’s Tom Rathman and Jim Skow.
The 1984 class was highlighted by defensive lineman Neil Smith, who had an incredible wing span, and Keith “End Zone” Jones.
Quarterback Steve Taylor from California signed in ‘85 along with Broderick Thomas from Houston.
Aurora’s own Jim Wanek was part of the 1986 class and would go on to start along NU’s offensive line. Others in that class included quarterback Gerry Gdowski, Doug Glasser, Morgan Gregory, Terry Rodgers, Pat Tyrance, and all-Americans Kenny Walker and Jake Young.
The ‘89 class had several greats including Trev Alberts, Johnny Mitchell, Derek Brown, Grand Island’s Mike Anderson and of course Will Shields, a former Chief and a member of the NFL Hall of Fame.
A year later fullback Cory Schlesinger, Calvin Jones, Ed Stewart, Brenden Stai, Zach Wiegert, Terry Connealy, Donta Jones and Rob Zatechka all signed, a core that would help give Tom Osborne his first national championship. This turned out to be a great class...but the greatest?
Quarterback Tommie Frazier signed in ‘92 along with Damon Benning, Clinton Childs, Mike Minter, Kareem Moss, Eric Stokes, Tyrone Williams, Jon Hesse and Toby Wright. Another great class with extra stars for Frazier.
That class was backed up by the ‘93 one that featured superstars Eric Alford, Eric Anderson, Josh Heskew, Michael Booker, Jason Peter, Lawrence Phillips and Aaron Taylor, who just recently was chosen for the College Football Hall of Fame.
The Huskers added even more firepower a year later in Darin Erstad, Jay Foreman, Sheldon Jackson, Mike Rucker, Eric Warfield and Grant Wistrom.
Scott Frost transferred back home from Stanford and signed in 1995 along with Kris Brown, Terell Farley, Ahman Green, Julius Jackson, Eric Johnson, Chad Kelsey, Tony Ortiz, and T. J. Debates. More depth and more future all Americans.
Eric Crouch and Matt Davison highlighted the ‘97 class along with Correll Buckhalter, Jamie Burrow, Bobby Newcomb, Dominic Riola, Erin Sweeney, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Dave Volk, Joe Walker and Tracey Wistrom. That was a great, great class for new coach Frank Solich.
Skipping ahead to 2005, 5-star running back Marlon Lucky from N. Hollywood, Calif., signed along with Zach Potter, Matt Slauson, new Super Bowl champion Ndamukong Suh, Zac Taylor, Steve Octavien, Zack Bowman and Barry Turner.
In 2007 Bill Callahan, a great recruiter, signed Prince Amukamara, Larry Asante, Eric Haag, Blake Lawrence, Roy Helu, Paul Niles, Jared Crick, Marcel Jones and Adi Kunalic.
Baker Steinkuhler was a 5-star recruit in 2008 from Lincoln Southwest. He signed along with P.J. Smith, Alfonzo Dennard, Antonio Bell, Courtney and Steven Osborne, Ben Cotton, Kyler Reed, Cameron Meredith, Will Compton, Ricky Henry and Sean Fisher.
Aurora’s Andrew Rodriquez signed in 2010, headlining a class that included Corey Cooper, Kenny Bell, new Super Bowl champion Lavonte David, Jake Cotton and Quincy Enunwa.
A year later Ameer Abdullah highlighted the class, but this one turned out to be a bust. Just a couple other notables included Zach Sterup, Damion Stafford, Daniel Davie, Jamal Turner and Aaron Green.
Another large gap in talent skips us ahead to Austin Allen’s 2017 signing class for Mike Riley. Again, not a great one as far as depth goes. Damion Daniels, Brendan Jaimes, Kurt Rafdal, Deontre Thomas and Broc Bondo are players who so far have contributed. Busts included Elijah Blades, Jaylin Bradley, Tristen Gebbia, Willie Hampton, Tyjon Lindsey, Jaevon McQitty, Ben Miles, Avery Roberts and Andrew Ward, plus others.
So I ask you, which is the best Husker recruiting class of all time? To be fair, I believe it’s actually one that I skipped on purpose. It’s one that also was so important for Osborne to win his first title in Miami, over Miami.
The 1991 signing class is the winner. It featured quarterback Brook Berringer, safety Ernie Beler, receiver Trumane Bell, linebacker Doug Colman, safety Troy Dumas, linebacker Phil Ellis, tight end Mark Gilman, center Aaron Graham, defensive end Dwayne Harris, wingback Clester Johnson, receiver Abdul Muhammad, lineman Steve Ott of Henderson, defensive lineman Christian Peter and defensive back Tony Veland. Just one all-American in Graham, but a whole lot of really great, impact players who became team leaders.
This year’s class that Frost just signed has the potential to be great, but at least on paper, it’s simply no where close to Alabama’s.
The Tide is indeed rolling and everyone, at least for the moment, better get out of their way.
DAVE BRADLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.