LINCOLN — On to the official visits.
The summer recruiting period for Nebraska football is over. The busiest and most organized summer effort I've seen out of Bo Pelini's staff elicited 10 commitments from May 5 (defensive end Christian Lacouture) to Aug. 9 (cornerback Jonathan Cook).
Rather than swim against the tide of kids committing before their senior season — as former recruiting coordinator Ted Gilmore seemed to do in 2010 — new recruiting coordinator Ross Els worked with the current, creating Big Red Weekend. That event scored, among other players, an underrated safety commit (Sioux Falls, S.D., athlete Nathan Gerry) and a four-star linebacker (Gaithersburg, Md., star Marcus Newby).
In the quarterback derby, NU had struck out on most of its top prospects before catching a break when Santa Margarita (Calif.) Catholic star Johnny Stanton came to town for what amounted to a one-day tryout. He didn't have an offer when he arrived. But he'd convinced offensive coordinator Tim Beck by the time he'd left.
Stanton, a burly runner who's still learning how to throw all of the passes, was, indisputably, the biggest catch over the summer. When NU beats out two high-performing offenses for Stanton's services — Oregon and Wisconsin — consider it a coup.
Here's a quick recap of the Huskers' summer hits, misses and biggest needs for fall.
>> Winning two local recruiting battles: Gerry and Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst offensive guard Zach Hannon were key gets. Especially Hannon, who has the feet and smarts to play early in Nebraska's offense.
>> Stanton: The kid plays for a great high school team, he looked good on ESPN's Elite 11 program and he'll stump for Nebraska well on the recruiting trail. Every class needs a name and a face. Stanton is it.
>> Filling a need: NU is thin at tight end, and 6-foot-5, 225-pound Greg Hart is a lanky, sure-handed adjuster type who can play different receiver spots or exist comfortably on the line of scrimmage. Oregon always seems to have one of these guys attacking the seams.
>> Jerel Morrow: This Emporia (Kan.) four-star speedster probably picks Nebraska if it is still in the Big 12. Instead, he picks Oklahoma State.
>> Massachusetts boys: Offensive guard John Montelus and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst Jr. are two of the best players on the East Coast. They committed to Notre Dame and Michigan, respectively, without ever taking an NU visit.
>> Su'a Cravens: The five-star safety planned an NU unofficial visit, canceled at the last minute and committed to USC.
>> Beau Sandland: The junior college tight end from Los Angeles could be the Huskers' top priority this fall. Once Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed leave, the most experienced player from the returning group of tight ends likely will be dependable walk-on Jake Long.
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>> Offensive tackle: Nebraska has three juniors at tackle now. The No. 4 guy may be redshirt freshman Zach Sterup. Unless Tyler Moore returns, the Huskers need tackles, pronto.
>> Defensive tackle: Don't be shocked if NU takes two or three. Yes, there's nine scholarship guys already on the roster at that spot, and only Baker Steinkuhler is a senior. But Rick Kaczenski is the new sheriff there, and he'll be given some latitude to recruit to his template.
>> Safety: After 2012, there are just three scholarship players — Corey Cooper, Harvey Jackson and LeRoy Alexander — on the roster. Another spot where you may see a juco kid.
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Nebraska and Iowa's team recruiting rankings as of Monday, according to several scouting sites. The Huskers have 14 commits while the Hawkeyes have 18:
247: 29th (NU) and 31st (Iowa)
247 Composite: 25th/28th
ESPN: Both outside the Top 25
Some of ESPN's rankings are bewildering. ESPN ranked Oregon 25th overall with eight commits. Stanford is currently 23rd with seven commits. The 247 Composite rankings for both schools are 74th and 82nd, respectively.
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Of the four services, Scout currently had the highest regard for NU's class, in part because it deems six of NU's commits as four-star recruits. (Rivals sees only three.) And Scout is the only service giving Plymouth (Ind.) guard Dan Samuelson a four-star ranking.
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Stanton game on TV
Stanton on Saturday starts his senior season on ESPN2 as part of ESPN's High School Kickoff weekend. Santa Margarita Catholic heads to Phoenix to play Brophy Prep.
Santa Margarita — loaded with size and well-trained players — starts the 2012 season No. 2 nationally in both the ESPN 25 Power Rankings and USA Today's Super 25. No other Husker commits currently play for teams in either top 25, although Youngstown Cardinal Mooney — home of 2013 commits Courtney Love and Marcus McWilson — plays its opener against Cleveland Saint Ignatius, 24th in ESPN's poll.
It's always interesting to note how many of NU's current players come from top programs. In one or both of the preseason polls, for example, you'll find Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee (sophomore quarterback Brion Carnes); River Ridge (La.) John Curtis (senior safety P.J. Smith and sophomore defensive end Walker Ashburn); Vista Murrieta (Calif.) (freshman offensive lineman Corey Whitaker); and South Jordan (Utah) Bingham (freshman linebacker Jared Afalava).
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