Published Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:01 am / Updated at 12:37 am
FOOTBALL
Recruiting roundtable: A closer look at the Huskers' 2014 class

A recruiting roundtable with selections by HuskerOnline.com publisher Sean Callahan (Rivals.com), Big Red Report publisher Josh Harvey (Scout.com), and Huskers Illustrated's Mike Schaefer (247Sports.com), and host of The World-Herald's online sports talk show "The Bottom Line" Mike'l Severe.

* * *

BEST OVERALL PROSPECT

Callahan: Wide receiver Monte Harrison. The guy is built like Quincy Enunwa, but can run like Kenny Bell. If he doesn't go pro in baseball, there's no doubt in my mind he sees the field next season.

Harvey: Nick Gates. Believe Nebraska when it says the Nevada offensive tackle could play anywhere on the line. He's extremely mobile, plays with a mean streak and finishes off his blocks.

Schaefer: Monte Harrison. The receiver is a tremendous athlete who could be successful at nearly any sport. He's physically more developed than receivers currently at Nebraska and has strong recognition skills on how to track and attack when the ball is in flight. He plays with a rare amount of power as a receiver, and is a risk to play Major League Baseball.

Severe: Monte Harrison

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BEST OFFENSIVE PROSPECT

Callahan: Offensive lineman Tanner Farmer. Give Nebraska credit. They identified Farmer early and that decision paid off in a big way. Farmer ended up being one of the top O-linemen in the country.

Harvey: Tanner Farmer. After Gates, Farmer has to grade out pretty high. He has a good base and seems to use his hands to extend at just the right time to slow his opponent.

Schaefer: Nick Gates. It took Nebraska a long time to lock in the offensive lineman, but it was more than worth the effort. Gates is a tenacious run blocker with great athleticism. He projects to be a multi-year starter and likely gets first shot on the right side, but has the versatility to play anywhere on the offensive line.

Severe: Tanner Farmer

* * *

BEST DEFENSIVE PROSPECT

Callahan: Linebacker Jaevon Walton. Don't be fooled by his three-star ranking. Walton is as good as any recruit in this class.

Harvey: Trai Mosley. Joe Keels will likely make a bigger impact quicker, but Mosley has the characteristics of a corner who excels in Bo Pelini's system.

Schaefer: Cornerback Chris Jones. Might be stepping out on a ledge here, but Jones' build is exactly what Nebraska wants in a cornerback. At 6-foot, he's got the length and has great speed as well. Most importantly, he wants to be in an aggressive, press-style man coverage. A lot of teams came in after Jones committed, but he stayed with Nebraska.

Severe: Jaevon Walton

* * *

STRONGEST POSITION GROUP

Callahan: Offensive line, to me, is without a doubt the strongest overall position group in this class. When you factor in Alex Lewis' addition, this may be Bo Pelini's best offensive line class in six years.

Harvey: The offensive line. Not only did Nebraska land three All-Americans at the position, they got a guy in Mick Stoltenberg who could project out at a lot of spots.

Schaefer: Offensive line. You have to be impressed with what John Garrison and Barney Cotton did with this group. Tanner Farmer, D.J. Foster and Nick Gates all look like multi-year contributors. Mick Stoltenberg is a very intriguing project with his frame and motor.

Severe: Offensive line with Farmer, Foster and Gates. Stoltenberg could also play on the OL.

* * *

HIDDEN GEM, OFFENSE

Callahan: Wide receiver Jariah Tolbert. I love his size, frame and upside. I know Rich Fisher is very excited about Tolbert's potential.

Harvey: Demornay Pierson-El. The kid should have been ranked higher (No. 91 WR on Scout.com) than he was. It would not be a surprise to see him returning kicks next year; he's a home-run threat with the ball in his hands.

Schaefer: Wide receiver Demornay Pierson-El. He played quarterback on a struggling team this year. By far his team's best athlete. He showed great vision and elusiveness as an open field runner.

Severe: Freedom Akinmoladun

* * *

HIDDEN GEM, DEFENSE

Callahan: Defensive end Deandre Wills. It was almost a blessing for Nebraska that it recruited Wills so late under the radar. If he visits Lincoln a week or two earlier, it's more than likely other SEC programs would've made a run at him.

Harvey: Josh Kalu. The Texas product could factor in on special teams, and as a safety has shown the ability to come up the line of scrimmage to cover receivers. He's best, though, when he is able to roam the secondary as a centerfielder.

Schaefer: Defensive end DeAndre Wills. Nebraska plucked Wills from left field for the final visit weekend, but the tape shows a raw athlete in the defensive end. Wills has good power and speed. He'll need to work with defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski to shore up a lot of technique things he was never taught in high school.

Severe: DeAndre Wills

* * *

B1G RECRUITING WIN

Callahan: Beating Ohio State head-to-head for quarterback Zack Darlington this summer. As we know, Urban Meyer doesn't lose very many recruiting battles.

Harvey: Joe Keels. They flipped him from his Wisconsin commitment and he also had offers from Penn State and Maryland. Throw in the fact he played high school ball in Wisconsin and it's a solid conference recruiting win.

Schaefer: Offensive guard Tanner Farmer. In almost every camp situation, Farmer went undefeated during 1-on-1s. That stems from his wrestling background. He understands leverage and will simply outwork opponents.

Severe: Joe Keels. This one is a toss up with Chris Jones. I just worry about Jones' testing numbers. Not very explosive.

* * *

B1G RECRUITING LOSS

Callahan: It really hurt Nebraska to lose defensive end Darius Slade, and the fact that he stayed in the Big Ten makes it hurt that much more.

Harvey: Darius Slade. The Semper Fi All-American was committed for a month and called Nebraska a great fit initially. Then he flipped to Michigan State, only to end up at Ohio State on signing day.

Schaefer: Running back Madre London. Nebraska fell into Mikale Wilbon late in the process, but London was a top target from the spring on. It seemed like the Huskers were in the driver's seat, but he ultimately chose Michigan State because he felt he could emulate Le'Veon Bell.

Severe: Darius Slade.

* * *

OVERALL CLASS STRENGTHS

Callahan: The strengths would be the depth established at wide receiver, offensive line and in the secondary. These were all areas where Nebraska needed to be strong.

Harvey: Nebraska needed to replenish the offensive line and it did, snagging three All-Americans in the process. In addition, it got a couple wide receivers who could play early and help on special teams.

Schaefer: Nebraska built itself in the trenches with this class. The Huskers signed eight linemen on either side of the ball and found some possible long-term starters as well. Additionally, NU shored up some questions in the secondary by holding on to Trai Mosley and bringing in Chris Jones. The pair of cornerbacks could make a nice tandem down the line.

Severe: Offensive line and cornerback, but if Larenzo Stewart qualifies and Demornay Pierson-El is used out of the backfield, running back would be one of the strongest positions.

* * *

NEEDS NOT FULLY ADDRESSED

Callahan: The Huskers signed four defensive linemen, but they really needed to get at least one more defensive tackle. Blake McClain was going to be that guy, but he left the Huskers in the final hour.

Harvey: For the second straight year, Nebraska could have used a junior college defensive tackle. While it landed one junior college defensive back, another juco corner wouldn't have hurt.

Schaefer: Defensive end will be mentioned by most here, but Nebraska's best prospect is a wide receiver who may never suit up. The next best wide receiver spent his senior year under center. The other wide receivers — Jariah Tolbert and Glenn Irons — have potential but are long-term projects.

Severe: Defensive tackle. Peyton Newell? Stoltenberg? Blake McClain was a big loss because I think he would have moved inside.

* * *

KEY NEEDS FOR NEXT YEAR

Callahan: It's going to be a smaller class of around 18, but I would say defensive tackle would probably be the area where they need to sign at least two to three quality players.

Harvey: Defensive tackle will need to be addressed with the 2015 two-deep all likely being upperclassmen. Beyond that, it's hard to gauge all the needs. Attrition and guys failing to develop happens to all college programs.

Schaefer: Defensive end is a big need for Nebraska. The Huskers aren't quite as deep as they want to be at that spot.

Severe: Quarterback. I'm not sure if Nebraska got a starting QB in this class — Darlington because of injury concerns and Bush because of lack of accuracy and the possibility of changing positions.

* * *

BEST B1G CLASS

Callahan: Ohio State and it's not even close. The Buckeyes signed 16 five- and four-star players, while the next closest teams were Michigan and Michigan State at seven.

Harvey: Ohio State. The conference's rich are getting richer. Fans just need to get used to it. They signed 10 players in the Scout.com Top 100.

Schaefer: Ohio State put together a strong class nationally and was clearly the best in the Big Ten. However, Michigan State closed incredibly strong and tends to do the best job in the conference of evaluating talent. The Spartans look poised to cause problems for awhile in the East Division.

Severe: Ohio State with Johnny Dixon and Raekwon McMillan. Wow! I also like Michigan State's class.

* * *

BEST NATIONAL CLASS

Callahan: It's hard not to go with Alabama. The Tide signed six five-star and 13 four-star recruits. LSU had the second-best class, and they were still 419 points behind Alabama in the final Rivals rankings.

Harvey: Alabama, and it wasn't even close. They signed seven five-star players and 10 in the Scout.com Top 100.

Schaefer: Texas A&M capitalized on its SEC success and Johnny Manziel to put together an incredibly strong class. The Aggies have Myles Garret, the 247Sports No. 1 player in the country, as well as 5-star receiver Speedy Noil and 5-star quarterback Kyle Allen. Surrounded by talent, coach Kevin Sumlin is building a monster that looks to contend sooner than later.

Severe: Florida State. Mavin Saunders could be the next great hybrid tight end. I also really like Davin Cook's film.

* * *

Video: Big Red Today recruiting roundtable:

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