Signing Day Extravaganza – Part I

Here is part one of my Signing Day opus. Part II will include the rest of the signees and Part III will contain more of my reactions to Pelini’s first class. First, however, I’ll leave you with a yearly reminder:

Woo! We’ve got fresh meat! Here is the comprehensive 2008 recruiting class. This is another class that looks pretty good on paper. Unfortunately championships are not won on paper. We can expect that some of these will never make it to Lincoln. I have severe academic concerns about at least two. Another percentage will “fail”, if failing means having your education paid for, while you attempt to crack the top of the depth chart at one of the most storied football programs in the country. A few will imagine greener pastures, seeking playing time or just a change of scenery. And still others will unfortunately run afoul of team rules or worse yet – Johnny Law.

But Signing Day is a fresh start. A grocery cart filled with speed and strength and hype. And a hyped recruit can make you dizzy, like you’ve been drinking Jack and Coke all morning. He can make you feel high, full of the single greatest commodity known to man – promise. Promise of a better day. Promise of a greater hope. Promise of a new tomorrow. This particular aura can be found in the gait of a hyped recruit. In his smile, in his glare, the way he makes every rotten little thing about life seem like it’s going to be okay. The hyped recruits, folks? That’s all they are. Bottled promise. Scenes from a brand new day. Hope packaged in shoulder pads.

Antonio Bell, WR, 6-2, 180. Bell was a guy we got in late with and wound up scoring after he decommitted from Tennessee. He caught 45 passes for 776 yards and nine TDs this fall. He was also named first team all-area and second-team class 5A all-state by the Florida Sportswriters Association. I like what Bell brings to the table as a receiver and feel he will have a productive career as a Husker. For that to occur, however, he must improve his route running and his strength, which could be said for most receivers trying to make the jump from high school to a BCS conference school. Bell won’t blow by guys in the secondary in college, but does have me excited about this year’s class of receivers. You can click here for a bunch of highlights on Antonio Bell.

Will Compton, LB, 6-2, 230. Compton winds up being the only score for the Huskers from Missouri. He decommitted following the coaching change, but was drawn back into the fold following an in-home visit replete with temporary tattoos. Compton received a lot of attention this recruiting season and for good reason. Not only does he have some talent, but he also fills a need as the Huskers desperately need help at the LB spot. On film, Compton shows tremendous instincts and is a sure tackler. In addition, he appears heady enough that he should fit in nicely in whatever scheme Pelini draws up. Both Scout and Rivals rank Compton as a 4-star prospect and he could see the field early in Lincoln.

Khiry Cooper, WR, 6-2, 180. Another exciting WR prospect. Pelini worked his magic in Louisiana to convince Cooper to jump aboard late in the recruiting cycle. I think Cooper looks polished on film and has a “smoothness” we haven’t seen a lot of at WR in the past. I could see Cooper lining up at the “Z” receiver spot early in his career and quickly helping fans to forget the loss of Terrence Nunn. Cooper made the Class 2A All-State squad after grabbing 60 receptions for 1,037 yards and 16 TDs during the regular season. Nebraska fans should respect the job Pelini did in landing Cooper given the number of offers he held from SEC schools, including Florida, Arkansas and LSU. Cooper is also a top baseball prospect as a centerfielder and plans on playing both sports at NU.

Ben Cotton, TE, 6-6, 220. Cotton could be the tight end this offense has been missing since Matt Herian’s injury. Obviously we won’t know for a few years, but Ben’s decision to join his father in Lincoln should not be overlooked. Cotton originally committed to Louisville before Barney was rehired, which says a lot about the national exposure this kid received. Cotton has good size and should continue to grow into his frame. The film I’ve seen on Ben shows him making a lot of catches in traffic and he appears to have good, strong hands. Being the son of an offensive line coach, we can assume he’s not afraid to block as well. Overall, Cotton could be one of the biggest scores in this class, if he improves his strength and speed and is able to stretch the middle of the field.

Alfonzo Dennard, 5-10, 185. Dennard is a rare Husker recruit out of the state of Georgia and is further proof of the staff’s hard work in the southern states. Dennard originally committed to UNC, but after some grade/qualification concerns wound up signing with Nebraska. Dennard looks to have good speed and seems like an Anthony Blue clone on paper. Blue of course came from a better high school program so we probably shouldn’t expect the same type of contributions as a true frosh from Dennard. As a senior, Dennard had 44 receptions for 826 yards and 11 touchdowns and averaged 18.8 yards per catch. He also had 55-tackles and 5-interceptions on defense.

Sean Fisher, 6-5, 210. Fisher is another in a long line of Huskers to emerge from the fine program at Millard North. Fisher is another guy who can provide immediate help at the linebacker position. He excels in pass coverage and isn’t afraid of contact, which are both major weaknesses we saw from the 2007 Huskers. Scout ranks Fisher as the 17th best linebacker prospect in the nation and he turned down offers from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Colorado and most of the rest of the Big 12 North. I don’t know what the plan is down the road, but with his frame, I could see Fisher ending his career as a rush end.

David Grant, 6-6, 280. Grant is one of nine signees from the state of Texas. He’s also one of the few linemen taken in the class. You have to like Grant’s size and he should do well under the new strength and conditioning staff. Grant originally committed to Oklahoma State, then to Iowa State, but his relationship with Barney Cotton eventually led him to Lincoln. I expect Grant to redshirt while he improves his athleticism and strength, but we will need him to contribute in the near future. When you don’t sign many linemen, each one better be able to compete for a starting spot.

Ricky Henry, 6-4, 300. Henry was originally part of Bill Callahan’s recruiting class a few years back, but grade issues left him scrambling for a spot at Wahpeton (ND) North Dakota State College of Science. Henry graduated from Omaha Burke and also bears a striking resemblance to a fat Jon Favreau. Henry is thought to be a throwback to the in-your-face, dominating linemen that NU cloned by the dozen in year’s past. Whether Henry is the real deal or merely a personal foul waiting to happen has to be seen. He’ll have his work cut out for him, however, as JUCO linemen have a short stint in which to compete for a spot in Lincoln. Last I heard Henry was expected to line up at center for Nebraska.

Tyson Hetzer, 6-7, 265. Hetzer is the second TE recruit in the class. He is already on campus and will be competing in spring practice. This is a good thing given the lack of depth at TE on the current roster. Hetzer is a big guy with a great deal of athleticism as he originally committed to play basketball out of high school. Hetzer doesn’t have a ton of football experience, but competing at the JUCU level in California, indicates he’s no slouch. Pelini has made it clear that he won’t be recruiting many junior college guys but our need for a playmaker at TE means Hetzer gets a shot.

Micah Kreikemeier, 6-4, 215. Micah has the opportunity to say his offer came directly from Tom Osborne, which is certainly interesting. Clearly Osborne felt the staff needed to pay more attention to Nebraska high school talent, but I hope Osborne really saw something with Kreikemeier. Micah will begin his career as an OLB and could end up as a Brian Shaw-type player in the future. Kreikemeier appears to have decent strength and athleticism, but the coaching staff is likely counting more on his heart and desire. BRN makes the point that Micah is Sean Fisher without the exposure, and they might be right. I just hope both become solid contributors by the time they leave.

John Levorson, 6-4, 185. Another quality athlete from close to home. Levorson will begin his career as a safety, but probably has the ability to play WR as well. He has good size and his film demonstrates his ability to tackle. I’m a little worried about his closing speed and coverage skills as Crete isn’t exactly 5-A HS ball in Texas, let alone the Big 12. But I suppose if the need arises, either due to a lack of quickness, or depth issues that John could probably play LB in a pinch. Overall, Levorson is a guy that doesn’t overly excite me, but he certainly fits the profile of guys Osborne used to make a killing off of. Right now I’d trade he or Kreikemeier for a DT recruit, but I’m certainly willing to give them a shot to prove me wrong.

Tim Marlowe, 5-10, 165. If there is an obvious reach in the list of recruits, this is your guy. I understand that he’s from Pelini’s old stomping grounds, and yes, that could help us in the future, but I don’t think Marlowe is the second coming of Wes Welker. I’ve watched his film and he’s got speed and he’s got some wiggle. However, his statistics are far from stellar. He ran less than 300 yards on 42 carries and scored four just touchdowns. He, also, caught nine passes for just 216 yards and three more touchdowns. If I didn’t already feel we were overloaded on WRs on the roster, I could probably live with this one, but as it stands this looks like a really expensive holder for FGs.

Cameron Meredith, 6-4, 220. One of two DE recruits that I’m really excited about. Meredith looks to be the complete package. He’s got a nice frame, good strength and enough quickness to get off the edge. I can’t wait to see how his athleticism and his ability to get off of blocks translate to major college football. Meredith also represents a huge recruiting win given that he was also offered by Oklahoma, Oregon, and Arizona. To be completely honest of all the guys we’ve tried to recruit in the mold of Grant Wistrom, this is the guy who I feel could best live up to the hype.

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