we can add to this in approx. 2 weeks after the early Dec signing day to see who is officially on board for the 2018 recruiting class.
in the meantime, let's take a look at the players currently on the roster, since those are the only ones we know are going to be here, plus, it's tough to expect incoming frosh to make a big splash their first year, although we've seen it happen with a few players each year.
apparently Vedral got hurt last this season, so not sure what that injury was or if it's going to affect him in the offseason or his availability at any point. obviously AM is the returning starter, as long as he gets his knee healthy, he'll only continue to improve the more time he has in the program. NU is still in very serious trouble if AM goes down for any length of time with injury, though. thus far, I haven't been impressed with either Bunch or Vedral as the backup. AM has huge potential now, and lots of room to improve, and he's already a pretty damn good QB. things look solid here as long as AM stays healthy.
McCaffrey is likely to be coming in as the QB recruit for the 2019 signing class. he's now really only had one full time season as the starting QB in high school, so his development will be interesting to watch. I don't think he'd be near ready to take snaps as a true frosh, and I don't see him beating out Vedral/Bunch anyway his first year. He does plan to enroll early, though, so it's possible he can make some headway. Considering how little experience he has at QB, and that AM will only be a true soph next season, it probably makes the most sense to redshirt him unless there's a disaster next season.
NU graduates Oz and Wilbon, and juco transfer Bell left the team after 4 games this season, and Tre Bryant retired from football. nice decision by the coaching staff to shut down Miles Jones now and have him have surgery so that he's ready for spring ball. it will be interesting to see how they use him, if it's more of the DUCK-R position, more of a WR, or more of a RB. considering the skill sets of the returning RBs, and the lack of depth there heading into the spring, I think we'll see Jones at RB during the spring, otherwise there may not be enough RBs for all of the reps. rumors are that Bradley was dealing with some personal stuff this season, not sure if he'll still be around this spring or summer/fall. Mazour will provide some depth, and maybe he can make some noise with a thin RB room prior to the new signees coming in.
again, we'll update this after signing day, but RB is obviously a spot where someone can come in and contribute immediately, even as a true frosh. right now NU has commitments from 3 RBs, 2 prep and 1 JUCO. I think the odds are better with JUCO Mills than it was with Bell. Mills has already played at this level, and plans to enroll early. If he sticks, he'll be here for spring ball and I could see him immediately stepping into the RB rotation with Mo Washington. We also have Rahmir Johnson and Ronald Thompkins coming in from the prep ranks. Tompkins tore his ACL this season, so if he sticks I'd expect a redshirt for him. Johnson has a shot to earn some playing time, though, especially if Bradley transfers and/or Jones/Mazour aren't getting it done. good news is that in this offense there should be enough snaps to go around for a few guys to see playing time.
losing Morgan is going to hurt, but getting JD back healthy will help. I think we'll see much better production from the JUCOs Williams and Woodyard after a year in the program. remember that a lot of these JUCO kids aren't exactly getting the best meals and training while in JUCO. Morgan isn't going to be replaced by one person, instead I think we'll see a bit more balance in the offense. AM all too often looked at Morgan or JD, and for good reason, but after year of experience, I think we'll see the ball distributed a lot more. Williams/Woodyard/Hunt are all burners, so hopefully we'll see a bit more of the vertical passing game moving forward, but at the least it should open up the short and medium passing to JD/Warner and the TEs. It would be nice to see McQuitty take a step forward. I'm not sure if he needed another year to recover from the knee injury or what. If we see the majority of Williams/Woodyard/Warner/Hunt take a step forward, I think the receiving corps will be just fine for next season, and we might even see a bit more of a rotation to keep those guys fresh.
Currently, NU has 2 WR commits for 2019, Darien Chase, and Jamie Nance. Nance is set to enroll early, so he could easily get himself in the mix for playing time with a good spring and then all summer/fall.
The TEs were not as involved in the offense as I had expected going into this season, but I think a lot of that has to do with what SF and staff focused on for offensive install, plus keep in mind everyone was learning a new offense, and Stoll was only a soph while Allen/Rafdal were redshirt frosh who had never played a snap at this level before. I thought the production was good from those top 3 and they should only continue to improve. I think we'll see the TEs used a lot more next season. Legrone can continue to develop and get himself in the mix as well. I think the talent and depth at TE is looking good enough that the staff feels comfortable moving Jurgens to OC and McGriff to OLB.
right now it looks like the only TE signed will be Hickman out of Omaha. It looks like he plans to enroll early, but he'll need at least a year in the weight room and at the training table before he's able to contribute, imo.
NU returns 3 starters in both OTs and Wilson at RG. The question in the offseason will be who steps up at the other OG position and who plays OC? depth is still a major issue on the OL, especially at OT. right now I think we've got to project a two deep based on whos already on the team, as it's rare for a true frosh to be able to contribute at OL (although Jaimes did it last year and we might see someone do it again this coming season), and I think the staff only wants a JUCO OL if they can enroll early and participate in the spring. The second half of the season we started to hear positive things about Hixson, so I could easily see him winning the LG job. I think at OC we'll see a battle between Miller, little Farniok, and possibly Raridon (who iirc started out his career at NU as an OC). depth is still a major issue here. however, I was impressed with what Duval was able to do with the lines in such a short amount of time, and I was also impressed with Austin's coaching across the OL. I think for the first time in a long time, we can look at the season and say the OL played better as the season went along, and definitely played better than last season.
right now, if prep recruit Bryce Benhart sticks, I could see him being in the mix at OT right away as a true frosh. it doesn't look like he's going to enroll early, so missing out on winter conditioning and spring ball isn't ideal, but he's got a shot to be a backup OT (it's also possible that he could win a starting OT job and the staff could slide Will Farniok inside to OG and move Wilson, etc. my guess is that we'll see one or more of the returning guys in the interior step up and solidify those inside spots, plus depth is shit at OT). currently, other OL signees are sort of projects or will need to develop a bit. for a long time, it looked like JUCO OL Bland was going to sign with NU and enroll early, but I'm hearing rumors that he might not have his academics lined up to be able to graduate this Dec, and if so, NU might back off of him since he would no longer be an early enrollee.
Neb loses Stoltenberg, Newell and Freedom off the DL. NU's biggest concern on the DL is probably who plays the NT position? C Davis shouldn't be playing there. Daniels needs to work on his conditioning to be able to play more snaps. If he does, he'll be a beast. It would be nice to see Vaha take a step forward. remember he hasn't played in something like 3 years or more, so it takes some time to get back into playing shape. If he can contribute some backup snaps similar to Newell this season, that's probably all we can hope for. maybe he can surprise everyone, though. both Davis twins and Stille are a nice group at DE in Chins' 3-4, but we need more depth. Neal has been hurt every year, I think, but he at least played a few snaps this season to help spell the starters. Wildeman and Rogers were hurt, so that hurts their development for their first year. hopefully they'll both be ready to go for spring ball, because there should be plenty of DL snaps to go around with the way the coaches like to rotate there on defense due to the sheer number of snaps they see each game. it will be interesting to see if the Walker or the staff at any point bring up a switch back to OL... I realize he was only a redshirt frosh, but we didn't hear much about him this season.
if JUCO NT Fair sticks, that could be the biggest impact recruit out of the 2019 class, at least in regards to impact on the team for 2019. he plans to enroll early so would be here for spring ball, and if he can get in shape, I can see him and Daniels being monsters at the NT position for NU next year, which would immediately change the defense for the better. NU also has a DE committed out of iowa, and DE/DT Piper out of Neb (who I think will eventually grow into a NT)
NU returns starter Barry and backup Miller at ILB. After bouncing around from DE to OLB to ILB, maybe Miller will stay put. I have to assume so, considering the horrible lack of depth at ILB, especially for the spring. Honas, if he can recover from his ACL tear, would be first in line to earn the other starting job, but I think it's going to take him a while to recover and the staff will ease him back into it. that means that Barry and Miller are probably your starting ILBs, and there's a huge opportunity for any incoming recruit to earn a backup spot at ILB.
currently, a couple of NU's best recruits for the 2019 class might be ILBs. homestate Henrich plans to enroll early, and I could see him being a backup who earns lots of playing time as the season goes on. Hannah out of TN could be in the mix as well, although he'll be behind since he's not planning to arrive in Jan. Snodgrass, another local kid, might also be in the mix at ILB
ok, imo, OLB has been a hot mess since NU switched to the 3-4, but it's getting slightly better. Ferg, when healthy, was easily our best OLB imo. Tannor I think continued to improve as the season went on and he looked decent for a true frosh playing meaningful snaps this season. Alexander I think had a season ending injury before the season started, not sure his status but you'd have to think he's a candidate to transfer. Jefferson I haven't heard anything about in a long time, so I'd think he'd be gone this offseason. I could see Davis being a grad transfer or calling it quits. I realize he has another year but he just doesn't look good out there to me. Alston I think was hurt but hopefully he'll be healthy for spring ball. It sounds as if the staff has moved McGriff to OLB, not sure who's idea that was, but if he wasn't going to get into the mix at TE, it's worth a shot. Dixon was apparently one of the last kids to buy into doing things the right way off the field, and his playing time suffered because of it. I could see him leaving, but I think he'll stick it out and work harder and get himself in the mix. it says a lot that the staff moved safety Domann down to OLB against spread teams instead of using Dixon, though... I think NU isn't in horrible shape with Ferg and Tannor returning, but they still need more depth and athleticism at the OLB position for next season. (as an aside, it's possible we'll start seeing kids outgrow their positions and slide down, such as a safety moving to OLB after a couple of years, an OLB moving to DE, etc)
local kid Nelson appears to be a recruit who's starting out at OLB, and NU just got a commitment from an athletic kid out of Alabama as well. NU is still kicking over rocks on the JUCO fields to try to find a pass rushing OLB, I think
NU graduates A Williams, Reed, and Neal, 3 players who've seen the bulk of the snaps at S over the past few years. Reed was often hurt and not always playing within the scheme, and while A Williams and Neal were great at getting everyone lined up and in the proper coverage, weren't exactly what NU needs in this defense in regards to speed, cover skills, or athleticism, imo. Jones was hurt but I was expecting him to see time as a true frosh. hopefully we can see what he can do in the spring. the staff was impressed with Smith before he got hurt, so hopefully he'll be healthy for spring as well. Domann should be in the mix to be a starting S, unless the staff wants to focus on specializing him for a hybrid OLB/S role in nickel/dime or vs spread teams. also remember that this was his first season playing after back to back ACL injuries over 2 years, so he should have a lot of room to improve in the weight room and on the field. D Williams was our biggest playmaker from the safety position this season, imo, and I figured the only thing holding him back was his knowledge of the defense. I expect him to be a starter next season and make some impact plays. even though NU graduates 3 safeties, I think there's decent talent returning next season. it also looks like the staff is backing off of JUCO safeties, which also is a good sign that they like who they have now.
right now it looks like two prep kids are committed to NU as safeties, Myles Farmer out of GA, and Javin Wright (legacy) out of AZ. both are already sort of big for the safety position, and one or both could easily grow into an OLB before their career in Lincoln is done. neither plans to enroll early, so I think we'll see NU's two deep at safety come from the kids who are currently on the roster.
both Jackson and Bootle improved as the season went on, although neither is a lockdown/shutdown CB that can be constantly placed on an island. I was impressed with the coaching job for the secondary for this first season. it will be interesting to see where things go. imo, CB is a weakness for this team currently, and that weakness also affects how the entire defense is called. NU returns both starting CBs in Bootle and Jackson (assuming Jackson doesn't go pro, which he probably could based on his measureables, but really needs to put up some much better film so should really stick around for another season). Taylor has talent at CB and I think will push both starters. Clark looked good in his limited time and should be better after a year of acclimation. Butler I'm not sure will ever contribute at CB.
NU is still looking at a JUCO CB, we'll see if that works out or not. otherwise, they have a CB commit out of GA on board and are probably looking to add another prep signee. this is a position where someone could come in and immediately challenge for playing time, I think.
long snapper Ober graduates, so I guess Urbach takes over both long and short snapping for special teams. I'm hopeful that former navy seal Damion Jackson can make progress at long snapper as well, as that's his best bet to contribute and it would be nice for his feel good story to work out somehow.
at punter, I think the entire world is expecting Lightbourne to transfer. not sure his relationship with his teammates, but he just got passed on the depth chart by someone with the same eligibility plus he seems to have a serious case of the yips. it's probably in his best interest to find greener pastures to punt upon.
Pickering had a decent year for a true frosh kicker. he improved as the season went on, and I think he'll be another solid kicker in a long line of kickers for NU.
overall, NU returns some decent talent and starting production on both sides of the ball. there's still some top end talent deficiencies and a ton of depth issues, but the staff will sign another huge class for 2019 and hopefully will be able to address some of those more urgent needs.
I like the OL (if they stay healthy) because I think we'll see one or both of the walkons in Hixson and Miller step up, plus continued growth by Jaimes/Farniok/Wilson. obviously we return the big three of AM/JD/Mo which is a big help, plus a young and athletic TE group. if some other WRs step up, and some RB depth is brought in, offense should be fine next season.
it's the defense that concerns me, just because there's no AM/JD/Mo on the defense right now. I think with another year in the system and some additional players the defense will be better than last year, but more than offense, the success of the defense is based more on athletic ability than scheme. but it might not take much... if JUCO NT Fair signs and is ready to go and same with Daniels and Duval gets them both where the staff wants him, than NT goes from a weakness to a strength, and being able to play C Davis at DE instead of NT improves DE, and overall increase in DL production helps the LBs, which helps the secondary, etc. likewise if someone like Lamar Jackson continues to improve and makes big jump to be a lockdown CB, then that trickles back down to the other levels in regards to what schemes and blitzes and pressures the defense can use.