Mike Riley and his coaching staff put together a strong recruiting class that filled some areas of need and featured a few surprises
Nebraska endured a little bit of National Signing Day drama — for better and worse — but the Cornhuskers’ 2017 class is officially signed, sealed and delivered.
What are the biggest takeaways for Mike Riley’s crew as the head coach enters Year 3 in Lincoln? Glad you asked.
1. Hey, those names look familiar
Keyshawn Johnson Jr., son of the former No. 1 NFL Draft pick by the same name, became an early enrollee last month with Nebraska, after tallying 2,300 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns at Calabasas (Calif.) High.
Ben Miles, meanwhile, earned a reputation as one of the nation’s top fullback prospects after amassing 459 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns for Catholic High in Baton Rouge, La. If that last name and location ring a bell, that’s because Miles is the son of former LSU head coach Les Miles.
2. Save the best for last
Nebraska signed 20 scholarship players Wednesday, but only one of those players is a defensive back: four-star cornerback Elijah Blades, from Muir High in Pasadena, Calif. Blades was a former Florida commit and announced his pledge to Nebraska late afternoon Wednesday, giving the Huskers some late, great news. The lack of DBs in this class likely isn’t a problem: The Huskers already have 17 on their roster, including four who redshirted as freshmen in 2016.
3. California continues to deliver
In addition to Johnson and Blades, Nebraska landed four-star quarterback Tristan Gebbia from California. Gebbia actually comes from Calabasas High, and threw to Johnson — along with four other players that committed to Power Five programs. Johnson and Gebbia join 2016 Calabasas safety Marquel Dismuke on the Huskers, who now have three players from the school, which is coached by former Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen, whose brother, another former Volunteers signal-caller, Rick, is now the offensive coordinator at Calabasas.
Nebraska signed four players from California last season, giving the program nine players from the state in three years under Riley, who was no stranger to the state during his two separate stints in the Pac-12 as Oregon State’s head coach, in addition to his time as the San Diego Chargers’ head man.
4. A much-needed infusion of DTs
Nebraska didn’t sign a single defensive tackle prospect in the 2016 class, but the Huskers made up for it this time around by landing a trio of interior linemen: Damion Daniels, Deontre Thomas and Deiontae Watts.
All three players are three-star prospects, with Daniels and Watts hailing from Texas, while Thomas is an Oklahoma native. Daniels announced the Nebraska commitment Wednesday on ESPNU, and all three players could make for strong fits in new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s 3-4 scheme.
5. Late drama hurts, but not too much
The drama-filled recruitment of four-star receiver Jamire Calvin reached its unconventional conclusion Wednesday, as the Los Angeles native committed to Washington State — his third different choice in less than a month’s time.
To recap: Calvin committed to Oregon State at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 7, but then flipped to Nebraska on Jan. 27. In the end, Rivals’ 31st-ranked wide receiver went to Pullman, although the Huskers should be able to withstand his loss in this class: In addition to the already-enrolled four-star prospects Johnson and Jaevon McQuitty, the Huskers signed four-star receiver Tyjon Lindsey out of Las Vegas power Bishop Gorman. Lindsey is Rivals’ No. 9 wide receiver.
— Written by Matt Fortuna, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and spent six seasons covering college football for ESPN.com. Fortuna’s work has been honored by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) seven times. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_Fortuna and like his Facebook page.