The Jordan Stevenson sweepstakes ended on Thursday when the former South Oak Cliff (Texas) High School running back was academically cleared to enroll at Nebraska.
The recruiting win for first-year Nebraska head coach Mike Riley over Big Ten foe Wisconsin could speak volumes about the direction of the two programs going forward.
The Badgers, like Nebraska, are breaking in a new head coach, Paul Chryst (Pitt). When the coaching musical chairs began at the end of the 2014 season Gary Andersen, who recruited Stevenson, left the Badgers for Oregon State replacing Riley. Chryst was able to keep Stevenson in the recruiting class but lost him last week due to Wisconsin’s academic standards.
When Stevenson announced he was back on the recruiting market via Twitter posting, “#Badgernation Thanks for all the love also all the support through all I have been through. Much love.” A mad recruiting rush to land the 5-foot-8, 210-pound back began. Reports circled that Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Texas Tech, Pitt, Indiana, Oregon State, Louisville and Nebraska had each signaled interest in Stevenson.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban even directly courted Stevenson, but Riley’s pitch on Stevenson becoming the Cornhuskers’ next Ameer Abdullah was the game-changer.
Stevenson earned a 4-star ranking after filling the stat sheet for Dallas-area South Oak Cliff for three straight years. As a sophomore he rushed for 853 yards with 11 touchdowns. In 2013 he showed off his all-purpose skills, rushing for 1,994 yards with 18 touchdowns, while catching 18 passes for another 348 yards with two more scores.
The big season came as senior, when Stevenson piled up more than 2,500 yards on the ground with 31 touchdowns, while adding 134 yards receiving and two scores on 13 receptions. He also showed off his 4.44 40-yard dash speed in the open field.
Stevenson had originally committed to in-state power Texas, but opened his recruiting back up, earning offers from Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Louisville, Ohio State, UCLA, SMU and Utah State among others before settling with Wisconsin.
The impact Stevenson could have on Nebraska’s roster might not be immediate with the kind of talent Riley already has at his disposal.
Senior Imani Cross rushed for 384 yards with five touchdowns last season playing behind Abdullah. Cross is a big back (6-1, 240) and is well suited to run between the tackles ,dragging defenders with him. After taking 75 handoffs, he averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2014.
Behind Cross is Terrell Newby. Newby is more of a speed guy (listed at 5-10, 200), who also is a threat in the passing attack.
Last season at Oregon State, Riley used a two-back system splitting carries between Storm Woods (766 yards, 5 TDs) and Terron Ward (696, 10). Former head coach Bo Pelini fed Abdullah the ball 264 times last season, which generated 1,611 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. Stevenson has the potential to take away carries from Cross or Newby if he picks up the offense quickly. A safe bet on short-yardage and goal-line carries, opposing defenses will get a heavy dose of Cross.
Per reports, Stevenson will officially enroll at Nebraska on Friday.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.