The long and not even close to short of it

Is Travis Lewis the best of the class of 2007?

With signing day just a few days away, it's all over but putting the proverbial ink to paper and finishing yet another recruiting class of in style. Right? Well yeah, but I know that some of you still have questions in your mind. Well, we are going to answer some that we think are the most pertinent right now.

Will everyone sign?

The bad thing about having a recruiting class completely as quickly as Nebraska completed theirs, it invariably gives people time to think about what could happen, and think about all the bad things that have happened in recruiting classes prior to this one.

I doubt many Husker recruitniks can forget real quickly current Tennessee safety Adam Myers-White pulling out the Vol hat during the U.S. Arm All-American game, when it was thought most of the week leading up to that game that he was favored to be a Husker.

The battle for Reggie Smith will probably still sit in the craw of Scarlet and Cream faithful for awhile, especially if he keeps improving at the rate he has thus far.

Those kinds of scenarios give way to thinking about the worst that can happen in the idle time between the last commit and the day where all the commits are supposed to make it official.

Knock on wood, though, it doesn't appear as if any surprises should come up.

Townsend in no danger of
not making it in the fall

Yes, there have been rumors about players like Garden City defensive tackle Kevin Dixon taking a visit to Kansas State . There have been on-going rumors about David Ross and how he seems to have tested the recruiting waters more since his commit to Nebraska, than he ever did prior to making that pledge.

And you know how rumors are: Once one gets started, it's like this domino effect of negativity, and before you know it everyone is worried if anyone will sign, and of those that do, who won't even make it to campus.

While we think that right now everyone committed will indeed sign, it does bring us to the next question and that is indeed, "Who won't make it to campus?".

Now we have the recent memory of the Ashlee Palmer deal to remind us that not everything is so cut and dry once the ink is dry on that Letter of Intent. If you don't qualify, that makes that L.O.I., basically a piece of paper with words of little meaning.

But he was already in junior college, and the big concern right now is out of those current committed, who could end up going that route before they can ever make it to Division 1-A?

It's never really good to speculate too much about grades, especially right now, because there's a lot of time for some of these kids to make up the gap they have in either their core GPA or the amount of credit hours they need to pass.

We have seen more than a few times players make it to campus, who were thought as seriously big risks to do just that. Names like Marlon Lucky, Ricky Thenarse and Maurice Purify come to mind as some that were thought to have no chance at qualifying, yet they managed to get their work done and were able to join the big red.

So, let's not look at it as those we don't think will make it, but those that might have a little more work to do than some:

Davis could have some
work to do to make it
to Lincoln
Latravis Washington has a little bit of a road to climb it would seem, needing to raise his core GPA. That is perhaps the hardest thing to do at this point, but he's thought to be only a tenth or so off. That means either a very good SAT score or just a good semester of classes with possibly some summer school, and he should be on his way to Lincoln .

In the same boat could be Demetrious Davis, who could end up taking summer classes to try and catch up with his academics. One of the tale-tell signs that some kids aren't quite qualified is that they didn't take their official visit. It's a rule that in order to take an official visit, you have to meet certain academic requirements. It's believed that Davis didn't meet those, and he'll have some work to do for the rest of this semester, and again, potentially summer school, if he wants to get to Lincoln on schedule.

The junior college transfers invariably have their names come up when grades are being talked about, because for many who take the JUCO route, it was a grade situation that got them there in the first place. But right now it would seem that of the remaining junior college players who are slated to arrive in the fall, all of them appear to be on schedule. There could be some summer classes in the future for a couple of them, but that's pretty typical, and again, they are slated to arrive in the fall.

It's always good to get junior college players in as early as you can, spring being the much preferred time. But if you can't get them in then, the summer is the next best option. For those who don't make it to campus until perhaps July or even August, the chances of them really making an impact their first year is not good to extremely doubtful.

The speculation around what happens during and immediately following signing day runs rampant. But not near as rampant as the prognostication about those in this class and who will make the biggest impact right away. It brings up the question which has already been asked a million times, "Who plays right away?".

That's the million dollar question, and if we knew exactly what the answer to that was, I'd have my lottery tickets bought, along with my plane tickets to Tahiti . But hey, we are armchair quarterbacks like everyone else, so let's give it a shot. But instead of looking at each commit's ability, we are going to instead look at need.

In an ideal world, I'd opt to redshirt everyone, but there are going to be positions where some of these guys won't have that opportunity. They will be needed to at least give it a shot right now.

Quarterback: Just because Sam Keller is considered the man at QB this year, there still is the lingering question as to just who will back him up. Joe Ganz has the experience, but considering how much time he's gotten under center since he arrived, it's obvious that the back up spot is there for the taking.

Will injury set Lee back for
the spring?

Zach Lee has had a setback with a knee injury, and it could cause him to miss spring ball. Patrick Witt, who also enrolled early with Lee, hasn't had injury issues, and everyone knows about how quick on the uptake this 4.0 student is. That's half the battle with this offense, so if he can pick things up as quickly as expected, his potential advantage of not just knowing the offense, but being able to run it more in the off-season, could give this true freshman a leg up in the battle to back up the former Arizona State QB.

Running Back: Is there a need here? I'd say there is, because Nebraska just lost their most prolific and toughest running back. Yes, Brandon Jackson had an injury problem here and there, and was hampered with a broken hand late in the season, but look at the kid's results when he got the ball more than 20 times in a game. They speak for themselves.

Marlon Lucky should be the guy to take over the helm, but can he carry the load every single game? Back problems late in the season make you wonder.

Kenny Wilson hasn't proven that much, because he's either not gotten much time because of ball security issues or he simply hasn't stayed healthy. He's a great all around back, but outside of one game we have yet to see just how good he can be.

There's a host of candidates of true freshmen, but the reality is, and you have only to look at the freshmen campaigns of Cody Glenn and Marlon Lucky, this system is a bear to pick up your first year.

Marcus Mendoza, Quentin Castille and Prince Amukamara are all playmakers in their own way. Mendoza does it with blazing quickness, good balance and good vision, while Amukamara has a lot of that himself, but has more size, and his balance is extraordinary. Castille is the thunder to their lightning, but some see him as a potential Jammal Lewis in just how good he is all around, despite the fact that he's pushing 250 pounds.

Fullback: It was kind of funny when I think about it now about how worried Quentin Castille was about being moved to fullback. Doesn't he know Nebraska doesn't use the fullback anymore?

Yes, that's not accurate, and only is spoken tongue and cheek, but this position has almost become an afterthought. The importance of it now seems to be coming from the aspect of the "H-back" role, rather than that of the true fullback. You can't discount what Dane Todd did as a blocker, because he was, as you would

Paul could break into a group
already laden with experience
expect, a horse. But with tight ends like J.B. Phillps being moved back there, at least when it comes to this class, Nebraska will go with what they have. There are plenty of guys on the team right now who has the knowledge of the offense, and will be able to serve the role this position demands…………whatever role that may be.

Wide Receiver: The only place I could really categorize as a "need" here is the on-going search to find that true slot receiver. Terrence Nunn has all the ability, but he's been hampered by dropped balls, and when he does catch it, he's proven to be shaky at holding onto the ball, ala Texas last year and Missouri the year before that.

Niles Paul has the be the favorite here, as he gives you everything Nunn gives you, but he is bigger, potentially just as fast and this kid plays with supreme confidence. He'll have his issues with dropped balls, but he's mentally strong enough that what you might see will be a one-time or occasional thing. It certainly wouldn't be the trend.

Tight End: Michael McNeil is the guy here, and this is his position to lose. Ryan Hill, this year's only commit at the position, is a good athlete, but when it comes to this offense, the same old song gets old, but it doesn't get any less valid. Hill could potentially see time, but I'd say he redshirts unless McNeil goes down with an injury. If not for a turf toe, we probably would have seen him last year.

Offensive Line: I can't believe I am saying this, but as good as Marcel Jones and Jaivorio Burkes will probably be, they don't have to be that their first year with the big red. It would be a big shock to see any true freshman start at Nebraska right now, but at this point it would be unnecessary to see why the staff would even try. There's some good experience coming back, and when you look at stud redshirt freshman like D. J. Jones, Cruz Barrett and Keith Williams, just waiting to get their crack, Jones and Burkes have the best thing they could ever want, and that's a year to get everything figured out before they need to hit the field for the first time.

Defensive Line: HELLO OPPORUNITY. The longer it takes players like Kevin Dixon and Joseph Townsend to get to Lincoln , the farther they are going to behind and the more unrealistic it will be that they will see time their first year. But it won't be because they don't have a shot. If there is anything on this defensive line this year, it's a shot for everyone to prove what they can do.

Now there are some concerns on the defensive line as Barry Turner is battling rehab, Zach Potter still might not be quite big enough o play base end and there's no sure fire guy to take the place of Barry Cryer at the three technique on the defensive line.

Ty Steinkuhler played that spot and could be seen as a logical replacement, at least right now. Then you have guys like Seth Jensen, who has just been waiting for his redshirt year to end, and, of course, to finally get healthy enough to compete. Then there is Ben Martin, who at 265 pounds could be seen as either a candidate to take Adam Carriker's spot at base end, or if he can get a little bigger over the off season, he might make a move to where Cryer once played.

The question isn't about Suh starting,
but where.

Of course you have Ndamukong Suh, and the only real question here has nothing to do with him playing, but at what position. He's without a doubt the most athletic defensive lineman Nebraska has, and one could argue that he was that this last season, but just not quite as adept with his technique to become a consistent weapon for the Huskers.

Shukree Barfield was one of the junior college players fortunate enough to make it in the spring, and it's hoped that he will make at least as much of an impact as graduated defensive tackle Ola Dagunduro made his first year as he backed up Le Kevin Smith. He's got the size, and if he does indeed work out, that could free up the staff to use Ndamukong Suh in a variety of ways. Now we shouldn't forget fellow junior college transfer Brandon Johnson, but he's going to have to show a lot more this spring than he did all of last season if he's going to get a real good crack at some time.

There may not be a lot of experience, but there's going to be a lot of able bodies competing for time on the field.

Don't forget Mike Smith, who is now up to around 270 pounds, making him at least physically, the closest thing to either of the now departed defensive ends.

As for newcomers like Terrence Moore, Demetrious Davis, William Yancy and Jared Crick, they might be needed, but I would expect all of them to have the opportunity to watch and learn their first year.

Linebacker: There's a lot that could go on here, but it's not necessarily because of the talent they have coming in. In fact, it might have as much to do with the one guy that left, and the hope that everyone currently on the team can finally stay healthy for an entire season.

Think about the fact that Phillip Dillard, a hammering middle linebacker with great speed and an ability to work in coverage, has been just hampered almost completely by injury. And then there's Nick Covey, who came to Nebraska with remarkable athleticism, who has even had it worse than Dillard in the injury department. Then throw in Steve Octavien, who has had a career just marred with injury issues, and then there's Lance Brandenburgh, who knows every position in the unit, but had a cast on his arm for almost half the season last year.

Does anyone really have a clue what this group could do if they are healthy?

It's hard to project need here, because if everyone is healthy, this is going to be a pretty darn good group, even with Bradley no longer there. You could even rationalize moving current middle linebacker Corey McKeon to the outside, perhaps taking Bradley's spot or you could shuffle Octavien over, give Dillard the spot at middle linebacker and move McKeon to WILL.

There's a lot of scenarios which you could envision here, but it all comes down to health. If they can stay healthy, this group should be good and that will mean guys like Travis Lewis, Austin Stafford and Blake Lawrence, can sit back and see how it's done. That would be invaluable for the team and for their future if they can get away with it.

Asante ready to make
a huge impact in the
secondary
Considering the last two years, that's a BIG "if."

Safety: HELP! HELP!

Yeah, ok, I will be nice, but there's little doubt they need to upgrade their performance with this group. And there's no doubt that means there's a NEED to have that impact over this spring and certainly in the fall.

Before you even get into talking about who is coming in, though, you have to take a look at some of the great potential contributors coming back. Ricky Thenarse and his ability to play fast, finish off ball carriers and hit like a truck. Major Culbert, who has just as much athleticism, with potentially even more quickness to the ball. Then, of course, there's returning starter Tierre Green, who at times, showed some nice things, but those two youngsters will pressure him to make sure he shows it with a lot more consistency this year.

But to the guys coming in, how about the guy that's already with the team and that's one of the players I am personally looking forward to seeing play: Larry Asante. I have to admit it, I am Mr. Anti-hype when it comes to players coming in, because we see every single year plenty of players come in touted as the next this or that, only to realize they have issues just like anyone else.

Well, call me Mr. Bandwagon, but this is one guy that I think will make that transition, especially because it's at safety. If this were the corner position I might have a different opinion, but Asante has the athleticism, the size, the mind and the reputation for smacking the crap out of people, and finishing them off. There are plenty of guys coming in who might have the athleticism to compete, but Asante is the guy I think gets it done. One of those safety spots will be his.

Corner: Ok, on paper this looks pretty darn good. You have Zack Bowman coming back for his senior year, Andre Jones with a season under his belt, and would you believe it, Cortney Grixby might go into a season knowing that not every single week, he's got a pretty good chance of being matched up against someone 6 foot, 4 inches tall……….or taller.

It's no secret that Nebraska 's nickel package was kind of humorous last year. There was a reason they didn't run it very much. When facing spread offenses, it's all about match ups and Nebraska quite simply didn't match up. You had Andre Jones who had athleticism but no experience. Then you had Grixby, who had athleticism and experience, but being matched up against someone seven inches taller than you usually doesn't end up very well.

Jones may not be ready now, but when
he is, watch out.

It's quite possible that when Nebraska goes into the nickel this year, it will be a legit nickel package, rather than something that was thrown together from anyone they could find. Between the guys coming back and other players like Anthony West and junior college transfer Armando Murillo, who is already on campus, I just don't see any other cornerback in this class making any noise. I know they are good, but back to point of this, it's about need.

It's odd and almost unreal to think that they don't need any extra bodies at cornerback, and maybe that will be proven to be completely false as the season progresses. But right now I'd say go with what you got, who has experience and those  that will be around for the spring and the summer. The rest can do what I would say is best for all the in-coming cornerbacks, and that's just to sit back, watch and learn.

Special Teams: Jordan Congdon goes bye-bye, leaving somewhat of a vacancy. Of course, with only seven field goal attempts last year, maybe the field goal kicker is going the way of the fullback, at Nebraska .

I don't think that's the case, and if it's not, Adi Kunalic is going to have every opportunity to show what he can do. To be honest, nobody offers a scholarship to a kicker they plan to redshirt unless they have a Janikowski or Nugent already on the team.

Nebraska does, so Kunalic will get every opportunity he wants to show that he can kick field goals and maybe he'll even be able to kick off as well. Now, if he can do that, who knows what we'll see this year. Eight field goal attempts?

In the return game, this is the place where I can safely say that if you have the moves and you don't have ball security issues, you have a shot to play. That opens the door for players like Marcus Mendoza, who's reputed to be a special teams nightmare for opponents, and we have seen on film what Prince Amukamara can do to teams when he gets to start in the open field.

I love these competitions in the return game, because you really never know what you are going to see. Sometimes it's brilliant-jaw-dropping stuff, and sometimes it's enough to make you want to close your eyes. One thing is safe to say, though, with the players they have now and the pure athletes they have coming in, this is always a fun competition to watch.

If there is one other question everyone asks after signing day has come and gone, it's the one that is impossible to answer. Point of fact, people have been asking this question and speculating on the answer before this class was even completed. It's the question they ask every single year, and you could probably say with a good deal of accuracy, that few ended up actually being right:

Who's the best?

Regardless of when they play, who is the best player in this class? Who will make the biggest impact and show that he was indeed the cream of the crop, and whatever moron ranked them as low as they did, well, this proves how little rankings mean in the end?

My guess?

It would be easy to go with the homer pick and tab Niles Paul as the next. Seriously, I think that kid is going to have a hell of a career at NU. But going away from the norm, and picking someone I don't even expect to play this year, I am going to go with the unsung offensive lineman Marcel Jones.

You look at this kid's frame and you hear he weighs 320. You seriously wonder where he's putting it. He's like a tight end, but all that experience in AAU basketball, and just the incredible upside he has, I am as excited to see his development as any skill player on the team.

He's got it all, when it comes to the foundation of what you need to be a great offensive lineman. Now it's up to Dennis Wagner and Dave Kennedy to build that thing up toward the sky. Well, Jones is already there, literally, standing almost 6 foot, 8 inches tall. But figuratively, I wouldn't expect it to be too long before we hear his name a ton.

Ok, that's it. The ultra long, super wordy version of questions, answers and, as always, hasty prognostications brought on by situation, timing and occasional use of questionable narcotics. That's the long and not even close to short of it.

The countdown to signing day continues.

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