We think about college football 24/7 so you don't have to.

The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

Pelini Reaches Out for Recruiting Help

Bo Pelini’s fire burns deep, burns long and burns bright, and it’s this never-ending stream of energy that is Nebraska’s greatest strength and, at times, the program’s greatest weakness. You’ve seen the latter in College Station, when Pelini – Bo, and also Carl, now at Florida Atlantic – lost his cool in a penalty-laden loss to Texas A&M. You saw it against Texas in the 2009 Big 12 title game, when Pelini’s gasket burst over the second that wasn’t; there’s red, Nebraska red and Pelini red, and the colors get darker the farther you move down the line. But it’s this energy and drive that also doubles as one of Nebraska’s assets, helping the program overcome many of its own built-in disadvantages.

It’s a trickle-down sort of energy: Pelini’s attitude drifts down to his staff, which in turn drifts down to his players, helping create Nebraska’s own brand of football physicality. And while the Cornhuskers have yet to return to its glory days-era level of success, Pelini has won at least nine games in each of his first four seasons – after Bill Callahan, this is cause for celebration.

Surprisingly, however, Pelini’s energy when it comes to football itself hasn’t exactly translated to the recruiting trail. It seems as if the two aren’t mutually exclusive; the energy Pelini devotes to football, one would think, would make him a non-stop stove of energy when it comes to reeling top recruits into Lincoln. But that’s not the case.

Nebraska hasn’t done terribly: Pelini’s most recent class hovered around the top 25 nationally, depending on your recruiting source of choice, and he clearly has an eye for somewhat under-the-radar defensive talent. Former linebacker Lavonte David fits that bill, as does former defensive back Dejon Gomes, among others. Under his watch, Nebraska has seemingly brought in enough talent to continue winning nine games every season in perpetuity.

But that’s not enough: Nebraska wants more, and deserves more, in a sort of statewide-birthright sort of way. And to reach that next level, the Cornhuskers need to start bringing in the sort of five-star, can’t-miss prospects that separates the elite from the merely very good. For now, the program falls into the second category.

So here we lie, soon to enter Pelini’s half-decade mark in Lincoln, and Nebraska has two options: improve its recruiting efforts or be happy with occasionally competing for conference titles yet remaining outside the national title picture. Obviously, the program wants to be an annual factor in the national championship hunt. But to get there, it’ll take a significant alteration of how Pelini and his staff approach the year-round recruiting game.

As Steven Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star detailed yesterday, Pelini has already identified that an issue exists. The issue, in specific, is that Nebraska draws early interest from the sort of prospects that eventually go elsewhere – to the SEC, U.C.L.A., U.S.C. and the like – come national signing day. These yearly disappointments led Pelini to hire an outside company to address how his staff works through the recruiting quagmire.

“Pelini has enlisted help from an outside firm of research professionals to help his staff’s efficiency in the recruiting process,” writes Sipple. “It’s his first go-round with such a method.”

Pelini told Sipple: “They’re working to help us to not only ask the right questions, but teach us what to listen for when we ask the questions and get more insight in the limited amount of time we’re with recruits.” This is recruiting simplified, an approach that, hopefully, will lead Pelini and his staff to be more productive with the time they have on hand when it comes to recruiting.

One situation that needs immediate mending is the concern listed above: Nebraska remains in the hunt for talented recruits but comes up short late in the game, leaving the Cornhuskers reaching for second-tier prospects – when compared to the national recruit who said no – to fill out its class.

Perhaps the outside firm has already made an impact. As Sipple noted, Pelini “hopes [that Nebraska] is about halfway finished with its 2013 class by summer’s end.” This is a somewhat dangerous game, seeing that better prospects might arise later in the year, but this new approach could be of enormous benefit if Nebraska identifies its top recruits early in the game.

One thing that won’t change, and will never change as long as Pelini runs the show, is the search for prospects with the sort of mentality that won’t wilt under his never-quit, non-stop brand of energy. While “mental toughness” can be developed, Pelini told Sipple, Nebraska is looking for the sort of player capable of continuing this Pelini-era tradition.

Credit Pelini for bypassing his own stubbornness to address his program’s most looming weakness. Among the Nebraska fan base, the two prime complaints revolve around offensive line play – position coach Barney Cotton is vilified without pause – and inconsistency on the recruiting trail. As the nation’s elite programs prove on an annual basis, a high-powered recruiting engine can offset any and all other concerns.

Tags: , , ,
Home  Home


  1. Paul, I’m skeptical that Nebraska has ever — or will ever — compete with the top tier of college football programs for the top prospects. That’s not to suggest that Nebraska won’t do well, it’s just that the emphasis on player development will always be more important at a place such as Lincoln than it will be at “sexier” outposts such as Austin or L.A.

  2. HuskyMike says:

    Could it be that when ever young playes see BO Boy red in the face yelling at the top of his lungs at a player they say, No not for me !

    Get with the real world Bo ! growup !

  3. Clem says:

    The answer to your question, HuskyMike, is no.

  4. Lawrence says:

    Tom K… Nebraska HAS been one of the best recruiting teams in the country when Bill Callahan was there.

    5th in 2005
    20th in 2006
    13th in 2007

    Some of the NFL players in those classes include Matt Slauson, Carl Nicks, Prince Amukamara, Larry Asante, Jared Crick, Eric Hagg, Roy Helu, Marcel Jones, Adi Kunalic and Niles Paul…. oh yeah and Ndamukong Suh.

    Sure, the 05 class didn’t turn out the greatest, but it’s proof that Nebraska is CAPABLE of competing for top recruits… they just haven’t under Pelini as much as under Callahan. That’s not a huge deal, it just means that they need to find other ways to get them. Good for Pelini for adjusting and finding other ways to improve.

  5. Chris says:

    To my knowledge NU has only landed a top 10 class under Callahan. This means that NU won national championships without top recruits. We were near the top, but not in the top 10. The coaching is what made the difference. I have faith that Pelini and company will get us there, just like Devaney and TO did, but it will take a few more years. In the times of ‘gotta have it now’, I hope we give him that chance. Remember people, there were many calling for the termination of Osborne and McBride.

  6. Bill says:

    We need to get prospects in early which includes the spring game. We have more fans at the spring game than powers like USC (unless they are winning) UCLA only draws about 50,000 and they are signing better athletes. We have as good of facilities as any school in the nation. I have been to many schools and NOBODY stands above Nebraska. Some are equal but none above.

  7. mac says:

    We used to be a perennial national powerhouse, in every discussion concerning contender status almost every year. No one outside of our fan base even thinks about us as a threat any more. That sentiment extends to the nation’s top recruits. NU, WA, TXAM,OLE MISS, MIZZU, BC, NCST…our current tier, certainly not in the same discussion with ALA, LSU FSU, OU, TX, OSU, WIS, ORE, MICH, USC…..the evidence is clear since we lose almost every time in head to head recruiting against these guys. Until the image is restored we will continue to battle to get 9 wins.

  8. Travis says:

    The comment about recruits not coming to NU because of Coach Pelini’s sideline outburts…gimme a break! Any recruit who claims to be tough enough to play ball at the D-1 level, but not mentally tough enough to handle a man raising his voice, is welcome to commit someplace else.

    The last time I watched, I saw Bob Stoops berating refs/players, Brian Kelly also, and several other big name coaches. I think this is more of “fan” complaint than a recruit concern. As a dad, I wouldn’t hesitate to send my son to play ball for a coaching staff which included men of character like Bo Pelini and Ron Brown. I would feel secure knowing they’re providing him direction and straight forward, honest feedback. Not sugarcoated, politically correct BS.

    Coach em up Bo! Go Big Red.

  9. BigRedOhio says:

    I don’t think we need 5 star players. Nebraska’s most successful team and classes over the years has been built on blue collar players who were recruited to fit the system. I think Pelini is doing the same thing. THe hiring of this firm is simply to continually improve in the process.

  10. Larry says:

    Travis and Big Red Ohio i could not agree with the two of you any more as your both right on.

  11. Palmer says:

    I think a good walk-on class every year(instate players) is going to make this team develope the talent we’ve been missing.

  12. Husker says:

    Paul- “Nebraska has two options: improve its recruiting efforts or be happy with occasionally competing for conference titles yet remaining outside the national title picture. Obviously, the program desires the latter scenario.”

    I hope the program does not desire the LATTER scenario. That means they are satisfied with being 2nd / 3rd tier.

    I’m sure you meant the “previous scenario”. Attention to detail prior to posting for the world to read.

    Paul: Made sense when I wrote it, at least. Thank you. Altered above.

  13. Really? says:

    24/7 will always try and sale that it’s all about the kids rating. They have too, because its their bread and butter or money. Texas and ND always are up in the top recruiting teams and their sidelines are littered with 4 and 5 star prospects and only produce 5-7 or 6-6 seasons. 24/7, Rivals, ESPN or any recruiting service cannot claim that the higher the kid’s rating somehow equates to more wins in a season. Show me the stars and one will see nothing more than a marketing campaign. These recuriting services are nothing more than what a carfax is to someone who is buying their family car.

  14. Thomas says:

    Nebraska is all over the so called TOP recruits..They have been seen all over Northern NJ where # 1 in the USA Don Bosco Prep and powerhouses Bergen Catholic at St. Joe’s Reside. Name me a GREAT coach who did not get on his TEAM or the refs. Ill call you a liar!! All of you talking about BO attitude need to check on a Coach Named Bob Hurley of St. Anthony’s Jersey City in Hoops. Without a doubt the BEST COACH THAT NEVER WENT PRO. He is in the NBA hall of fame for using the same Approach BO does. Get outta the Great plains and start understanding the in’s and out’s in the challenge to motivate young men that as Coach Hurley puts it have “an answer for an answer” ITS CALLED CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM FOLKS!!!! WAKE UP!!!

  15. Thomas says:

    For the record BO is the best coach you could ever hope to get at Nebraska!!! He has won at every level and is a Players coach from what I have seen. Nebraska is a tricky place to recruit. If they could Win it all in 95 then getting the type of players BO desires takes time!!! Some of these posts just prove the notion of just how clueless some of you are to all sports and the challenge of coaching are in general. Yes the man gets paid big $. You better believe with all the BIG expectations BO earns every penny!! I watched him coach his ass off in Penn ST. It makes me not want to be a HUSKER FAN when I see our people calling for his head because he cares!!! This is Football not Tennis!!

  16. Hskrbill says:

    All these recruits need to seal the deal is a gift certificate for a Runza while they are here on an official visit.

  17. Ken Fredericksen says:

    The answer to those who curiously dwell on Bo’s fire and dwell on this positive as a negative factor is “No, No & No.” This characteristic draws in many times more top recruits than it scares away. Bo is milk toast compared to Nick Saban and his sullied reputation, yet he seems to recruit just fine.

    When I read this stuff about the Huskers never recruiting well in the past and won 5 mythical national championships with moderate to low grade talent, it tells me one of two things about that person – either they are very young or very newly associated with Nebraska football, and clearly ignorant of its history.

    No program in the country significantly out recruited Nebraska from 1975-1990. It might not have actually been #1 but definitely in the top 5. UN had facilities that were unrivaled during most of that time. It pioneered the idea of the weight program and took the academic support system, training table, locker facilities to new heights, and top recruits from all over the country flocked to it because of the advantage it provided to them in not only in playing on the college level, but for some in preparing them for the pros.

    Now that has changed as virtually every major program in the country has now caught up with UN on the facilities and it has to find another niche/advantage to bring in the needed out-of-state talent. The history of the program will serve as a foundation for that for a while longer but will soon fade away if more recent success is achieved soon. 10-18 years ago is ancient history to a lot of 16-18 yr old recruits!

    This article is right on point. I’m convinced that Pelini is a great “coach” and will follow through with top notch success if he has the right talent, not even necessarily the very best. I’ve been worried about this and am very happy to see that Bo doesn’t have blinders on and is trying to address this.

  18. Husker39211 says:

    We need more 5* recruits huh? I don’t really believe that has to be the case. Osborne didn’t focus on that. When he went on his run there at the end of his coaching career, he went out and recruited speed, speed, and more speed. A lot of those fast guys were 2 and 3 star recruits. All he did was go 60-3 over five years, win 3 national championships, played for a fourth and would have played in all 5 but for the dreaded T word….Texas. That having been said, recruiting analyst have gotten better over the past 10 years or so. I mean, it used to be that stuff was such BS it wasn’t even funny but now these guys have full staffs and actually see the players play….something that didn’t even used to happen. So, yeah, there’s a little more merit to it than there used to be but at the same time, speaking of Texas, take a look at them. If you just go by the top recruiting classes every year, they should be a top five team every year. They have sucked lately so you have to admit, the most important thing is getting the right players for your particular system….not worrying exclusively about how many stars he has by his name.

  19. DMK says:

    Ken is right on: Nebraska used to have the top, top players available in the days before recruiting services. That had something to do with their winning.

    And having the top, top players available strongly correlates with winning against top competition. Obviously. Today’s recruiting services have become a public index of what used to be the hidden knowledge of coaching staffs.

    Saban, Miles, Bo, Kiffin, everyone is offering scholarships to the top 200 kids on those lists. Some kids’ skill sets just don’t match the system you run, and most top teams still concentrate on kids close to home, but let’s not pretend that there’s some sort of conspiratorial difference between what the best teams and want and what the recruiting services say. They are the same thing.

  20. husker4life says:

    Ur husky for a reason Mike. Bo IS the only reason we are respectable now. Period. His defense prowl put us where are now. If the offense can rid Taylor we would be getting more interest. He is not the answer. Bo made the turnaround with is attitude. Solich wasn’t the answer and Callahan, please. Les and Nick get away with it and where are they every year?

  21. Randy says:

    I think too many people think that T.O. somehow magically produced that talent on those 90s NC teams. It just is not so. Wistrom and the Peters bros were underclassman who could barely see the field with that team. Ahman Green spent much of the year listed as the 3rd string I back until breaking out when Lawrence got into trouble. No the truth is there was wall to wall talent on that team that everyone wanted. Go and look at the 95 roster and see how many of those guys got paid to play football somewhere after college.
    The thing that happened that really had a negative effect on Nebraska recruiting was the proliferation of television coverage. Back in the day only a handful of schools got the majority of the coverage. Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Miami, Fla. St, Alabama, Nebraska and Oklahoma and Notre Dame. USC if you wanted to stay up late. Every recruit wanted to be on TV as much as possible. Now virtually every team is on every week. This hurt the Huskers much more than schools in more heavily populated areas.

  22. Burnt Orange says:

    From an outsider’s view who saw maybe 4-5 Neb.games each of the past two years, I think the team is pretty talented, well coached and physical but qb play and in particular the inability to throw the ball down the field is the biggest issue. I can think of 6, maybe 7 Big 10 quarterbacks this past season, I would take over Martinez.

  23. Thomas says:

    You would take 6 maybe 7 of T-Magic? Look at the stats and tell how you believe that? Kid is only a SOPH. granted very rusty on passing accuracy but runs faster then Denard Robinson and once he hits that corner he’s GONE!!! Look for himto really shine as a junior in his second full year in the BIG.

  24. Burnt Orange says:

    Operative phrase was this past season- Wilson,Cousins,Persa/Coulter, Robinson, Vandenberg, Illinois guy – he did alot with no running game. Martinez might have been a Heisman contender 15 years ago but the game has changed. He is great on the ground but I think the issue is why are the Huskers not getting back into the National Championship hunt. I gather some say it is recruiting, I think it is qb play. ( The last two seasons have rendered me an expert on inadequate qb play) Maybe you are right and he blooms as a passer as a junior but from what I have seen, I don’t think so – he just doesn’t throw the ball well enough.

  25. HuskerMark says:

    Burnt Orange, I agree with you. I’d rather have a QB that had the reverse skill set of Martinez: great passer, good runner.

    That being said, I have to point out that Nebraska had a ton of dropped passes. Again. Just half of those get caught and who knows how many additional scoring chances we get…

  26. husker4life says:

    I agree with Thomas completely. Taylor is down grading our offense to a level of mediocrity. He’s fast true, but its a football game not a track meet. Denard is fast as heck but has moves to go with it and is a way better passer. He can’t win the big game as the 4 loses in 09 combined loss total for the whole was like 10 points. If you can’t put 4 touchdowns together you don’t deserve a chance to be a qb at NU. We would and SHOULD have not one but two big 12 titles. He’s had his time, it didn’t work so let someone else give it a shot. Hence Tommie Frazier over Mike Grant. I thinking that went ok.

  27. husker4life says:

    I agree with burnt orange on Taylor. I hate myself right now for agreeing with someone of those colors. UGGHH. But he speaks the truth by far

  28. EraofRed says:

    Lots of great comments! Both positive and negative from this perspective. Where fans have reached the point of being concerned with a coach yelling on the sidelines, I have no idea. To my knowledge Bo looks to the military services for teamwork and unity. Which if you have ever served (at least in a function that requires hand to hand combat) you would begin understand. My God, if you can’t handle a man yelling at you, how can you fight in the trenches, let alone when someone on the other side of ball is talking smack to you. It is a fine Art to know when to apply the passion (which gets confused for anger) Bo has in a manner to motivate personnel. Not sure that he has mastered it yet. But games like Penn St. can be built upon to make Bo the overall leader of the football team. Not a manager just yelling at his employees.

  29. BADGER FAN says:

    “never wilt” Football players are only human and sometimes they just get beat plain and simple. The Wisconsin players said (respectfully) they could tell in the Huskers eyes at the beginning of the second half that they were done. Too much hyping can come back to haunt you and drain you. Tom O’ was a pretty fair coach, yes? How bout the coach of Michigan and Wisconsin’s coach etc. I do not buy into this baloney.

  30. BADGER FAN says:


    Never been a football coach, but how the Army trains you for combat I do know. You are taught not to hate your enemy, to keep as even a temperment as possible and remember how you were trained. Remember your training and focus, focus, focus.

  31. Nebraska now has an even bigger recruiting challenge. They now have to go to places that they’ve never heavily recruited and compete against the Ohio State’s and Michigan’s for the elite players. They are essentially on the bottom floor in recruiting the Big 10.

    That’s not to say Nebraska is at the recruiting level of Minnesota or Purdue, but in terms of knowing the Big 10 recruiting landscape they are definitely behind those elite school’s mentioned and not yet on the same level as Sparty, Wisconsin, Penn State, etc.

  32. PE says:

    Nebraska has always been at a disadvantage in recruiting. Always will. That doesn’t mean we can’t win big however. Here, player development is extremeley important as is overall coaching. And Bo has a way to go before he masters it. Many of the issues that have caused us frustration in the past are not talent issues, they are coaching issues. Things like turnover margin, fumbles, penalties, dropped passes, are all coaching issues and are among Nebraska’s top issues. In the next few years we will know how good of a coach Bo will be. If he cannot fix those things, we will never be an elite team.
    Good to see him focus on the issues, like recruiting, taylors machanics, the offensive line. Now lets get those other things ironed out.
    We’re close but things need to be handled before we advance.

Leave a Comment