That Nebraska is entering the January recruiting period with 22 scholarship players in its 2022 class in and of itself is actually pretty typical.
The complexion of the group — 13 high school players, one junior college transfer and already eight Division I transfers — is not. Instead, it's reflective of the changing landscape of college football, the transfer portal and the pressure on coach Scott Frost to win in 2022.
Take a look at how recent years have played out for Nebraska:
2019: 25 high school, two juco, three DI transfers.
2020: 20 high school, six juco, no DI transfers.
2021: 20 high school, no juco, four DI transfers.
2022 so far: 13 high school, one juco, eight DI transfers.
NU landed the most prominent of its transfers Friday in Texas quarterback Casey Thompson and then went back to work Saturday by gaining a commitment from LSU wide receiver Trey Palmer. Frost and company have already used the portal to overhaul their specialist group, add two veteran offensive linemen and two veteran wide receivers to wide-open position battles, and land a talented defensive back that they loved and recruited hard originally in the 2021 class.
They are also not likely close to being finished adding to the class. Most of the action from here out is likely to be on the transfer front, though there are still some high school players who appear to be possibilities, too.
Here’s a quick positional look at what Nebraska has added so far and what it might still be interested in over the coming weeks. A theme will present itself: There’s still quite a bit of work to be done.
The Huskers have added two already and might not be done yet. In addition to Thompson, a fifth-year player who started 10 games for Texas this fall and will be considered the favorite to win the job for NU this year, the Huskers signed 2022 three-star prospect Richard Torres. Both will be on campus in the coming days.
NU, though, could also add a young transfer quarterback and the primary target is Florida State transfer Chubba Purdy. He’s slated to visit Lincoln this weekend when the recruiting period opens. Interestingly, Purdy on Saturday picked up an offer from Oklahoma, which, like NU, also added a veteran transfer in Central Florida's Dillon Gabriel. At NU, Frost and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple told the young returning quarterbacks that they were going to add competition, and Purdy could join Thompson in that regard. If Purdy commits and enrolls at UNL for the spring semester, NU could have three newcomers plus Logan Smothers and Heinrich Haarberg in spring ball.
NU still hasn’t hired a running backs coach, but it added Emmett Johnson in the 2022 class so far. There are a couple of Louisiana high school backs on the radar screen in four-star Tre’Vonte Citizen (Lake Charles) and Ajay Allen (Monroe). Citizen, Rivals’ No. 2 back in the country, is going to be an awfully tough pull and there’s heavy competition for Allen, a TCU commit, too. Whether it’s one of those two or a transfer, the Huskers appear to want to keep adding. There are productive regional backs in the portal, including Ky Thomas, a third-year Minnesota freshman, and Wyoming super-senior Xazavian Valladay.
The Huskers have added a pair of high schoolers in Victor Jones and Decoldest Crawford, and now two transfers in Palmer and New Mexico State's Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda.
Is receivers coach Mickey Joseph now content, or will he try to find another?
NU landed high school tight end Chase Androff in December and loves the depth it has at the position, so it is likely to only add another if a too-good-to-pass-up situation were to arise. The Huskers did offer a versatile Louisiana native in Danny Lewis (New Iberia) in mid-December. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder is committed to Cincinnati.
New offensive line coach Donovan Raiola has two new veterans in his group in Oklahoma State transfer Hunter Anthony and Northern Colorado’s Kevin Williams in addition to high school signee Justin Evans-Jenkins. The Huskers are in the market for potentially several more, too. They are very high on both East Tennessee State’s Tre’Mond Shorts — another target, Sacred Heart's JD DiRenzo, committed to Rutgers on Saturday — and there are several other accomplished transfers still available, too.
The Huskers signed Brodie Tagaloa in December and could use a veteran to help offset the losses of Ben Stille, Damion Daniels and Deontre Thomas. High-quality defensive linemen are always at a premium and most of the productive players in the portal have intense competition for their services. NU just offered Missouri freshman defensive tackle transfer Mekhi Wingo, a St. Louis native, on Saturday.
Nebraska had Snow (Utah) College transfer Seleti Fevaleaki on an official visit last month and he remains available. There are others, too, such as Ohio State transfer Darrion Henry-Young, who could potentially be on the radar screen or end up there in the coming weeks.
This feels like a position the Huskers could look to address in the spring, too, if they don’t find a player they feel could be a difference-maker before the semester begins.
Linebacker is a bit like tight end. NU has talent, depth and youth inside and outside. No team will turn down an impact edge-rusher or inside linebacker, but it’s also not a big need for the Huskers.
This one is a bit of a wild card. Nebraska has already added six players in the cycle from three different levels — high schoolers Jaeden Gould, Malcolm Hartzog, Jalil Martin and Gage Stenger; junior college safety DeShon Singleton; and Arizona State transfer Tommi Hill — but they might still be in the market for more.
Among the considerations are that Hartzog (special teams), Martin and Stenger (nickel/linebacker) have the potential to end up with differing primary roles depending on how their careers progress and NU has also seen attrition over the past 18 months in the secondary. That, and they must replace three starters.
Six is a lot, obviously, but NU is in the final group for high school safety Kylon Griffin (Montgomery, Alabama), a former Mississippi State commit who says he’s also considering USC and Clemson. There are players in the portal that NU recruited heavily in past cycles such as Michigan’s Darion Green-Warren and Oregon’s DJ James, too, and there are also several talented Colorado transfers among many other options still available.
Adding it up
Lay it all out, and it’s easy to see the Huskers are planning on taking several more players in this class. Four more — another quarterback, an offensive skill player and a lineman on each side of the ball — feels like the baseline goal for the Huskers. What if they get two offensive linemen or find a DB they really like?
That could result in a half-dozen or more additions, mostly from the transfer market with perhaps a high school player or two in the equation.
By the Journal Star’s count, NU is at 89 scholarship players currently, including the eight incoming transfers already committed. The team won’t have trouble finding scholarships between natural attrition, perhaps a scholarship player or two returning to walk-on status and a potential medical redshirt or two as well, but the math says there’s much more movement ahead, both inbound and outbound.