02.22.2010 / Blog Posting by Mike Babcock, Huskers Illustrated Magazine

By now, you are no doubt familiar with the 2010 football recruiting class at Nebraska. Even though you will not find it among the best in the nation according to recruiting analysts, make no mistake, it is a solid group of 21 scholarship players, carefully selected without regard for star rankings.

"It is a solid group of 21 scholarship players, carefully selected without regard for star rankings."

Under Bo Pelini, the Cornhuskers have returned to a proven system of recruiting. The coaches watch countless hours of video and evaluate prospective players based on how they would fit in Nebraska’s clearly defined system as well as in its culture. Not every player, however talented, is a good fit.

In addition, Pelini has supplemented the scholarship recruits with walk-ons, 16 of whom were announced on letter-of-intent-signing day. In order to be announced, a walk-on has to be accepted for admission by the university and pay a $250 deposit, an indication of his commitment. He also signs a non-binding agreement, which helps in determining numbers for the upcoming season.

Nebraska’s future success is tied more closely to the scholarship recruits, of course. But the walk-on program provides a definite edge. And walk-ons are evaluated as carefully as scholarship recruits.

Place-kicker and punter Alex Henery walked on, turned down a soccer scholarship at Creighton to do so. He has a scholarship now. Consider the role he has played in the Cornhuskers’ resurgence the past two seasons. Justin Blatchford, the freshman from Ponca, Neb., who returned a blocked punt 25 yards for a touchdown against Baylor, is among those still paying his own way.

Matt O’Hanlon, who has completed his eligibility, walked on, as did returning players Dreu Young, Tyler Legate, Mike Caputo, Lance Thorell, Mathew May, P.J. Mangieri, Graham Stoddard, Kyler Reed and Brett Maher, to name just a few. The list goes on. You recognize the names.

Walk-ons play on special teams, as well as create competition in practice. Former Cornhusker All-American Trev Alberts, the athletic director at UNO, recalls sitting with Gerald Armstrong at the freshman study table, thinking about how Armstrong, a walk-on, was paying to play, and how that motivated him (Alberts), how he was determined not to be out-worked by a walk-on.

Walk-ons might lack size or speed. Sometimes, numbers simply don’t allow for a scholarship offer. But through strength training and coaching, they can develop. “It’ll be interesting to see which ones pan out,” Jeff Jamrog said on signing day. Jamrog, the assistant athletic director for football, walked on at Nebraska in 1983, earned a scholarship and became a starting defensive end as well as an Academic All-American. Walk-ons are typically solid, if not exceptional, students.

Jamrog sees potential in this year’s walk-ons. Most are from Nebraska, of course, but Keegan Hughes is from Roswell, Ga. He grew up a Husker fan, however, because his parents are from Nebraska. Hughes, who turned down a scholarship offer from the Air Force Academy, is a 6-1, 175-pound wide receiver.

He “kind of reminds you of Nate Swift (when) you see highlight film of him,” Jamrog said.

What are your thoughts on the 2010 Husker Football recruiting class? Any early predictions for the 2010 season? Join in.

Posted at 08:31 AM | Permalink
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