Lincoln, NE - With just eight commitments in the 2012 class, the next eight weeks for Nebraska might be the most crucial among any BCS teams in the county when it comes to recruiting.
His assistants? Even more miles, as the staff has been busy for a little over two weeks on the road.
So what does it all mean and what might the future hold?
It's clear the current class has talent. Nebraska is rated No. 19 in the country in the latest Scout.com team rankings when looking at the average caliber of player alone.
But when looking at the overall team ranking, the Husker sit at just No. 67 - dead last in the Big Ten, with the lowest number of commitments.
The most common question Big Red Report has been asked over the last few weeks is who will be the cornerstone in the class?
It's a tough question to answer, with the class not even half full.
But as time goes on all indications point to Cibolo Steele high school (TX) 4-star quarterback Tommy Armstrong being Nebraska's gem. The dual-threat quarterback is on a 27-game winning streak and one win away from his second Texas 5A Division II State Championship. Armstrong has thrown no interceptions in 163 passing attempts and rushed for nearly 1100 yards. In the state semi-finals on Saturday, the senior was part of six touchdowns (4 rushing & 2 passing) in a 51-31 win over Port Arthur Memorial.
"He's not just an athlete, he's a quarterback who happens to be a great athlete," said Scout.com National Director of Scouting Scott Kennedy. "I'm a big fan of Tommy Armstrong...Taylor Martinez is pretty well entrenched as the starter, but he struggled at times this year. I think it will be nice to have another option. They might fit some packages where he can come in and move the ball a little bit."
Tommy Armstrong single-game highlights
After Armstrong, many would point to wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp as the class' next big get. The 4-star wide receiver from Illinois has faced constant double and triple teams all season, but managed to catch 89 passes for over 1,650 yards and 27 touchdowns. One of the classes biggest recruiters, Westerkamp made headlines this weekend when he hinted he might want to take an official visit to Notre Dame. A visit after a Nebraska commitment is often something frowned upon by the Husker coaching staff and not allowed, but the rule has been more lax over the past few years.
"I received an offer from Notre Dame and I am considering going to visit," Westerkamp said. "My parents and I feel like I just need to consider all my options. I am still committed to Nebraska. This is the most important decision I have had to make in my life and I want to explore every option and be 100 percent sure I do what is best for me and my family."
One of the other exceptions to the rule was Riverside (Cali.) junior college linebacker Zaire Anderson. Deemed the next Lavonte David, Anderson visited Texas Tech over the weekend and says it was probably a mistake.
"It was O.K. It wasn't as good as Lincoln. Not even close. I just wanted to get out because I wasn't going to be doing anything," Anderson said. "I am not going on any other trips. They O.K.'d this trip, but he (Coach Pelini) was a little upset about it. I won't be taking any more trips. I am solid to Nebraska."
Still looking for a home...
Seisay was all smiles on his official visit (Picture By: Josh Harvey)
When examining prospects who are not committed at the moment, the biggest fish the Huskers might be after is Mohammed Seisay from Eastern Arizona Junior College. The former Conference USA standout at Memphis, Seisay is down to the Huskers and Arkansas. The 3-star prospect says he will make a decision on December 20th and is looking for the right team when it comes to the depth chart.
"When you are a junior college guy, you want to go to a place you can make an impact right away and I can do that at either one of these places if I come in and work hard," said Seisay. "Arkansas and Nebraska are just really the two teams that have showed me that not only do they really want me, but they really need me."
Heading out even farther west, Nebraska has identified plenty of talent in California and remain in contention for many prospects from the Golden State. Their main targets seem to be on defense, with Bo Pelini and crew still visiting with Cosumnes Oaks cornerback Marcus Rios (4-star), Upland's Christian Powell (3-star fullback & linebacker) and wide receiver Marques Mosely, Dominguez cornerback Brandon Beaver (4-star), and Sheldon high defensive end Nate Iese (3-star).
If Big Red Report had to pick just one who will pull the trigger, we project it to be Rios. The former Boise State commitment has hinted Nebraska is his top school at the moment, with a decision on the near horizon. Rios will be a December graduate and has already started the application process to UNL, a very good sign by the lock down corner. He's still waiting to hear if Notre Dame is willing to put an offer on the table, but the Irish have been interested over the past few weeks and have talked about an official visit. Things will have to happen fast, if there is no news by the end of the week, Rios should be a Husker soon.
Back to the east, Texas remains a hotbed for the Huskers. With a commitment already from Armstrong, Nebraska is in on four other legitimate prospects from the Lonestar State.
This past weekend, they hosted the nation's No. 8 safety in Dallas (Texas) Wilmer-Hutchins' LaDarrell McNeil. McNeil is currently a soft Tennessee commitment, but likes what Nebraska has to offer. Sources close to his recruitment say the Huskers are a dark horse for his services.
"I really liked the trip to Nebraska. I would say that Nebraska and Oklahoma State are the two schools that are standing out the most to me right now," McNeil told Big Red Report. "They have great facilities at Nebraska, the football and academic facilities, and I really liked working with and talking to the people that were with the Life Skills department."
"I'm going to make my decision at the Army All American game," Nance told Scout.com last week. "Just looking at the facilities at Nebraska on my computer and from what I have heard from the coaches, I just really need to see it for myself. It sounds great."
Last but not least in Texas is Taiwan Johnson. The Manvel product's stock is falling among Nebraska recruiting analysts, as sources have reported the defensive end is favoring playing in the SEC conference. Johnson did take in Nebraska on Northwestern weekend, but appears to be on the verge of taking his talents to Arkansas.
From two great recruiting states to another. Florida is a place the staff has spent more time this season, with Big Ten teams traditionally pulling talent out of the Sunshine State. The biggest fish is Island Coast high school safety Jordan Diggs (No. 24 safety in the country). The senior has visited Lincoln twice, established a strong relationship with commitment Michael Rose, and hosted the Huskers already three times during the contact period.
"All of the coaches know when I plan to make my decision," said Diggs on Monday night who discussed what the coaching staff talks about during his in-homes. "It's just normal conversation. It's about how everything is going, how is life and the coaches really aren't pushing me or asking me too much."
But California, Florida, and Texas are not the only the states that create elite D-1 talent. There are plenty of other prospects across the country that Nebraska still appear to have a chance with.
In New Jersey, linebacker Quanzell Lambert (3-star) and quarterback/athlete Devin Fuller (4-star) are high on the Huskers' board, with the two seniors showing mutual interest.
"They said that the quarterback that they have right now is a good quarterback, but they plan on bringing in a couple of quarterbacks and making him battle for the job," said Fuller, the nation's No. 6 quarterback in the 2012 class. "It would be an open competition..."They know that the quarterback they have right now is good, but they are hoping that we could come in there and push him to become better and we would get better as part of the process."
Andrus Peat should know all about NU (Picture By: Josh Harvey)
In Arizona, Andrus Peat, the brother of Husker 2011 signee Todd Peat, is one of the nation's finest players. Currently rated the No. 3 overall player in the Scout.com Top 300, the offensive tackle could help Nebraska build a solid front five for years to come. While he has no plans to announce soon, it's unknown if he will drag the process out to signing day.
"The atmosphere was great and the fans were second to none. I was surprised how many fans recognized and talked to me at the game," Peat said after his visit to Lincoln on Black Friday. "It was awesome. I was really impressed by the coaches as well. They were really down to earth and honest with me. I got a chance to talk with Coach Bo Pelini a lot. I felt no pressure from him wanting me to commit or anything."
If New Jersey product Devin Fuller doesn't work out, Nebraska is also highly interested in Mississippi 4-star quarterback Anthony Alford. Nebraska plans to take two quarterbacks in the class, but will not force the issue by taking just anyone. They could be gaining more attention from Alford in the coming weeks, as the senior strongly indicated last week he would like to play both baseball and football in college. Much like 2011 Nebraska signee Bubba Starling, Alford is a potential first to second round Major League Draft pick. Nebraska has laid out a similar plan for the Petal high school product and have given their backing to him playing for both Coach Pelini and Coach Erstad at the next level.
Other prospects Nebraska is heavily recruiting in mid-December with known offers include: Bishop Gorman (NV) offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley (4-star), Edwardsville (IL) defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (3-star), Bingham (UT) linebacker Jared Afalava (3-star), Corona Del Sol (AZ) defensive end Avery Moss (3-star), and Winfield (LA) wide receiver Alonzo Moore (2-star).
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Nebraska 2012 commitments: