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May 14, 2014
Husker Buzz: 2015 shaping up to be strong draft class
It was a solid draft weekend for Nebraska, with three players picked in the second, third and sixth rounds, however when you look at the 2015 draft class the Huskers realistically have a chance to get five players picked.
Defensive end Randy Gregory is a projected top 15 pick on nearly every early board you see, and a couple even have him going in the top five. Obviously we know how much that stuff can change, as at one time Mel Kiper had quarterbacks like Jimmy Clausen and Matt Barkley No. 1 on his board and neither was even picked in the first round.
When you look at running back Ameer Abdullah it's safe to say he'll fall somewhere between rounds three and six. After seeing how late the running backs went this year, he clearly made the right decision coming back for his final year. The first running back this year didn't go until pick No. 54 in the second round.
Teams have figured out the Adrian Peterson's are few and far between, and there are a lot of quality running backs you can find in rounds three and four.
Wide receiver Kenny Bell also figures to be drafted in the middle to late rounds in 2015, as well as linebacker Zaire Anderson and safety Corey Cooper.
After a couple of down recruiting classes in Bo Pelini's early years that failed to produce much NFL talent, things are starting to make a turn.
The big position where Nebraska took a hit in the NFL talent department was on the defensive line, where after Jared Crick they've failed to produce a draft pick since 2012.
Going forward that figures to change as Gregory, Vincent Valentine, Maliek Collins, Greg McMullen and Avery Moss (if he returns) all have potential NFL futures.
Offensive tackle Alex Lewis also could be somebody to watch on the line. With a strong year, he could be a candidate to come out a year early, and based on what we saw this spring he has all the tools to get there. The other thing with Lewis is he's currently in his fifth-year of college since he gray shirted at Colorado. If he came back in 2015 he'd be a sixth-year senior.
None the less, after a couple of lean years in the draft, it looks like things will really pick up in the 2015 and 2016 draft classes.
Walk-ons and JUCOs
Two of the bigger hidden elements to Nebraska's recruiting success are junior college players and walk-ons.
You aren't going to see a lot of walk-ons like Long that get drafted, but if anything it should at least show you the value they bring to a class. Take for example a player like current wide receiver Brandon Reilly, who ran the fastest 40-yard dash on the team at 4.41 seconds. As Barry Alvarez once said, walk-ons are "erasers" for recruiting mistakes. That's why Tom Osborne was so adamant in bringing in so many walk-ons each year, since most Nebraska kids aren't tapped out and they don't play football year round, so you never know how they will develop once they get in your system.
As for the importance of junior college players, the Huskers have had eight drafted over the last seven years if you count offensive lineman Matt Slauson, who attended a prep school in Colorado.
DB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, DB Damion Stafford, LB Lavonte David, DB DeJon Gomes, DB Larry Asante, DB Zackary Bowman, OL Carl Nicks and Slauson were all junior college or prep school NFL draft picks since 2008. Other junior college players like wide receiver Maurice Purify and offensive lineman Jemarcus Hardrick also got on NFL rosters for short stints as un-drafted free agents.
Those numbers are astounding. If NU recruits two to three junior college players per year, the odds are one of them is going to be a future NFL Draft pick if you do your evaluations right. Next year both Gregory and Anderson should fall into that category. In 2016 Byerson Cockrell could be there as well.
Nebraska needs to continue junior college recruiting. In some ways these are the old Proposition 48 players Osborne used to have a lot of success with in the 80's and 90's.
Three and out
***I was as surprised as anyone to hear the news about linebacker Josh Banderas. I've gotten to know him and his family very well over the last few years and I'm hopeful he can learn from this incident and we hear more details.
***No surprise, but Big Ten Athletic Directors oppose the sale of alcohol at sporting events. I know it's been a topic of discussion, but is it really even necessary at Nebraska? Basketball is probably the main one people talk about, but every game sold out this year so why would they need to add alcohol sales. Also, it's my understanding that the concession revenues at Pinnacle Bank Arena don't go to the University, so NU really doesn't have much to gain if all the tickets are sold.
***The Big Ten has already announced the basketball tournament will be played in Washington D.C. in the coming years and possibly even New York. My biggest fear is they will try to put the football championship out east too. I think that would be a huge mistake, because they need a centralized location like Indianapolis or Chicago that is easy to get to.
Most Big Ten fan bases don't know their team is in the championship game until a week in advance. How are you supposed to plan trips and book flights in that short of notice? At least with Chicago and Indianapolis it's driving distance for almost all Big Ten fan bases. The Big Ten's east coast takeover is not what Nebraskans envisioned when joining this league.
Sean Callahan can be reached at [email protected] and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.