Freshman class living up to hype with impressive offseason
Nebraska’s first full-cycle football recruiting class under head coach Scott Frost arrived in Lincoln this spring and summer facing plenty of expectations, including from their own coaches.
While the cast of 2019 true freshmen have yet to play a single game as Huskers, they’ve apparently lived up to the hype and then some.
“I’ve been really impressed with this freshman class that just got here,” Frost said. “I think we as coaches had time to identify not just the type of players we want, but the type of kids we wanted. A bunch of these new freshmen on campus have been what we thought, and in a lot of cases even more than what we thought.”
Nebraska brought in a whopping 27 players in a 2019 class (which included 25 true freshmen) that ranked 15th nationally by Rivals.com.
The highlights of the group – like four-stars Wan’Dale Robinson, Noa Pola-Gates, Bryce Benhart, and Ty Robinson – have been exactly what Frost and Co. had hoped over the course of spring practices and fall camp.
But the potential overall impact of the class could go well beyond that.
Since the start of spring ball, other true freshmen like offensive lineman Ethan Piper; running back Rahmir Johnson; wide receivers Demariyon Houston, Jamie Nance, and Darien Chase; defensive backs Quinton Newsome, Myles Farmer, and Javin Wright; and outside linebacker Garrett Nelson have all been mentioned by coaches and/or teammates.
Following Friday’s scrimmage inside Memorial Stadium, Frost was asked if he could see any members of the 2019 class having an immediate impact for the Huskers this season.
“Yeah, I think there’s several,” Frost said. “I think there are several guys that are going to be household names in Nebraska someday.”
That leads to quarterback Luke McCaffrey, who, despite being firmly situated behind Heisman Trophy candidate Adrian Martinez and older players like Noah Vedral and Andrew Bunch, has seemingly elevated his stock by the day since joining the team in the spring.
Listed as a three-star athlete coming out of Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian, McCaffrey has proven he’s every bit of what Nebraska is looking for in a quarterback.
“I think McCaffrey’s understanding of the offense is elite, honestly, for his age,” Frost said. “Being a new freshman, he had spring ball to work with, but I think he’s faster than I expected him to be and he throws it really well. He’s also kind of got that knack to make plays when stuff breaks down with his feet or with his arm, a little bit of the magic we want our quarterbacks to have so something can be created when nothing’s there.”
Including a 2018 class that ranked 21st nationally, Nebraska has now brought in consecutive top-25 classes since Frost and his staff took over in Lincoln.
The 2020 group is off to a bit of a slower start with just eight verbal commitments, though that does feature three four-stars in quarterback Logan Smothers, receiver Zavier Betts, and offensive lineman Turner Corcoran.
But there’s a belief that part of that could be by design, as NU might be waiting for some more on-field success this fall before putting the press on in its top 2020 targets.
If the ’20 group and beyond can end up anything like 2019’s, the Huskers could be on the verge of something special in the next few years to come.
“We’ll be a complete team when we have four or five classes like (2019) on our football team and a lot of competition,” Frost said. “But this young group has come in, learned really fast, adopted our culture really fast; they’re good teammates, and there are some really talented kids in that group. I think that’s going to help our infusion of talent, but we need to see which ones are ready to play this year and which ones aren’t.”