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Husker Buzz: 10 takeaways from 2016 signing day

Rivals100 defensive back Lamar Jackson is no doubt the cherry on top of Mike Riley's 2016 recruiting class.
Rivals100 defensive back Lamar Jackson is no doubt the cherry on top of Mike Riley's 2016 recruiting class.

2016 signing day is officially in the books for Nebraska. Here are 10 takeaways from the Huskers recruiting class.

1 - Jackson was the cherry on top

Like in any recruiting class people don't necessarily remember how you started, but more how you finish. The Huskers suffered their fair share of heartbreak down the stretch by losing four star wide receiver Desmond Fitzpatrick and three-star athlete Isaiah Simmons, but they sure made up for it by signing four-star defensive back Lamar Jackson.

There are 20 other quality recruits in this class, but Jackson was the cherry on top. Nobody tends to talk about the other guys that committed early in the recruiting process, so Jackson's signing really shaped the narrative of this 2016 recruiting class helping the Huskers close with some momentum.

2 - Winning the Big Ten West

Yes, Nebraska finished behind the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State in the final Rivals recruiting rankings, but most importantly the Huskers did finish with the best class in the Big Ten West. If Nebraska wants to take the next step as a program it starts with winning the West.

You could also argue they really weren't that far behind Penn State and Michigan State at No. 24 - PSU was No. 22 and MSU No. 19. Michigan and Ohio State were clearly at another level this year, joining Florida State, Alabama, LSU, Clemson and Ole Miss as the seven schools that far and away had the best recruiting classes according to the final Rivals Team Rankings. And that's ok. Nebraska has never had recruiting classes like that in history. If they are going to win big, it starts with player development.

3 - Why just two in-state recruits?

Make no bones about it, Nebraska wanted to take more than two in-state players in this year's recruiting class, but they missed out on two of the players they targeted first. The Huskers offered both Lincoln Christian tight end Jared Bubak and Omaha South tight end Noah Fant, but both players chose to go in different directions.

Ashland Greenwood defensive end Ben Stille is a very solid in-state addition, and I love the decision NU made to offer Norfolk Catholic tight end David Engelhaupt late. I personally felt he deserved an offer earlier in the process, and you can argue he's very similar to both Bubak and Fant. I look for the Huskers to sign more than two in-state players in 2017.

4 - Establishing the 500 mile radius

This gets hammered to death, but Nebraska made it an emphasis to recruit the 500-mile radius, and the strategy worked.

The Huskers signed the No. 1 player in Iowa (John Raridon) and South Dakota (Matt Farniok), Mr. Football in Minnesota (JD Spielman), the St. Louis Post Dispatch Player of the year (Tre Bryant) and the Colorado player of the year (JoJo Domann). If Nebraska wants to get back, this is where it has to start.

5 - Building the pipeline - the right way

Nebraska basically turned over it's entire offensive line the last two seasons, that's why the 2015 and 2016 classes were very important for Riley and position coach Mike Cavanaugh.

What I like about this year's Husker offensive line class is they went regional to find all of their guys. Des Moines, Kansas City, Sioux Falls and Chicago - that's where Big Ten and Nebraska offensive linemen should come from.

Hopefully the days of scouring Florida, Texas and California for offensive linemen are done, because culturally you need players from this part of the country I feel to have success up front on the line. The Huskers have had little to no success finding linemen from those states.

6 - Lee's addition the hidden gem of the class

Everyone is going to talk about the signing of quarterback Patrick O'Brien to this recruiting class, but adding Tulane transfer Tanner Lee was equally important.

Lee's addition helps complete the quarterback puzzle for the future. We know where things stand in 2016, but Lee gives the Huskers a legitimate arm to go with O'Brien in 2017.

7 - Huskers continue to stock linebacker shelves

When Riley got to Nebraska they had just four scholarship linebackers on the team. He has slowly built that number up where the Huskers will have 10 scholarship linebackers to start the 2016 season - six from the last two recruiting cycles. That number could end up being 11 assuming walk-on Chris Weber gets put on scholarship.

You could also argue that strong safety JoJo Domann has the potential to end up there as well. Riley said it won't be an overnight process to get the linebacker numbers up to speed, but the Huskers are getting close.

8 - Lacking a pass rusher

Nebraska signed two defensive ends in this class, but I still feel like they came up empty in the pass rushing department.

Finding a premiere defensive end will no doubt be one of the biggest recruiting needs next year. That continues to be the one missing piece to this defense and you could argue they still don't have a player capable of being a big time third down pass rusher on the roster.

9 - Where are the JUCO recruits?

This will be the first time in the modern 85-scholarship era where Nebraska will not have one junior college recruit on their entire roster.

Nebraska targeted their fair share of junior college players this year, but came up short. I think a lot of it was it took the staff a while to figure out their true needs. Going forward I think it makes sense the Huskers sign at least two to three junior college players per year.

10 - Looking ahead

What will be the most interesting thing to watch this next recruiting cycle is now that this staff has been here over a year is how they change their approach.

Right now 2017 has the chance to be a very big recruiting class for the Huskers, especially if they can start things off with a commitment from four-star California wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr.

If they can get Johnson Jr. committed by the spring, that will give the Huskers the momentum they need to build this class the right way. There's no doubt they are looking at close to a full boat of 25 scholarships next season.