5 Biggest Questions Nebraska Needs to Answer Before 2013 Signing Day

Patrick Runge@@patrickrungeCorrespondent IDecember 15, 2013

5 Biggest Questions Nebraska Needs to Answer Before 2013 Signing Day

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    Now that Nebraska’s regular season is over, fans will be looking toward signing day to get a feel for what to expect in 2014. For the next two months (with the distraction of a Gator Bowl rematch with Georgia in between), Nebraska fans will be talking about star rankings, 40-yard dash times and the remaining eligibility of junior college transfers.

    So as we prepare to rush headlong into Nebraska’s final 2014 recruiting season, here are five things to keep your eyes on.

    All star ratings and other information from 247Sports.

Defensive Line

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    The addition of Randy Gregory as a junior college transfer was a revelation for Nebraska last season. But Nebraska, still struggling with the results of poor recruiting classes in previous years, is still looking for both strength and depth on the defensive line for its 2014 class.

    Nebraska’s coaching staff has already done yeoman’s work filling out defensive line prospects for next year. Currently, the best Nebraska prospect is 4-star defensive tackle junior college prospect Terrell Clinkscales, who also had offers from Alabama, Texas Tech and Kansas State. Junior college transfer Joe Keels and high school prospect Peyton Newell will also be reinforcing Nebraska’s defensive line in 2014.

Secondary

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    Nebraska will be losing two leaders in the secondary with the graduation of Ciante Evans and Stanley Jean-Baptiste. While there is still a great deal of depth now having a chance to shine, such as Auburn transfer Jonathan Rose, replenishing the coffers in the secondary will still be a priority for Nebraska in 2014.

    Nebraska has already signed two 3-star safeties in Joshua Kalu and Byerson Cockerell, and one 3-star cornerback in Trai Mosley. The best chance for another pickup might be 3-star cornerback Kweishi Brown, although Nebraska is still interested in 3-star safety Mattrell McGraw, 3-star cornerback Terrence Alexander and 3-star cornerback Danzel McDaniel.

    Landing at least one of these additional prospects would make Nebraska’s depth chart look a lot better in 2014.

Wide Receiver

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    As offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s offense started to take root, Nebraska’s offense began to look like a real source of strength. Heck, this dope even thought Nebraska’s wide receiver corps might be the best in the Big Ten.

    Instead, Nebraska’s receivers started to look like a flashback from a decade or two prior—solid walk-ons who could block and catch but would never really scare an opposing defense.

    With the graduation of Quincy Enunwa, Nebraska’s receiver corps will lose a team captain. A return from injury for players like Jamal Turner and Alonzo Moore should also reap dividends for Nebraska. But bringing in more talent at wide receiver will also help Nebraska’s offense become more dynamic.

    Nebraska already has commits from 3-star prospects Monte Harrison and Robert Lockhart, as well as 3-star athlete Demornay Pierson-El, who looks likely to play receiver. Trevon Lee, a 3-star wide receiver prospect, still has Nebraska on his list as well. Adding Lee would help an already-solid wide receiver class for Nebraska in 2014.

Quarterback

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    With Tommy Armstrong as a redshirt sophomore and Johnny Stanton as a redshirt freshman (not to mention redshirt sophomore Ryker Fife), Nebraska looks well positioned at quarterback. But as we saw, and as we have seen throughout the past few years, a quarterback crisis can arrive in a hurry.

    Nebraska already has a commitment from 3-star quarterback prospect Zack Darlington, and at the time of his commitment it looked like NU would be done at quarterback for 2014.

    But a series of concussions suffered by Darlington has led Nebraska to start looking at other options as a second potential quarterback for the 2014 class (Pelini has said that he will honor Darlington’s scholarship even if he never plays a down in Lincoln—which is one of the reasons Pelini’s defenders believe his job should not have been in jeopardy).

    Coltin Gerhart, currently an Arizona State commit, has been contacted by Nebraska and is reportedly considering a switch and attempting to play quarterback. Gerhart looks set to play safety for the Sun Devils, so if Nebraska is successful in flipping his commit, there would be little risk in giving him a shot at quarterback.

Can Nebraska Compete at the Top?

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    Currently, Nebraska’s 2014 class ranks at No. 33 nationally. Here is how the current recruiting classes rank for the B1G, including where they stack up nationally:

    Team

    National Rank

    Ohio State

    5

    Michigan

    13

    Wisconsin

    22

    Penn State

    26

    Nebraska

    33

    Michigan State

    35

    Rutgers

    40

    Northwestern

    46

    Maryland

    47

    Iowa

    51

    Illinois

    58

    Minnesota

    62

    Purdue

    64

    Indiana

    68

    Yes, Michigan State showed that you can win a conference without pulling up trees in national recruiting. But as Dave Bartoo of the CFBMatrix has demonstrated, in the long haul teams that recruit better will tend to perform better on the field. So yes, Virginia, recruiting matters.

    Last year might have been Bo Pelini’s best recruiting year in Lincoln. If he is able to close strong in 2014—as he has in years past—Nebraska might make some inroads in terms of having at least comparable talent on the field compared with other national powers.

    Whether Nebraska would be able to take advantage of that talent and return to the nation’s elite is a separate question. But without that talent improvement, the chances of Nebraska’s return to elite status diminish considerably.

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