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  • Pernell: Ranking the top 40 recruiting classes and breaking down the Husker class

    Top 40 Recruiting Classes

    No. School Conf. Commits N2FL Top 300
    1. Alabama SEC 25 16
    2. Florida State ACC 25 17
    3. LSU SEC 24 18
    4. Ohio State Big 10 25 14
    5. Mississippi SEC 24 14
    6. Michigan Big 10 29 13
    7. Clemson ACC 22 14
    8. Georgia SEC 20 12
    9. USC Pac 12 20 13
    10. Texas Big 12 24 12
    11. Auburn SEC 21 9
    12. UCLA Pac 12 29 8
    13. Florida SEC 25 6
    14. Notre Dame Indep. 23 7
    15. Stanford Pac 12 26 7
    16. Tennessee SEC 21 7
    17. Baylor Big 12 22 8
    18. Texas A&M SEC 22 7
    19. Oklahoma Big 12 20 7
    20. Miami (Fla.) ACC 18 8
    21. Penn State Big 10 20 7
    22. Michigan State Big 10 19 9
    23. Nebraska Big 10 21 5
    24. TCU Big 12 23 4
    25. Arkansas SEC 20 6
    26. Oregon Pac 12 18 5
    27. South Carolina SEC 26 2
    28. Arizona State Pac 12 18 4
    29. Washington Pac 12 18 4
    30. Wisconsin Big 10 26 3
    31. Pittsburgh ACC 24 3
    32. North Carolina ACC 26 0
    33. Duke ACC 21 2
    34. California Pac 12 25 1
    35. Mississippi State SEC 18 3
    36. Kentucky SEC 25 2
    37. West Virginia Big 12 27 2
    38. Louisville ACC 24 2
    39. Houston AAC 20 2
    40. Utah Pac 12 27 0

    Ranking Nebraska's Commits

    1. DB Lamar Jackson (California)
    2. QB Patrick O'Brien (California)
    3. OG John Raridon (Iowa)
    4. DB Marquel Dismuke (California)
    5. OT Matt Farniok (South Dakota)
    6. LB Quayshon Alexander (New Jersey)
    7. RB Tre Bryant (Missouri)
    8. WR J.D. Spielman (Minnesota)
    9. OG Bryan Brokop (Illinois)
    10. DB Tony Butler (Ohio)
    11. LB Greg Simmons (Florida)
    12. DB/LB JoJo Domann (Colorado)
    13. C/G Boe Wilson (Missouri)
    14. WR Derrion Grim (California)
    15. LB Pernell Jefferson (Louisiana)
    16. CB DiCaprio Bootle (Florida)
    17. TE Jack Stoll (Colorado)
    18. DE Collin Miller (Indiana)
    19. DE Ben Stille (Nebraska)
    20. TE David Engelhaupt (Nebraska)
    *P Caleb Lightbourn (Washington)

    The Huskers signed 21 players to their 2016 class. The 21 recruits hail from 14 different states: California (4), Colorado (2), Florida (2), Missouri (2), Nebraska (2), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Iowa (1), Louisiana (1), Minnesota (1), New Jersey (1), Ohio (1), South Dakota (1), Washington (1)

    Position Group Summaries

    Quarterback: The headliner of this class is quarterback Patrick O'Brien, who enrolled early and has been on campus since the first week of January. Nebraska was the first school to offer O'Brien (6-4, 225) a scholarship after offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf went out to evaluate him at his high school back on April 16th. A virtual unknown in recruiting circles at the time, some people were underwhelmed by the offer. In the end, though, Langsdorf's eye for talent proved true when seven-weeks later O'Brien was among 30 of the nation's top quarterbacks participating in the Elite 11 semifinals. His performance earned him an invite to the finals held in July, where Elite 11 coach Trent Dilfer commented, "The kids awesome. He's got a smooth delivery, throws a great ball and has the frame to really be molded into a multiple-year starter for the Cornhuskers."

    O'Brien enjoyed a strong senior year where he threw for 2,895 yards with 32 touchdowns and only five interceptions. The
    No.73 overall recruit completed 74.3 percent of his passes as well. While O'Brien personifies the prototypical pro-style quarterback prospect, over the last two years he also ran for almost 1,400 yards while adding 22 rushing touchdowns. Following his senior season, O'Brien was chosen as a first-team All-South Coast league quarterback as well as being named to the second-team all-state team in California by USA Today.

    This spring O'Brien will begin to learn the Husker playbook and by the end of fall camp, try to prove he belongs on the field early. It's doubtful he jumps three-year starter Tommy Armstrong on the depth chart, but O'Brien will be given every opportunity to earn the No.2 job this fall. Langsdorf and Mike Riley have a strong track record of developing quarterbacks and O'Brien will be the first long-term effort at Nebraska. You never want to put too many expectations on a kid, but it's also safe to say that O'Brien's growth and development as a player will go a long way towards determining the future success of Husker football. Grade: A

    Running Back:
    Nebraska wanted to grab one running back in this class and came away with arguably the best I-back in their 500-mile radius. Tre Bryant (5-11, 200) burst on to the national scene this past May following an outstanding showing at the Nike The Opening Regional Camp in Chicago. His testing numbers earned him the SPARQ MVP award and his overall performance got him an invite to The Opening finals, which is regarded as the nation's top high school football event.

    The SPARQ test has become a popular barometer for judging a players athletic prowess the last few years. It focuses on four exercises (40-yard dash, vertical jump, pro-shuttle, kneeling powerball toss) and when normalized by weight, gives a number that measures the player's power, agility, speed, explosiveness and overall athleticism. A SPARQ score of 130 or higher is said to put a player in elite athletic company. In Chicago, Bryant posted a 4.53 40-yard dash, a 38.3" vertical jump, and a 4.00 pro-shuttle, earning a total score of 131.91. How impressive were those numbers? Well, to put it in perspective, Bryant's 40-yard dash time would have tied him for sixth among running backs who participated in the 2015 NFL Combine. His pro-shuttle would have been the second best mark and his vertical would have ranked seventh. Obviously those numbers don't always translate to on-field success, but it shows the level of athleticism and natural gifts that Bryant possesses.

    Bryant, who is rated a four-star prospect by 247Sports, originally committed to Kansas State back in early July. Despite that, Nebraska continued to recruit him and officially offered him in late October. Tre decommitted from Kansas State less than two weeks later and quickly set up an official visit to Lincoln for the Michigan State game. Bryant committed during his visit and despite late pushes from schools like Missouri, never wavered from Nebraska. As a senior, Bryant amassed 1,331 rushing yards while averaging 10.4 yards per carry. He added 287 receiving yards as well on route to scoring 33 total touchdowns, with 30 coming on the ground. Bryant was an AP first-team all-state selection in Missouri and also named to the USA Today Missouri all-state team. He was named the Class 6 Offensive Player of the Year and was the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Offensive Player of the Year in the metro area. Grade: B+

    Wide Receiver:
    If there is a sour taste left in the mouths of coaches following Wednesday's signing day it definitely resides at the wide receiver position. Less than two weeks ago, the staff was confident it would be signing one of the best wide receiver classes in the Big Ten. They had a silent commitment from four-star Waterford (MI) standout Desmond Fitzpatrick and were just finishing the red carpet treatment with Olathe (KS) athlete Isaiah Simmons, another four-star prospect. Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick took a late visit to Louisville and flipped to the Cardinals and Simmons decided to take his talents to Clemson. Just like that, the Huskers were left without a big-bodied receiver they had coveted in this class.

    What they were left with isn't exactly chopped liver - far from it. The two receivers in this class were among the most productive players in their respective regions. Derrion Grim (5-11, 190) enjoyed a record-setting senior season where he caught 96 passes for 1,928 yards and 34 touchdowns in just ten games - both California state records. He also helped his team on special teams with three touchdowns in the return game. For his work, Grim netted several postseason awards. Derrion was named first-team Parade All-American. He was the San Juaquin Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year, and also the Stockton Record All-Area Player of the Year. Derrion also won the Frank Alustiza Memorial Award.

    Grim had been committed to Boise State since last April, but an offer from Nebraska in late August peaked his interest. Following a September visit to watch Nebraska beat South Alabama, Grim flipped to the Huskers. Derrion was able to graduate early and enrolled at Nebraska in January. He will participate in spring practices with his roommate Patrick O'Brien.

    Joining Grim in this class is Eden Prairie (MN) playmaker J.D. Spielman, who was named the Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year. Spielman proved to be one of the most dangerous players in the Midwest with the ball in his hands. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Spielman accounted for 26 touchdowns as a senior while playing four different positions for one of the best high school programs in the region: running back, wide receiver, defensive back and returner. Spielman ran for 1,259 yards on just 102 carries and scored 19 rushing touchdowns. He also added 13 catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns. As a return man, Spielman had 234 kickoff return yards with a touchdown, and also totaled 241 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 punt returns. Defensively, J.D. had more than 100 tackles and two interception returns for touchdowns.

    Spielman was named the Minnesota 6A Player of the Year and the USA Today Minnesota Offensive Player of the Year. He also earned first-team AP all-state honors and first-team USA Today Minnesota all-state accolades as a running back. Following the season, Spielman was chosen to play in the Semper Fi All-American game, where he was singled out as one of the top performers during the week of practices leading up the game. Grade: C+

    Tight End:
    Coaches were adamant on brining in two tight ends this class. They struck out with the top two players in the state, both of which were tight ends - Noah Fant (Iowa) and Jared Bubak (Arizona State). They also missed on Donte Coleman (Fresno State) during the fall and ultimately lost out on Nixa (MO) standout Chase Allen (Iowa State) a week before signing day.

    They did, however, sign the top tight end on their board. Last June, the Huskers beat out Texas for the commitment of Jack Stoll. A consensus top 5 player in Colorado, Stoll (6-4, 235) earned second-team all-state honors from the Colorado High School Athletic Association as a senior. He was also named a Blue-Grey All-American.

    The staff filled their second tight end slot with a late offer to Norfolk (NE) Catholic athlete David Engelhaupt. Despite being committed to Wyoming since the fourth of July, Engelhaupt continued to hope for a late offer from the hometown Huskers. That offer came two days prior to signing day and he accepted the following day. Engelhaupt (6-3, 230) is versatile enough to project to linebacker and even defensive end at the college level. Coaches had been keeping an eye on David since his strong showing at the teams Friday Night Lights camp in June, where Engelhaupt consistently ran in the high 4.5-to-low-4.6 range.

    As a senior, Engelhaupt had 177 carries for 1,465 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also added 20 catches for 308 yards and four touchdowns and was even 3-of-3 passing for 67 yards and three scores on offense. Playing linebacker on defense, David recorded 89 total tackles, five sacks, one interception, three fumble recoveries and two scores. He also added a blocked kick on special teams. Engelhaupt was a second-team All-Nebraska choice at linebacker by the Omaha World-Herald and second-team Super State choice by the Lincoln Journal Star. He was also a first-team Class C-1 pick by both papers and was the honorary captain of the World-Herald's Class C-1 team. Grade: C

    Offensive Line: Nebraska continued its push towards rebuilding the pipeline with a third-straight impressive - and arguably its best - offensive line haul. They would have benefited from adding more than just the one tackle, but you can't argue with the kids they are bringing in. I love the makeup of this unit. Their skillsets and mentality towards playing the position is exactly the blueprint you want to see. I suspect line coach Mike Cavanaugh hasn't stopped smiling since Wednesday. I also like where the staff grabbed these kids from: Iowa, South Dakota, Illinois, Missouri. They are all 500-mile radius kids who are 'Big Ten' football players.

    John Raridon had been committed to Nebraska since September of 2014. He stayed loyal to the Huskers following the coaching change. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Raridon is a consensus four-star recruit and the No.94 overall player in the country. He is ranked as the nation's No.2 offensive guard prospect by This past season, Raridon was credited for at least five pancake blocks in every single game, with several double-digit efforts. For the third straight year, Raridon was named to the Elite Team on the Des Moines Register's all-state team. The consensus No.1 ranked player in the state, John was also a first-team all-state selection by the Iowa Newspaper Association, made USA Today's Iowa all-state team, and was an honorable-mention Parade All-American. Raridon finished his high school career by being chosen to participate in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Coaches think Raridon could actually play tackle if needed - and I think he would make an outstanding center - but the plan is to start John out at guard.

    Another guy who had been pledged to the Huskers since September of 2014 is New Lenox (IL) standout Bryan Brokop. Rated a four-star prospect by, the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Brokop was named to the USA Today Illinois all-state team. Regarded as one of the top 10 overall prospects in Illinois, Brokop was twice named as a 5A all-state pick by the Illinois Football Coaches Association, and was a three-time all-conference choice. Bryan has the frame and skillset to slide outside to tackle if needed, but his best position is probably staying inside at guard - which is where coaches plan on playing him.

    The staff made a point to identify a prospective center to add in this class and quickly targeted Lee's Summit (MO) West offensive lineman Boe Wilson. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Wilson visited Lincoln back in June for a Big Red Weekend, and then ventured back in July with his entire family. He committed to Nebraska over Louisville a week later. Wilson played some guard in high school, but was primarily a left tackle. Despite that, he was considered one of the top 5-10 center prospects nationally. As a senior, Wilson was named to the USA Today Missouri all-state team. His play as a junior earned him first-team all-conference honors, while his performance as a sophomore garnered a second-team all-state selection. Boe participated in the Under Armour All-American game, where he practiced and played center for the first time in his career. Wilson is almost assured of redshirting and will use his freshman season getting used to all of the intricacies involved with playing center.

    The Huskers finished off their O-line class with the addition of Matt Farniok, the top player on their board. The staff spent more time and used more resources recruiting Farniok than any other recruit in this class. The South Dakota Gatorade Player of the Year, Farniok chose Nebraska a week before signing day over finalists Iowa and Michigan State. The 6-foot-6, 300-pound Farniok is the No.130 overall player in the country, and is rated a four-star recruit by both 247Sports and ESPN. Matt was named the USA Today South Dakota Player of the Year, and was also a first-team all-state pick from the South Dakota Coaches Association. As both a junior and senior, he was named as a member of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader's Elite 45 Football team and earned Class 11AAA all-state honors. A consensus top 25 offensive tackle nationally, Farniok was chosen to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and named a first-team Parade All-American. Grade: A

    Defensive Line:
    If there is a position of concern moving forward with recruiting it's definitely the defensive line. The Huskers missed on several targets at both end and tackle and struck out with several top players inside the 500-mile radius. Kansas standouts Xavier Kelly (Clemson) and Amani Bledsoe (Oklahoma) were being pursued by the previous staff prior to the coaching change. Both took unofficial visits to see Husker games during the 2014 season. When Riley and his staff took over, they immediately picked up on their recruitments and even got both of them to visit for last April's Spring Game. Unfortunately, both were quick to eliminate Nebraska from consideration by the time summer rolled around.

    Another priority for the staff was to bring in a juco defensive end who could come in and provide immediate help as a pass rusher. The staff went hard after Jonathan Kongbo (Tennessee), Jordan Bonner (Kentucky) and Tramal Ivy (South Florida), but despite being able to offer early playing time, they struck out on all of them.

    Nebraska also failed to add a tackle in the class despite losing Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine, and facing the loss of Kevin Maurice and Kevin Williams following the upcoming season. Other than the defensive line, every other position group has seen a noticeable bump in recruiting momentum in the 14 months since the new staff took over. I would be lying if I didn't say I was a bit concerned about Hank Hughes' ability to recruit top-flight talent to Nebraska. He will be put to the test with the 2017 class as the Huskers will need to sign at least two players at both end and tackle.

    So who did Nebraska add this year? The staff signed two defensive ends, but neither appears to be the pass rushing dynamo they had hoped to add. Collin Miller has potential, though. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Miller attended the same Indiana high school as Randy Gregory and was on Nebraska's radar under the previous staff. He visited Lincoln in November of 2014 and fell in love with the Huskers. When he finally got his offer in mid-January, he referred to it as a 'dream offer' and committed a week later on his official visit. Miller enjoyed a strong senior season, recording 110 total tackles, including 68 solo stops. He also added 25 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and 23 quarterback hurries. Collin caused four fumbles, while recovering two and breaking up four passes. For his work, Miller was named a first-team AP Class 6A all-state selection and was also named to the USA Today Indiana all-state team. Miller, who garnered 20 scholarship offers, was ranked among the top 10 players in the state by Rivals.

    The staff also brought in Ashland-Greenwood's Ben Stille. Stille played both tight end and defensive end for the Bluejays, catching 26 passes for 415 yards and five touchdowns as a senior. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Stille excelled on defense, finishing with 79 tackles, including 46 solo stops, while adding 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks. He was a first-team Super State choice by the Lincoln Journal Star and a first-team All-Nebraska pick by the Omaha World-Herald. Ben was also named the USA Today Nebraska Defensive Player of the Year and made the publications Nebraska all-state team. Stille is an outstanding wrestler as well, a trait that will serve him well in the trenches as a collegian. As a junior, Stille was 34-0 and won the Class B state title in the 220-pound weight class. That was following a sophomore year where he finished third in the state at 182 pounds. Stille is currently ranked first at 220 pounds in Class B. Grade: D+

    When Mike Riley took over at Nebraska, the Huskers only had four scholarship linebackers. Thanks to the work done by Trent Bray in these last two recruiting classes, the Huskers will be at ten heading into the 2016 season - and that is not counting the likelihood of Chris Weber being put on scholarship this summer. I really like the skillsets of the two new additions at outside linebacker. They are both outstanding pass rushers and could potentially be used several different ways in Banker's system.

    The headliner is Quayshon Alexander, who had Husker fans on edge for much of his recruitment. Alexander visited Nebraska for a Big Red Weekend in June and committed less than a week later. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Alexander had always planned on taking all five of his official visits. Along with a return trip to Nebraska in September, Quayshon also took visits to see Indiana, Michigan, Pittsburgh and Rutgers. Alexander was quiet for much of his senior year and many fans felt he would eventually flip to Pittsburgh or the hometown Scarlet Knights - where his brother is a starting safety. Neither of those things happened, and Husker fans breathed a sigh of relief when he signed on Wednesday.

    Alexander is one of the top defensive players on the entire East Coast. He is rated a four-star prospect by both 247Sports and ESPN - who ranked him the No.289 overall player in the country. Playing for De Paul Catholic in Wayne, one of the top programs in New Jersey, Alexander really came on the scene following a dominant junior season. He finished that year with 75 tackles, including 49 solo stops, while accumulating 19.5 sacks and an additional 17 tackles for loss in addition to nine quarterback hurries from his defensive end position. He earned first-team all-state honors from His production took a dip as a senior as he became the main focal point of opponents. He was named third-team All-Non-Public by after finishing with 45 tackles, including nine tackles for loss, five sacks and five quarterback hurries.

    The other outside 'backer in this class is New Orleans (LA) Warren Easton star Pernell Jefferson. A four-year varsity starter with more than 400 career tackles, Jefferson (6-2, 225) was one of the most productive linebackers in the Southeast region. As a senior, Jefferson totaled 108 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception. He was named a Louisiana all-state selection by USA Today and earned honorable-mention All-New Orleans Metro. As a junior, Jefferson recorded 115 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and an interception on his way to earning honorable-mention all-state and all-district honors. Pernell was named all-district as a sophomore after he registered 93 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and an interception. Jefferson is ranked among the top 50 prospects in Louisiana by both Rivals and 247Sports.

    Jefferson had been committed to Oklahoma since August but took January visits to both Nebraska and Indiana. He flipped his commitment to Nebraska following his visit.

    Husker coaches call Greg Simmons one of the most instinctive linebackers they have recruited out of high school. The 6-foot-2, 240-pound inside 'backer had a very productive senior season. Simmons, a three-time all-area selection, accounted for 139 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles and an interception. During his junior season, Simmons recorded 90 tackles, 10 sacks and an interception. Greg was ranked No.4 on the 2015 Treasure Coast Palm Super 11. The Fort Pierce (FL) Central product is ranked the No.14 inside linebacker nationally by ESPN.

    Simmons originally committed to Miami a few weeks following signing day last year, but that didn't stop Nebraska from offering a week later and pushing hard for a visit. Greg's godfather is former Husker Wonder Monds, who encouraged Greg to take a look at the his alma mater. He ended up visiting Lincoln for a Big Red Weekend in June and decommitted from the Hurricanes shortly after. Greg jumped on board with Nebraska less than three weeks later and never wavered. Grade: B+

    Defensive Back:
    This defensive back haul could be the the most impressive position group of the 2016 class. The size, speed and skillset of the five members is a perfect fit for Banker's scheme, The overall versatility of the group is impressive. When you combine these five guys with the four members of the 2015 class (Eric Lee, Avery Anderson, Aaron Williams, Antonio Reed) you can see the potential of fielding one of the more talented secondaries in the Big Ten in short time.

    When you are building the secondary you start from the outside-in, and this staff has stated numerous times its intentions of doing just that. Riley likes to say that a lockdown cornerback is 'gold' and when these coaches recruit, they have that position in mind. Their philosophy is to try most of their recruits out on the boundary and see if they can thrive at corner. If not, they will slide them in to nickel and/or safety. With the frame, skillset and versatility they are recruiting at the position, it's not a difficult transition for these kids to slide inside. One case in point is Avery Anderson. The coaches used Anderson's redshirt determining his best fit in the secondary. The versatile Anderson came in starting out at cornerback, but will be moved to safety in the spring. I anticipate it will be a seamless transition and expect Anderson to thrive.

    The 2016 class has three guys who will take the same road as Anderson in fall camp, and coaches will determine where their best positions will be. Lamar Jackson, Marquel Dismuke and Tony Butler are versatile and athletic enough to play any position in the secondary. They are perfect examples of what this staff will continue to look for in recruiting. The coaches will recruit versatile kids and let them know they can play a variety of positions in their scheme. They won't necessarily tell them you're going to play corner, safety, nickel, etc. They let them know they have the skillset they are looking for in the backfield and that if they aren't a great fit at corner, they will still thrive somewhere like safety because they are so versatile. That approach is going to help them get the best product on the field. I love the way this staff has approached recruiting defensive backs.

    The highest rated prospect in Nebraska's 2016 class is Elk Grove (CA) Franklin star Lamar Jackson. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Jackson participated in the Under Armour All-American game and The Opening camp, both events for the top college football recruits in the country. The No.55 overall player in the country is one of the top players the Huskers have signed at the position in at least a decade. The consensus four-star recruit was a first-team all-state pick in California by USA Today, and was a first-team Sacramento All-Metro by the Sacramento Bee. Although ranked by recruiting services as a safety prospect - and No.1 nationally according to Rivals - coaches plan on taking a hard look at Jackson at corner.

    The Huskers did a tremendous job recruiting Jackson, with efforts being spearheaded by both Brian Stewart and Keith Williams. In late-July Jackson released his top 10 and Nebraska wasn't even a member. Teams like USC, Oregon, UCLA, Michigan, Washington, Arizona State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame were the teams making the most traction for Lamar. Fortunately, Brian Stewart stayed diligent and by October, Jackson was taking a harder look at the Huskers. Coaches were able to get an official visit from Lamar in November for the win over Michigan State, and it made a huge impression on the defender. Over the next two months, several in-home visits from Stewart, Williams and Riley sealed the deal with Jackson and his family.

    Back in March, Keyshawn Johnson took his high school 7-on-7 team on a tour of colleges. A group of around 10 players were a part of that trip to see places such as Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M - and Nebraska. The visit impressed several of the visitors, including Marquel Dismuke, who was committed to Cal at the time. Two months later, the coaches offered the 6-foot-2, 180-pound defensive back a scholarship. He decommitted from the Bears two weeks later and joined the Husker class less than a week after. The No.118 overall player in the country, Dismuke had 66 tackles, four interceptions and 11 pass breakups for Calabasas (CA) High School this past year after transferring from Compton's Dominguez High School. Dismuke has the skillset to be an ideal safety in Banker's cover 4 scheme, but his versatility will be tried at corner first.

    If anything good came from Desmond Fitzpatrick's silent commitment to Nebraska, it was getting Tony Butler reacquainted with the Husker staff. Nebraska offered the 6-foot-2, 195-pound defensive back last June, but the two parties lost contact in the summer when Butler changed his phone number. Fitzpatrick, who is good friends with Butler, helped sell the Huskers to the Lakewood (OH) standout. Tony eventually took an official visit to Lincoln to watch the Huskers' preparations for the Foster Farms Bowl and silently committed to Riley. He made the announcement publicly five weeks later.

    This past season, Butler helped lead his team to its second-straight state title. One of the country's top high school programs, St. Edward finished No.6 in the final USA Today national prep rankings. St. Edward preferred tight, press coverage against receivers and it was Butler's job to cover the opponents No.1 guy. Teams stayed away from Butler but he still managed to intercept four passes. Not only that, but his downfield coverage directly attributed to seven coverage sacks. Tony was a first-team AP All-Ohio Division I choice and was also named to the USA Today Ohio all-state team. Butler was ranked as the No.1 safety in Ohio by and both 247Sports and ESPN ranked him among the top 40 cornerback recruits in the country. Considered one of the most versatile defensive backs in the Midwest, Butler should make a tremendous safety in Nebraska's system, but is also a candidate to give corner a try first.

    One of the most versatile defenders in this class is Colorado Springs (CO) athlete JoJo Domann. A former high school teammate of Avery Anderson, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound defender was named Gatorade Player of the Year in Colorado. A member of one of the best programs in the state, Domann helped Pine Creek to a 38-3 record during his final three seasons, including two state titles in the Class 4 ranks. Arguably the best player in Colorado for 2016, Domann was an all-state pick by Prep Colorado, and also a first-team USA Today Colorado all-state selection. JoJo also earned All-Colorado honors following his junior season, and was a first-team all-area choice as a sophomore. Ranked among the top 350 players nationally by 247Sports, Domann was selected to play in the Semper Fi All-American game, but did not participate because of a shoulder injury. Domann will start his career at safety, but has the potential to continue growing and move down to linebacker.

    This past summer, the Husker staff hosted satellite camps in Atlanta, Miami, Dallas and Los Angeles. They were able to capitalize on those efforts with the commitment of cornerback DiCaprio Bootle, one of the top performers at the Miami stop that saw 400-plus participants. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Bootle ran a camp-best 4.34 40-yard dash and impressed coaches during individual drills. Bootle received a Husker offer the next day and visited campus a week later. He committed roughly a month after the satellite camp. DiCaprio was the third-fastest player in the state of Florida last year and has the track background to back that up. As a junior at Killian High School in Miami, Bootle posted times of 10.64 in the 100m and 21.36 in the 200m. He finished third in the 200 at the state track meet. Bootle transferred to Southridge High School as a senior where he totaled 64 tackles, two interceptions and three forced fumbles. He was named one of the top five cornerbacks in Miami-Dade County by the Miami Herald. Grade: A

    Special Teams: The recruitment of a kicker, punter or long snapper doesn't really move the needle for most recruiting fans. It generally goes unnoticed and sometimes draws the ire of fans who would rather see the scholarship spent on a position player. That is a shortsighted view of how to build a team, though. I really like the addition of Caleb Lightbourn in this class. The Camas (WA) native is one of the best punters in the country. He is ranked as 'just' the No.7 punter nationally by 247Sports and the 11th-best punter according to His ranking is effected by missing the majority of his senior season with a knee injury. Had he been healthy, I would have expected him to be in the conversation for the nation's top punting prospect. As a junior, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Lightbourn averaged more than 45 yards per punt and produced touchbacks on better than 90 percent of his kickoffs. He earned all-league honors following that season. He followed that up with outstanding performances in camps this past summer. He created quite a buzz at several stops. According to his profile on the Kohl's Professional Camps website, "Lightbourn is a DI scholarship punter. He has superior athleticism and overall power. Lightbourn has a vertical leg swing and can drive a ball as well as anyone in the 2016 class."

    Lightbourn will have the benefit of redshirting as a freshman and learning from All-Big Ten pick Sam Foltz. I expect a seamless transition in 2017 when he takes over at punter and kickoff specialist. Grade: A-

    Prior to contributing to HuskerMax, Jeremy Pernell co-founded the all football website He served as the editor in chief of the college football portion of the website which focused heavily on recruitment and talent analysis, including the NFL Draft. You can email him at
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. SoCalRed's Avatar
      SoCalRed -
      Excellent class, and had we landed Fitz and/or Simmons could have cracked the top Teens.
    1. Huskerbadboy911's Avatar
      Huskerbadboy911 -
    1. zman151's Avatar
      zman151 -
      I can see why Riley fired... Great review, but piqued, not peaked, is scholarly if you are writing to the throngs of Worldwide educated Nebraskans.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Tremendously deep analysis. It took me awhile, but I finally finished reading this article. Thank you so much for all the time you spent on this info.
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