Early Signing for Jucos Locks in Two for NU

While there's still a lot of work to be done for the 2014 recruiting class, two players signed letters of intent Wednesday and will enroll at Nebraska in the spring.  Defensive back Byerson Cockrell was part of a junior college national title team and at 6'2" and 190 lbs. can match up with big receivers.  Cockrell will have three seasons to play two.  Defensive end Joe Keels was sought after by the likes of Alabama, Oregon, and Wisconsin.  Keels has three seasons to play three and could jump in immediately as a bookend to complement Randy Gregory.  At 6'4" and 275 lbs., he's got the size to contribute immediately.


Two players is just the tip of the iceberg for a class that could approach the maximum size of 25.  But usually participation in Spring practice is a prerequisite to being a major contributor.  Their early arrival will make them contenders to contribute immediately.  Keels in particular can't redshirt.  If healthy, there's no reason not to get him on the field immediately.  

With Jason Ankrah graduating to leave an open defensive end spot and 4 seniors (both corners, a safety, and a nickel) departing from atop the depth chart in the secondary, the opportunity to emerge as starters is certainly possible.  

Nebraska's batting average with junior college talent under Bo Pelini has been very good.  Ricky Henry was a standout lineman.  Dejon Gomes was a ball-hawking defensive back and Daimion Stafford became a starter.  Brandon Kinnie emerged as a starting wideout.  Jermarcus Hardrick won a starting tackle spot.  Lavonte David was a defensive MVP for NU.  The aforementioned Gregory broke out immediately as a playmaking end.  Most of the others that qualified academically climbed to near the top of the depth chart.  

What junior college players give up in eligibility they seem to make up for in the ability to contribute.  As a group, they've more often proved scholarship worthy than the high school talent brought in.  It's much easier to evaluate players against a higher level of competition and after the additional physical development that comes at the ages of 18, 19, or 20.  That's not to say the team should exclusively recruit the jucos, but it also means the coaches shouldn't have to apologize for it either.

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Comments 56 comments so far

isn’t using jucos generally thought of as a Band-Aid approach to recruiting? Doesn’t it signal that you have depth problems on the roster?  I know Big Red has had some success with it.
How many jucos did Dr. Tom use?
anyone have a short answer out there?

Doesn’t matter how many Jucos Dr. Tom brought in.  He coached in a different time with different scholarship limitations, partial qualifiers and a larger walk-on program.  It is just a poor comparison.

Don’t forget Clinkscales, he looks to make a major contribution on the DL starting next to big man Valentine.  Our DL has the potential to be devastatingly good for the next couple of years.

Sometimes when I look at recruiting I try to compare to the real world, I have owned my own business and when you hire someone the only thing you have is there resume.  Sure you can call previous employers but laws prevent them from saying anything bad.  So when you look at the resume some look really good until you hire them and realize that it was a mistake.  There are 22 posistions on the team full time and then you have punter, kicker, return man, holder, so on and so forth.  You get about 22 to 24 scholarships per year to use, and so sometimes you miss read there resume.  As a new young head coach Bo and co. they missed on a few D lineman and linebackers at the beginning and I am sure they would admit that if not for people crucifying them for saying something bad about a 17 or 18 year old kid. So you look for a more qualified experienced replacement (JUCO).  When in business you miss hire than you end up firing that person, I am glad that we are not one of the Universities that when they have a miss they don’t honor that scholoarship.  We still honor that commitment to that individual as long as they are still going to class and working as hard as they can at getting better.

What a great job recruiting Joe Keel away from the likes of Alabama, Oregon and Wisconsin.  Quarterbacks will lose sleep knowing that Gregory and Keel are on the same line coming at them.

Look what Bill Snyder was able to do at Kansas State with Juco players!  Look what MacK Brown wasn’t able to do at Texas (the last few years) with his pick of 4 & 5 star players coming out of high school!

The times have changed!  You need players that can deliver now!

One thing about Gregory, is coaches really emphasized getting him up to speed from the day he stepped foot on campus, more so than I’m aware of any other recruit.  With that kind of personal attention, how well might some others have progressed?

According to Rivals.com, Zack Darlington will be ready to go through spring training this March.  That’s great news.

There use to be a kid from Kansas that had concussion problems and they had a little plastic peice that fit on the outside of his helmet and when he would get hit it would go flying.  Maybe something similiar might be something to look into for Zack.

no comparison with Dr. Tom just a question that I don’t know the answer to. 
dennyk I don’t know what Snyder did.  does he use a lot of jucos?
any other major program use jucos?
enjoyed your response Larr

The first time around as head coach of K-State, Bill Snyder used a lot of jucos & was very successful using them.  Many went on to the NFL.  Not aware of any other major programs using a lot of Jucos, but Bo Pelini has indicated a preference for using some every year for immediate help at particular positions.

Using Jucos is an old practice. Mike Rozier was a juco player if memory serves.
We are paying for Bo’s early misses and maybe some early mismanagement with recruiting here 3-4 years later. So going the Juco route is justifyable, and quite effective really.
We just recruited the #1 DT out of the juco ranks as well as the #5 DE out of the juco ranks. Our D line is going to be awesome for the next few years! That, and overall defensive improvement, along with a developing offensive line means better times could very possibly be ahead for Nebraska football. Plus we’ve got a bunch of great young linebackers coming up and it looks like there will be some pretty good ones there…all 4 stars btw.
Now lets just hope someone in the QB position steps up and leads.

IVAN MAISEL says, Nebraska and Bo Pelini on the sideline are the best thing to happen to the BIG10 in a long time. ESPN College Realignment, today.

Well, according to Rivals, currently our ave star rating puts us a #24.  This is looking like a pretty damn good looking class, though I really think we need to start pulling in a few legit 5* or otherwise difference makers to put us over the top and get us back into the national conversation in the next few years.

I’m thinking we have to add another stud RB in this class other than Stewart.

Also, JUCOS are fine and dandy if you get the best ones like we’ve been doing and especially if they can play 3 years.  No problem ay all with that.

“Our DL has the potential to be devastatingly good for the next couple of years.”

Like music to my ears and I didnt think we’d be saying this so soon a year ago, things looked dicey.


Oz had plenty of JUCOS along the way, just ask Mike Rozier.

thanks all for the info…

So Brasky was mentioned by Maisel
And most think that is swell
But all felt the tension
Of being held in suspension
If maybe riled up might provide more detail

Looking forward to see them play. A win against the Dogs will really help out recruiting.  How about the NU wrestling team. Undefeated and ranked 8th, and placed 2nd at the Vegas tournament behind the Sooners. The SEC may be the most dominating conference in football, but the BIG is the is the top dog in the most physically demanding sport in collage.

Triumph Dogg,

The comment Red made about Ivan Maisel can be found on espn.go under “College Football Realignment Scoreboard.”  Maisel said he liked ” . . . what the Big Ten did in bringing in Nebraska, they’ve [Huskers] come right in and competed for championships . . . .” 

It sounds like Ivan Maisel doesn’t think that Nebraska is “mediocre” or “irrelevant.”

On Rivals.com, Nebraska’s currently ranked number 32 overall in recruiting, with 3 four-star and 14 three-star recruits.  Only four B1G teams are ahead of Nebraska.  Those teams are Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State.  Nebraska is ahead of Oklahoma, which came in 33rd.

“That’s not to say the team should exclusively recruit the jucos, but it also means the coaches shouldn’t have to apologize for it either.”

Ideally, JCs should come in with some competitive advantages, not the least of which is being 20, instead of 18. Can’t discount that.
They’ve also got that final shot at a lifelong goal, however brief that life’s been. It can also be a strong signal to players- 3rd year Sophs an 4th year Juniors in those position groups, that the sand in the hour glass is starting to drain.
When JCs come in and own a key position right away, like how Zac Taylor, David and Gomes did, wow, the time goes by quick!

Buzz as stated earlier its not so much of a band aid approach as it use to be.. actually when Osborne was coach you could have partial qualifiers so a lot of the talent that is in the juco ranks would have been able to go to DI schools right out if high-school ..all they had to do was sit an additional year and with the roster size the way it was it wasn’t as bad to have a scholarship guy that couldn’t play.. And for comparison Saban has said he tries to get the top few guys in J U C O. Every year to add competition..  They have been targeting top D Line and WR positions this year.. Its a smart way to plug holes and add quick talent.. As for K State,  like us getting kids to come to the Midwest isn’t all that easy, so Snyder was smart enough to go after the J icon guys

And for a long time not only are there a lot of Junior colleges in the Kansas area they were the top programs.. Perfect example of making the best of your resources

usc 45 frezno 20, like they really had a chance. That shit don’t happen. o-yeah, stooopid and the smurfs.

NY, thanks dude.

thanks twauto for the response.  I guess times have changed for the better when it comes to jucos. Our local juco here in GR Michigan quit playing football 2 years ago (it was a top program) so don’t keep up much with jucos.

Anyone watch N. Dakota State the other night?  First time I watched them and they remind me of how NU used to physically dominate on both Offense and Defense.  Punishing run game.  Quite a bit of power I.  Not much zone read blocking by the oline—- in other words lots of traps and pulling and pancakes.  Tampa 2 on D, dominating dline.  Very disciplined on both sides of the ball.  For a head coach who admits to copying Osborne’s philosophy, I was pleasantly surprised In regards to how much the team reminded me of the old Huskers.  If u get a chance try to watch ND State play in their final Championship game.  Im curious what others think??? 
And this could be #3 for Craig Bohl.  Seriously, hats off to the Lincoln native.  He was chased out of NU during the Solich era and I dont think he has any desire to come back. Another reminder thats its ok to complain about our coaches, but staying positive and patient might be better in the long run.

Yes, North Dakota State might look good at the FCS level.  Craig Bohl may be a great coach at that level, and is doing well.

When teams do well in lower tiers or in easier conferences, it’s easy to think that the coaching staff could do that well in FBS.  After watching USC manhandle 11-1 Fresno State today, reality sets back in.

Glad to hear Craig Bohl is doing well at North Dakota State and wish him many more successful years there.

If a coach is wiining 3 outta 4 of the last NCs, he a fricking GOOD coach, I dont care what level.  Brian Kelly had a similar resume before he hit the big time.

ENOUGH!! – Finally find it necessary to comment on negative drivel in some of these sports blogs and accompanying comments.  Was born and raised in Nebraska, and have been a ‘Husker fan since my undergraduate days at NU in the early 1950’s. Since I am currently overseas, can only follow the ‘Huskers is by going on-line and reading the various sports articles and football blogs and reader comments.  Am thoroughly disgusted by all the negativity directed at coach Pelini by a small minority of SFB motor-mouths who repeat the same old drivel over and over.  As for their assertions that Pelini cannot coach, suggest they read Randy York’s ‘Nsider article posted a couple of days ago.  Some of the points raised by Randy:
-  In the history of college football, only seven BCS conference coaches have posted at least nine wins in each of their first six seasons as a head coach at that school. If Bo Pelini can lead Nebraska to an upset win over Georgia in their Jacksonville rematch, he can add his name to the list.


Would like to see more of this type of positive reporting/comments in the future

Huskerinkorea,  You do make a good point.  I think what some fans are tired of is that BOP teams haven’t been able to do the little things. Week after week the post game meeting is the same (we need to execute, we need to stop the turnovers, we need to clean up our game) and it never gets done. Yes he has many 9 win seasons.  I think many fans would be happier with an 8 win season, with a few of the wins against ranked teams. All of the Husker fans on this site have a positive attitude going into every game, but after an ugly loss to teams like Iowa its hard to keep positive. Bill in Iowa its even better to watch NDSU in person. The talent that Bohl has brought to Fargo is unbelievable. Brock Jensen will be the next Tom Brady and Bohl will win were ever he goes. Its hard to believe that the best offensive player in the NFL out of Nebraska right now didn’t play at UN. He played for Chadron State.

Or could it be that the HATERS, admiral, ou7, craptain, unrealist, unrealista, need to STFU!!!

Red I am not a hater. I want UN to win just as much as you. I’m going to assume you are not a well educated man. It shows in your grammar


Whether or not they are actually “HATERS,” as you stated above, they certainly don’t need to “STFU.”  Although I don’t agree with most of what I’ve read on this site posted by the people you listed above, they are certainly free to express their opinions.

Just as you have the right to state your opinion, they too, have the right to state theirs.

I really do believe that the Huskers will win there bowl game. I really hope that Bo can turn things around. How is that hating?

OMG, put it to music!  The haters, the koolaiders, the STFU and the calls to free speech.

This type of shit gets recycled on Husker blogs and msg bds more than tins cans and turlet paper.

I fear the offseason…


Sooo, I dont particularly bolieve in anything, although I DO know that to the extent that one bolieves is the extent to which one ceases to apply actual thought—reason.

I mean, we have a chance to play GA and also have a chance to win or lose, depending.  I am, however, curious as to the basis of your alleged belief.

Spin it.

I’m just trying to think positive.  It would be nice to finally end a season on a good note.

admiral, go to their vs there, Bing, ya frikk’n genious. Then tell me about my grammar, gramma.

I hear alot about us not recruiting enough 5 star prospects, I believe this year 247 sports has 32 5 star players in the country, ESPN (SEC network) has 13 5 star players that made the ESPN 300.  What is the difference in the rankings?  go here and see what the grading level is http://bleacherreport.com/articles/117345-recruiting-for-beginners-part-i-how-are-players-ranked
We need to quit worrying about what the players are ranked because even a 3 star is a good athlete and can start just needs some deveopment.  We put way to much emphasis on these ranking systems.  ESPN evaluates a fraction of the players and relies on Scout for the others, and what schools are recruiting certain players.  So that means that if Texas and Alabama is after a kid from Texas he probably is going to get a higher star rating than say a more talented kid from Nebr.,Kansas, or Colorado, that is not in there “recruiting area”.  I know they recruit all over but not anything like the rest of us.  We just need 3 and 4 star players that fit our system, accademically, and will mesh with the current players and future players.  We are getting the talent and the coaches seem to be getting better at coaching up the young guys.  They still need to work on getting the turnovers down, and the special teams.  Our penalty situation I believe improved and now we can turn our attention onto the offense without Taylor that was designed around his speed at running the ball.  I am looking forward to the Bowl game, I think this team has been through alot this year and no matter what others think about luck or not they played with heart and detrmination and that is contagious with the kids coming back and will be beneficial to us in the coming years.  GBR

Bleacher Report provides an ESPN commentary on NU’s season for 2013.  Quoting from article:

“Defense: C
Remember the fourth quarter against Wyoming and the first 15 minutes against South Dakota State? Too much bad stuff happened to bump this grade past the point of average.
Sure, the Huskers were young. They needed time to grow into their roles. Why is that, though? How did Nebraska find itself, six years into the coach Bo Pelini regime, in a spot that required a rebuilding job? In year two or three, we’d understand more easily.
There was also debacle in Minneapolis as Minnesota rushed for 271 yards and basically punched the Blackshirts in the face.”

Legit question as to “Why”.  Yes, I know the kool aide drinkers are in a state of denial concerning lack of quality coaching.  You can’t blame everything on just the players, though.

Nu if you were referring to me since I just had a Bleacher report, I don’t think anywhere in there I blamed the players, and I did say that the coaching seems to be getting better.  that is not saying that I feel they are where they need to be or where we want them to be just that thay are getting better.  Legit Questions?  Sure but we also switched conferences, and the staff had some misses on the recruits.  247, rivals, scout all have misses as far as who they propose to be 4 and 5 star athletes, ESPN missed pretty badly on preseason top 25, so I don’t expect our coaches to be perfect either if that means I am a kool aid drinker so be it.  So does that make the nay sayers “mudslingers” than?

Jameis Winston, 5*, #1 player in country, Heisman Trophy, NCG—true frosh.

Yea, 5 stars can help ya…

Not saying they can’t help just don’t think people understand when they say we need to go out and get us some 5 star players that there isn’t that many 5 star players out there to choose from.  So don’t get so wrapped up in “poor recruiting” if we don’t get some.  I am sure if we wanted we could find more 3 and 4 star players (Rex Burkhead) that were more relevant to a team than the few 5 star players that are out there.  People put way to much emphasis in these recruiting services,  so let the coaches fined players that fit our system.  And look at the final rankings are all the schools in the top 25 the top ranked recruitng classes?  No, you can have all the talent but if they don’t play well together you still have nothing.  Wasn’t Harrison Beck a 5 star and look how that went.  We are going to be fine, we have talent to compete at a high level as soon as they all get on the same page.

There’s a clear positive correlation between recruiting service rankings and final CFB poll rankings.  It’s real easy to verify for yourself.

Yea, not many 5 star guys, but we have to start getting some of them if we want to be a contender, or at least get top heavy in 4 star over 3 star recruits—again, positive correlation.

I suppose signing a top 5 JUCO guy could be considered at least a 4 star.

NU Realista

Did you also see that Nebraska went from 103rd in the country ( 8 games in )  to 32nd in total defense at the end of the year.. That’s improvement for a young defense, and I would say that says more about coaching then were we started off wouldn’t you??

dogg, athletes that are’nt academically 1A end up juco, or SEC. Lotta 5 stars never make it.

I agree with larr’s contention that we can be fine with 3-4 star guys. There is not many 5 star kids and often they come with a lot of baggage. The ranking system is good for kids that develop early but can completely fail for late bloomers. Identifying those kids that haven’t yet had their growth spurt but will develop is the real skill of recruiting in my opinion. Another issue is the quality kids that come from areas of the country without all the advantages of Texas (Florida, etc) style high schools. Texas doesn’t have better genetics—they only have better facilities, coaching and competition. So Texas kids get ranked high. They might be able to play sooner but in time the kids from other areas of the country that flew under the radar develop and actually out perform them. I don’t have any complaints about Pelini’s recruiting. Sure he missed on a few D-line kids in the early years and everyone knows Callahan left us in dire straights on the O-line.

Yea, J Winston’s ‘baggage’ includes a Heisman Trophy and most likely Sears crystal football soon.  We dont need guys like that ‘weighing us down’, sullying our good name.

True frosh, BTW.

Riled up,
Alotta any star level never make it.  Here’s the deal, certain factions of fan spemd alot of time rationalizing how it is fine and dandy NOT to have 5 star recruits, since, you know, we dont and havent had any for many many moons.  Of course, if we DID have any, those very same fans would be singing their praises, yada yada.

So there you have it.

Girl that was raped and DNA of his on her and police not doing investigation right away isn’t baggage, but hey he won the heisman so all is well.


Uh, respectfully, your last post doesnt take much sense at all.  I could break it down piint by point, but maybe another time.  There ARE genetic/anatomical advantages and there AREA, historically, specific reasons for that.  Like, when’s the last time you saw a white guy win the world 100 yd dash, or any thing involving speed in any sport?  Well, if you casually observe thigh thighs and gluts of the average black athlete, well, they are usually much bigger than white folk, so guess what, kinda helps for runnin and ju.pin, like a kangaroo sorta has an inherant anatomical(genetic) advantage over, say, a pig, k?

Yea, its like that.

Sure there is some great 5 star kids out there and it’s great to try and recruit them but I think don’t think we should get all depressed if don’t get them. Sorry if I don’t make sense to you.

We’ve had some pretty fast white guys at NU like Crouch and most recently TM. TM says his little brother is even faster than him.

We did quite fine in the ‘90’s without the top stars out of high school so I think we can do it again now.


Sure, a few fast white guys here and there, of course they cant jump, but thats beside the point—some are real tall so dont need to jump.

Anyway, football, roundball, track, like total domination by the brothas…better springs.

My point concerning genetics wasn’t about race it was about the advantages many southern areas enjoy with better facilities, more coaching and tons of competition that can give them an advantage and more media coverage that translates into more stars. What I’m saying is the south has no corner on genetics. Fast black kid in Mpls and fast black kid in Houston = same genetics but the kid in Houston most likely gets more stars. Unfortunately as soon as our coaches find them they often get more stars.

Well, TX high school football is almost on the level of, say, the MAC, and alot of the coaches are full time and make 6 figure incomes, so yea they are serious.

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