Huskers Add Two Commits Over Weekend
While neither recruit is likely to generate much hype among fans, the Huskers added two commitments for the class of 2013 over the weekend. Nathan Gerry, a safety prospect from South Dakota, chose Nebraska over division rivals Iowa, Michigan State, and Minnesota. And in what seems like a first in recent history, NU offered a scholarship to a long snapper. Indiana's Gabriel Miller chose Nebraska over Eastern Michigan, though also seemed to be drawing interest from Alabama.
The safety position is often difficult to project at Nebraska. It appears to be a critical piece (if not the critical piece) in Bo Pelini's defenses. It clearly requires more than athleticism as Pelini has shown he'll play a trusted walk-on over a four-star scholarship player at the position. Football IQ seems to be the top requirement and is so hard to judge for a player that has yet to attempt to learn Pelini's playbook. The positive in Gerry's case is that he participated in Nebraska's camp. So they had arguably a better chance to evaluate him for the position than they would a player that hadn't made it to NU's camp. There has to be some pure athletic talent there too in order to draw as many scholarship offers as he has.
Miller might be the more controversial pick. Is it overpaying to offer a scholarship at a position that can often be filled with a walk-on? Alabama apparently offered one to Cole Mazza out of high school in the last week, that was accepted. This is after Mazza had committed to UCLA. P.J. Mangieri is set to graduate after the 2012 season leaving only walk-on sophomore Joseph Rotherham on the roster for 2013. Miller already outweights Rotherham by 15 pounds and seems to have been the more sought after prospect out of high school. In fact, when people inevitably ask who out of the class of 2013 is likely to play early, the best answer might be Miller. Likewise, Miller might have one of the clearer paths to the NFL. Probably not as a draftee, but the top handful of long snappers definitely get a look at the pro level and the experts on long snapping (such people exist) believe that Miller is as good as there is.
The value of long snapping is most evident when errors are made. Those errors can be pretty costly. For example, in Nebraska's national championship victory over Miami in the Orange Bowl after the 1994 season there was a sequence where a bad snap by Miami appeared to set up an easy scoring opportunity for the Huskers. Brook Berringer threw an interception soon afterward, which may have prompted Tom Osborne to re-insert Tommie Frazier into the game. The change of field position also still helped Nebraska even with the touchback on the interception. Without that bad snap, who's to say how that game might have turned out? Likewise a bad snap by Nebraska in 2002 likely cost NU a field goal that might have been the difference in their 27-24 loss to Texas. If the Huskers had won that game perhaps that would have been sufficient for Frank Solich to keep his job as head coach after the following season. The Callahan years might never have happened. So maybe avoiding a bad snap at a critical juncture is worth paying retail on a scholarship. Nick Saban seems to think so.
In either case, the Huskers added two more players that they wanted. That's always a positive.