Recapping two decades of Nebraska signing day drama — with more to come Wednesday

Nebraska has set a high standard for hectic signing days in recent seasons, but this year will be one of the busiest.

In the modern Internet era, there were never more Nebraska storylines at the 11th hour than last season. Since 1998 — when the first post-Tom Osborne class arrived and the year the first existing major online recruiting site, Rivals.com, was founded — Nebraska hadn’t reached the final moments of truth with more than five players in any one class until 11 names hung in the balance for the 2017 group.

The Huskers could be in position to match that figure Wednesday as they round out their Class of 2018 under new coach Scott Frost.

Signing day decisions involving the Big Red will begin no later than 7:45 a.m. CST, when four-star defensive end Caleb Tannor(Florida, Florida State and Auburn are other finalists) will announce from his high school in Lithonia, Georgia. Fellow defensive lineman and three-star prospect Otito Ogbonnia (Texas Tech, Tennessee, UCLA, Ole Miss, Notre Dame) is set to declare from Texas after visiting Nebraska last weekend.

NU is also in on three cornerbacks who have tripped to Lincoln: four-star and Georgia native Taiyon Palmer (NC State, Tennessee), three-star and Alabama product Cam Taylor(Missouri) and four-star Florida standout Ken Montgomery(Maryland, Louisville). Another defender deciding is four-star linebacker Javontae Jean-Baptiste (Virginia Tech, Texas A&M) of New Jersey.

On offense, California three-star wideout Andre Hunt (San Diego State, Oregon State) and Texas four-star running back Maurice Washington (Arizona State) are skill-position players who just returned home from Nebraska visits. Three-star California offensive guard Jarrett Bell (Arizona State) is also coming up on a decision along with three-star tackle Willie Canty (Louisville) of Florida. Three-star tackle Jalan Robinson (Mississippi State) of Kansas could also make his intentions known Wednesday, though Bell and Canty appear to be NU’s priorities in the trenches.

Barring any unexpected early announcements, Nebraska will enter the final day with a 19-player class. Frost told The World-Herald last week he expects to sign between 24 and 27 players in this cycle.

The Huskers have unofficially gone 17-41 (41.5 percent) in day-of decisions during the last 20 cycles.

Of the 42 whose college careers can be fairly judged, roughly 14 made a significant impact. Nebraska landed five of those: defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (2012), wide receiver Alonzo Moore (2012), defensive back Corey Cooper (2010), D-lineman Le Kevin Smith (2001) and O-lineman Daniel Waldrop (1999).

Many others were misses that remain sore subjects among Big Red faithful. Among them were future NFL draftees like O-lineman Andrus Peat (2012), defensive end Owa Odighizuwa (2010), linebacker Travis Lewis (2007), DB Reggie Smith (2005), corner Mike Jenkins (2003) and linebackers Buster Davis (2002) and Larry Foote (1998).

Here’s a brief look back at the signing day drama from each of the last 20 Nebraska classes:

2017: Almost certainly the most active signing day in Nebraska history, the Huskers had realistic shots at 11 recruits but signed three in defensive tackle Damion Daniels (over Colorado and Texas-San Antonio), defensive end/linebacker Guy Thomas (over Pittsburgh and Louisville) and cornerback Elijah Blades (over Florida and USC). Daniels and Thomas both redshirted last year while Blades didn’t academically qualify and never made it to campus.

NU lost head-to-head battles for DBs Deommodore Lenoir (Oregon) and Michael Onyemaobi (TCU). Other late pushes came up short for Los Angeles-area teammates Greg Johnson and Joseph Lewis (both chose USC), running back C.J. Verdell (Oregon), receiver Jeremiah Hawkins (California) and receiver Bryan Thompson (Utah).

The most infamous pass catcher to defect was Jamire Calvin, who gave Nebraska coach Mike Riley a commitment for a third time a week earlier before inking with Washington State.

2016: Four-star athlete Beau Bisharat chose Colorado over NU after decommitting from Stanford, while three-star offensive tackle Alaric Jackson opted for Iowa. Bisharat was a backup running back last fall and special teams contributor while Jackson blossomed into Iowa’s regular left tackle and earned freshman All-America and freshman All-Big Ten recognition.

2015: Three-star linebacker Adrienne Talan picked the Huskers over Oregon State, among others. Two-star safety Willie Sykes went to Arkansas, and three-star linebacker Terez Hall decided to go to Missouri. Only Hall is still with his current team, and only Hall has become a key contributor after finishing his junior season with the second-most tackles (85) for Mizzou.

2014: Nebraska went 0 for 5 on signing day decisions, though none of the whiffs proved haunting. Three-star DE Blake McClain reneged on his NU pledge to join South Carolina at the last moment, and three-star DE Lloyd Tubman (Kentucky), three-star DE Spencer Williams (Missouri), four-star lineman Kenyon Frison (Oklahoma) and wideout DeSean Blair (Missouri) elected to go elsewhere. None of them remain with their original school.

2013: Athlete Tre’vell Dixon picked the Huskers over Arizona after decommitting twice from NU — but never made it to campus — and NU missed on Jacquille Veii (Maryland). Both departed from their schools without leaving a mark.

2012: Nebraska beat out Florida and Illinois for three-star defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, who posted a standout career at NU and went on to play for the New England Patriots. Four-star athlete Alonzo Moore also said yes to the Huskers and proved to be a productive wideout. Tackle Aaron Curry also joined NU’s class, but he later transferred to TCU. The big miss was O-lineman Andrus Peat, who went to Stanford and was the No. 13 overall pick in the NFL draft three years later.

2011: The lone drama came from Todd Peat — Andrus’ older brother — who turned down Arizona State and Mike Riley’s Oregon State team to come to Lincoln. He would later leave following the 2012 campaign.

2010: Future captain Corey Cooper made a late choice in favor of the Big Red as a four-star defensive back. Four-star quarterback prospect Brion Carnes also committed on the final day, switching from Western Kentucky, but he eventually transferred to Northern Iowa. The gut punch came when D-end Owa Odighizuwa chose UCLA over NU and Oregon State in a nationally televised announcement. He was a third-round NFL pick in 2015.

2009: DB DeAndre Byrd decided to go the junior college route to work on academics and never found traction in his career. Interestingly, every player in the class committed no later than Dec. 22.

2008: Three-star running back Justin Rogers (left team soon after) and two-star athlete Tim Marlowe (contributed at receiver) went with the Huskers on signing day. Wideout Kendall Thompkins picked Miami, and a largely quiet career followed.

2007: Longtime NU commit Travis Lewis made shockwaves by bolting for Oklahoma in the final hours, and corner Davis Ross settled on Oregon State. Lewis went on to lead OU in tackles for four straight seasons at linebacker and was a seventh-round NFL pick. Ross’ contributions were mostly on special teams for Riley in Corvallis.

2006: Juco safety Ashlee Palmer decided on NU the previous December, didn’t qualify academically, then surprised many by changing to Washington on signing day. He eventually landed at Ole Miss and spent six seasons in the NFL. Charles Deas also left Nebraska in the lurch and inked with LSU for a moderately successful career.

2005: A highly touted class by all the recruiting gurus, it is also known for missing late on defensive back Reggie Smith. The dynamic playmaker went to Oklahoma and earned All-Big 12 accolades. He later was a third-round NFL pick by San Francisco.

2004: Bill Callahan’s first class came up short on hyped QB Rocky Hinds (USC) and running back Frederick Franklin (Louisiana Tech). Hinds never got a chance to play behind Matt Leinart, and Franklin peaked as a role player.

2003: Corner Mike Jenkins opted for South Florida over the Huskers and put together an All-America career before being drafted No. 25 overall. He played eight NFL seasons.

2002: Corner Antoine Bagwell — considered perhaps the top player in Michigan — committed late, then didn’t qualify academically and moved to a junior college. Lineman Stanley Daniels had been a Nebraska commit but switched to Washington, where he enjoyed a productive career before playing four seasons as a fringe NFL player. Four-star linebacker Buster Davis settled on Florida State instead of NU and became a good college defender.

2001: Defensive lineman Le Kevin Smith took Nebraska over Auburn, and running back Marques Simmons was ‘N’ at the expense of Iowa and Iowa State. Smith became a Husker star and eventual NFL contributor, while Simmons later quietly transferred to Iowa.

2000: DB Adrian Mayes didn’t honor his Nebraska pledge, signing with LSU for a solid career. Quarterback Carlyle Holiday chose Notre Dame and showed flashes of elite play in an otherwise-decent four years in South Bend.

1999: O-lineman Daniel Waldrop began a longtime career as a Nebraska starter by picking the Huskers over Washington and Colorado. B.J. Ward favored Florida State and made a steady impact as a defensive back for the Seminoles.

1998: Frank Solich’s debut class missed on three prospects. The best was linebacker Larry Foote, who played at Michigan and later won two Super Bowls with Pittsburgh over a 13-year NFL career. DB Derrick Harmon (didn’t sign) did nothing at the college level, and QB Jason Thomas (USC) played behind Carson Palmer before transferring and becoming a starter at UNLV.

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