Adrian Martinez had a scholarship offer to Nebraska before Scott Frost could even be introduced as the new Husker head coach on Dec. 2.
In the days that followed, running backs coach Ryan Held showed up in so many photos from living rooms and high school hallways around the country that sometimes it seemed impossible to think he could cover so much ground in such short order.
Once Central Florida began its bowl preparations, led by Frost and his staff, FlightAware gave a bleary-eyed look at just how little sleep the 42-year-old tasked with temporarily running two programs must have been getting, seeing as how the jet would take off after the Knights finished practice and not return from recruiting trips until well after midnight.
And yet despite the breakneck pace, Wednesday’s early signing day — the first of its kind under new NCAA recruiting rules — does not mark an endpoint for NU.
More like an approximate midpoint.
“I feel good about where we are,” Frost said Wednesday afternoon from Orlando, Florida, on a conference call with reporters. “I didn’t want to come in and try to fill a class in two weeks because that doesn’t give us enough time to evaluate and get to know people and develop relationships, so there’s a lot of work left to be done. But I think we’ve got a good start. I like where we landed from a numbers standpoint.”
That’s 10 players signed, sealed and delivered, with at least one more on the way later this week.
Wide receiver Justin McGriff (Tampa, Florida) announced his verbal commitment on Dec. 11 and is expected to officially sign his national letter of intent on Friday — the last day of the signing period — at his school.
There could potentially be more. Three-star tight end Messiah Swinson (Brookville, New York) is expected to announce a decision Thursday between Missouri and NU, while linebacker Will Honas (Butler Community College in Kansas) may decide this week or may wait until January.
But the first round of additions under Frost is largely complete.
The Huskers, to nobody’s surprise, find themselves in a much different position than some others in the Big Ten. Wisconsin, for example, signed 19, essentially their entire 2018 class save perhaps a late addition or two. Ohio State did about the same, signing 21 to the top-ranked class in the nation, according to 247Sports. The Buckeyes will be in on a few premier remaining players next month — they always are — but have the structure of their group nearly set.
Not so with Nebraska, which Frost said entered Wednesday with 19 scholarships available.
“And I expect the number to grow a little bit,” he said. “I think we’ll sign a class of over 20 eventually by the time this is all said and done. There will be probably some movement and hopefully a lot of work that we can get done before the February signing period and maybe some afterward. This is unusual with an early signing period, and I think everybody was finding their way through this first year. It made it even more difficult for a lot of guys that have changed jobs like we have.”
Currently, NU sits at No. 47 in the nation according to 247Sports (it started the day at No. 45) and No. 61 in Rivals’ rankings (63rd in the morning).
“The second signing day is probably more important than this first one, but we’re getting some really good kids here early,” Frost said.
The Huskers were able to retain five players from former head coach Mike Riley’s class and add six (including McGriff) of their own. Frost admitted he and the staff don’t have a detailed feel for the existing roster in Lincoln. He did say, though, that there are two clear areas of need: defensive back and wide receiver are “the most glaring ones.
“There are just not enough guys at those positions and there are some places we need to go to work and get some kids in just to make sure we have enough kids at those positions.”
The Huskers added a junior college player at each position — wide receiver Jaron Woodyard (Arizona Western) and defensive back Deontrai Williams (Jones County in Mississippi) — and will surely be on the hunt for more through the winter, whether high school players, jucos or graduate transfers.
“I don’t think anyone was really sure how many kids were going to sign early and how many weren’t,” Frost said in video provided by the university. “Looking at how this is working out, there’s going to be a lot of players still available in February. I’m looking forward to getting them excited about joining our vision, working with our staff that’s been undefeated and is playing in a big bowl game, that’s won a championship, that has a top defense and the No.1 offense in the country.
“I think there’s a lot of kids that are going to get excited about that, and we’re going to try to get a lot of those kids on campus and see how much momentum we can get in January and working toward the February signing period as well.”
The work never ends. Frost and his guys will be back on the practice field with UCF on Thursday before sending those players home for a couple of days before Christmas. Then it’s off to Atlanta for final Peach Bowl prep. Early in 2018 — hours after the game ends, based on how these guys have operated to date — they’ll be back in Lincoln, gearing up to do it all again.
“This has been a crazy month,” Frost said. “We’re down here and committed to the players that are getting ready to play in a bowl game. It’s the right thing to do to give them the best chance to win this bowl game and be loyal to them. But we’re also going to be doing a lot of work in recruiting for Nebraska, as much as we can be during a dead period.
“Once this bowl game is over we’re going to be Huskers full-time, and we’re all looking forward to that moment.”