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Signing day is on deck with various players set to make decision

December 19, 2018

The drama is back.

The early signing period is set to begin Wednesday and stretch through Friday. That means theatrics, surprise and intrigue as high school seniors around the country unveil their college decisions.

Nebraska will be involved in at least four such announcements. And while the quantity won’t be nearly as high as last year’s inaugural early signing period — when nine day-of choices involved the Huskers as finalists — the quality is top shelf.

Six-foot-6, 285-pound defensive end Ty Robinson (Gilbert, Arizona) is the headliner and will reveal his school at 12:45 p.m. (central). The consensus four-star talent is also considering Alabama, USC and Oregon and prompted Frost to bring all 10 of his assistant coaches with him for an in-home visit last Thursday.

Two other defenders to watch are defensive ends Lloyd Summerall (Lakeland, Florida) and Brant Banks (Houston, Texas). Summerall — considered to be a heavy Florida lean — will announce during the 10 a.m. hour on ESPN. Banks is set to select either Nebraska or Baylor on a Houston television station beginning around 10:30 a.m.

Both drew December visits from NU coaches and took official trips to Lincoln for games this season.

Offensive lineman Jimmy Fritzsche (Greenville, South Carolina) said via social media he will also declare between Nebraska and Clemson at 11 a.m. (CT). He was the lone Nebraska official visitor last weekend and received an offer from nearby Clemson a day earlier.

Other players could also potentially break their own news Wednesday. Possible last-minute action could come from recent NU targets like receiver Charles Njoku (Wayne, New Jersey) and DB Tavian Mayo (Leesburg, Georgia) — fresh off an official visit to West Virginia — among others.

Nebraska set a high standard for hectic recently, with a combined 30 players coming down to the 11th hour in the past two cycles. 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 have unofficially gone 26-48 (35 percent) on day-of decisions during the last 21 years. Wednesday marks the second-ever early signing period for NCAA Division I football.

Of the 42 whose college careers can be fairly judged, roughly 13 commit procrastinators made what could be called a significant impact. Nebraska landed four of those: defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (Class of 2012), wide receiver Alonzo Moore (2012), defensive back Corey Cooper (2010) and D-lineman Le Kevin Smith (2001).

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 look back at the signing-day drama from each of the last 21 Nebraska classes:

2018: The first-ever early signing period only adds to Big Red’s overall drama, beginning with a 4-for-9 showing during the 72-hour December stretch. Tight end Katerian Legrone officially switches from UCF to Nebraska while juco linebacker Will Honas picks NU instead of considering Wisconsin, Iowa and Kansas State into the new year. Arizona Western running back Greg Bell chooses the Huskers over Tennessee live on his hometown San Diego TV station and receiver teammate Jaron Woodyard reaffirms a shaky Nebraska commitment with a signing via Periscope after visiting Tennessee. Bell transferred out of Lincoln in October.

Early day-of misses were tight end Messiah Swinson (Missouri), receiver Jeshaun Jones (Maryland), athlete Marcus Riley (Louisville), receiver Cameron Brown (Ohio State) and running back Jeremy Banks (Tennessee). Swinson (ACL tear), Riley (reserve) and Brown (reserve) made little impact in their debuts. Banks moved to linebacker in the middle of the season while Jones has accounted for 461 total yards and five scores.

Nebraska lands half of its 10 signing-day targets in February. The big surprise is Georgia native and linebacker Caleb Tannor, who turns down Florida and Auburn during a joke-filled hat ceremony. Running back Maurice Washington takes NU over Arizona State live on ESPN2. Defensive back Cam Taylor, lineman Willie Canty and receiver Andre Hunt also go with Big Red. Of those, all but Canty (didn’t academically qualify) saw the field in 2018.

The biggest letdown is four-star DE/OLB Javontae Jean-Baptiste, who is committed to NU for two hours before changing his mind in favor of Ohio State. His New Jersey-based school is canceled that day because of weather, giving the Buckeyes time to convince him to flip. Also getting away are corner Ken Montgomery (Maryland), D-lineman Otito Ogbonnia (UCLA), O-lineman Jarrett Bell (Arizona State) and corner Taiyon Palmer (N.C. State). All redshirted this fall except Ogbonnia, who played all 12 games as a quality backup.

2017: The first truly wild signing day in Nebraska history, the Huskers have realistic shots at 11 recruits but sign just 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 developed into a quality reserve this season while Thomas left the program. Blades — who didn’t academically qualify and never made it to campus — went the juco route and is now headed to Texas A&M as the top-rated juco player at his position.

NU loses head-to-head battles for DBs Deommodore Lenoir (Oregon) and Michael Onyemaobi (TCU). Other late pushes come up short for Los Angeles-area teammates in athlete Greg Johnson and wideout Joseph Lewis (both chose USC), running back C.J. Verdell (Oregon), receiver Jeremiah Hawkins (California) and receiver Bryan Thompson (Utah). The most infamous defection is receiver Jamire Calvin, who gave Nebraska coach Mike Riley a commitment for a third time a week earlier before inking with Washington State.

Of those, Lenoir, Verdell and Calvin have seized prominent roles while Hawkins and Thompson contributed as reserves this year. Injuries have plagued Johnson and Onyemaobi for two seasons while the Trojans dropped Lewis, a former five-star prospect, following his second arrest for domestic violence last summer.

2016: Four-star athlete Beau Bisharat chooses Colorado over NU after decommitting from Stanford, while three-star offensive tackle Alaric Jackson opts for Iowa. Bisharat was a backup running back and special teams contributor as a junior this fall. Jackson has blossomed into Iowa’s regular left tackle and earned second-team All-Big Ten this year after securing freshman All-America accolades in 2017.

2015: Three-star linebacker Adrienne Talan picks the Huskers over Oregon State, among others. Two-star safety Willie Sykes goes for Arkansas and three-star linebacker Terez Hall decides to go to Missouri. Only Hall finished with his current team, and only Hall has become a key contributor after completing his senior season with the second-most Mizzou tackles (69) and earning NFL prospect status.

2014: Nebraska goes 0 for 5 on signing-day nods, though none of the whiffs prove haunting. Three-star DE Blake McClain reneges 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) elect to go elsewhere. None of them completed careers with their original school.

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

2012: Nebraska beats out Florida and Illinois for three-star defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, who posts a standout career at Nebraska and went on to get drafted by the New England Patriots. Four-star athlete Alonzo Moore also says yes to the Huskers and proves to be a productive wideout. While tackle Aaron Curry also joins late (he later transfers to TCU), the big miss is O-lineman Andrus Peat, who goes to Stanford and is the No. 13 overall pick in the NFL draft three years later.

2011: The lone drama comes from Todd Peat Jr. — Andrus’ older brother — who turns 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 makes a late choice in favor of the Big Red as a four-star defensive back. Four-star quarterback prospect Brion Carnes also commits on the final day, switching from Western Kentucky (he eventually transfers to Northern Iowa). The gut punch comes when D-end Owa Odighizuwa chooses UCLA over NU and Oregon State in a nationally televised announcement. He was a third-round NFL pick in 2015.

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

2008: Three-star running back Justin Rogers (leaves team soon after) and two-star athlete Tim Marlowe (contributes at receiver) go with the Huskers on signing day. Wideout Kendall Thompkins picks Miami and a largely quiet career follows.

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

2006: Juco safety Ashlee Palmer decided on NU the previous December but didn’t qualify academically, then surprised many by changing to Washington on signing day. He eventually lands at Ole Miss and spends six seasons in the NFL. Defensive tackle Charles Deas also leaves Nebraska in the lurch and inks 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 goes to Oklahoma and earns All-Big 12 accolades. He eventually becomes a third-round NFL pick by San Francisco.

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

2003: Corner Mike Jenkins opts for South Florida over the Huskers and puts together an All-America career before being drafted No. 25 overall. He completed a nine-year NFL career in 2015.

2002: Corner Antoine Bagwell — considered perhaps the top player in Michigan — commits late, then doesn’t qualify academically and moves to a junior college. Lineman Stanley Daniels had been a Nebraska commit but switches to Washington (he enjoys a productive career, then adds four seasons as a fringe NFL player). Four-star linebacker Buster Davis provides day-of drama, then settles on Florida State two weeks later and becomes a good college defender.

2001: Defensive lineman Le Kevin Smith takes the Big Red over Auburn and running back Marques Simmons is ‘N’ at the expense of Iowa and Iowa State. Smith becomes a Husker star and eventual NFL contributor while Simmons later quietly transfers to Iowa.

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

1999: O-lineman Daniel Waldrop begins a long career as a Nebraska starter by picking the school over Washington and Colorado. B.J. Ward favors Florida State and makes a steady impact as a defensive back for the Seminoles.

1998: Frank Solich’s debut class misses on three prospects. The best was linebacker Larry Foote, who would play at Michigan and later win 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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