Think about all of the young men that have come through the gates of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium and looked around in awe. Picturing themselves scoring winning touchdowns or making a crucial last-minute defensive stop in front of 90,000 people. It’s been enough to make many put pen to paper and become part of the program. However, with Scott Frost leading the charge some of those dreams are going to have to end prematurely, and all for the good of the common goal.
Why? Here’s why:
FBS schools all get to line their benches and sidelines with 85 scholarship players. That means 85 young men get free gear, grub and an education in exchange for entertaining you, you lucky duck. Sometimes that means a walk-on or two will have the burden of paying for that pleasure lifted by way of being granted a scholarship when some are available.
This hasn’t been a rarity over recent years in Lincoln. In fact, it was expected during the Mike Riley era as it was rife with poor roster management that left us asking which walk-ons would get scholarships on a yearly basis rather than if any would. Those days appear to be coming to a close, and soon.
If we take a look at the current scholarship chart, we see a very distinct message for the current roster:
Quarterbacks (3): Gebbia, O’Brien, Martinez
Runningbacks (5): Ozigbo, Wilbon, Bryant, Bell, Bradley
Fullback/H-Back (1): Miles
Wide Receivers (7): Morgan, K. Williams, M. Williams, Woodyard, Lindsey, Spielman, McQuitty
Tight Ends (8): Snyder, Stoll, Engelhaupt, Allen, Rafdal, Jurgens, McGriff, Legrone
Offensive Line (15): Farmer, Foster, Conrad, Gaylord, Decker, Barnett, Brokup, Raridon, B. Wilson, M. Farniok, Jaimes, Bando, Sichterman, Walker, W. Farniok
Defensive Line (10): Newell, Akinmoladun, Stoltenberg, Neal, C. Davis, K. Davis, Stille, D. Thomas, Daniels, Wildeman
Linebackers (16): Gifford, Young, King, Barry, Ferguson, A. Davis, Honas, Alexander, Jefferson, Miller, Roberts, Hampton, Ward, G. Thomas, Dixon, Alston
Defensive Backs (10): A. Williams, Reed, Lee, Jackson, Anderson, Domann, Bootle, Dismuke, Butler, D. Williams
Special Teams (3): Ober, Lightbourn, Pickering
For those that aren’t fans of counting, that’s 79 scholarships already spoken for. Now, let’s add the six current players from the 2018 class yet to sign as of this writing, and we already find ourselves at 85.
That message we talked about is this: every new commitment that Nebraska takes from here on out means that someone else is losing their spot on the gravy train by next fall. It’s quite possible we see the Huskers take up to six or seven more recruits before this cycle’s class is wrapped up.
Now, on one hand, this is kind of sad. I have a heart, after all. I can understand coming to Lincoln and being promised the rock star lifestyle that comes with wearing a Nebraska football letter jacket, living it for a while and then be told, “Sorry, pal. Hit the bricks.” Who really talks like that these days, though?
Either way, the good news is that things rarely go down like that anymore. While playing careers may not work out in Lincoln, any coach with a shred of dignity and compassion for his players wants to see them succeed.
For those who don’t fit into Frost’s plans, I have absolutely no doubt that he’ll do a bang-up job of helping them find ample opportunity elsewhere. In the end, Nebraska gets the spot to use towards another recruit or roster member while the player gets to potentially see more playing time and his bills still get paid. It’s a win-win all things considered.
It’s far too early to speculate who won’t be around for fall camp as, quite honestly, the best opportunity for that kind of evaluation seems to be after spring practice has concluded. Guys that may seem like surefire departures now may have a fire lit under their butt and give a performance that outdoes the person who was in front of them last season. Wipe all biases away come March.
While it’d be nice for all players who bleed, sweat and cry Nebraska football to have their moments and get their diploma in Lincoln, it’s just not feasible. However, as a great philosopher once said, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well you might find you get what you need.”