Nebraska head football coach Scott Frost signed a class of 25 for the 2020 early signing period. That class was ranked no. 20 overall by 247 Sports, no. 4 in the B1G, and no 1 in the B1G West.
Nebraska’s class was only behind the conference’s recruiting juggernauts Ohio State (no. 3), Michigan (no. 12) and Penn State (no. 13). And although as the Omaha World-Herald’s Sam McKewon points out, the rest of the B1G West is also doing better on the recruiting trail, Nebraska still holds a decided advantage over its nearest division rivals Wisconsin (no. 26), Purdue (no. 29), Iowa (no. 31), and Minnesota (no. 33).
What is remarkable about Nebraska’s recruiting accomplishment, of course, is how it doesn’t match performance on the field. Nebraska is coming off of a third straight losing season, and yet is able to attract top-20 talent to Lincoln.
Some of this is a testament to the enduring attraction of a blue-blood historic program like Nebraska. Even long dormant, the echoes of glories past still can be heard by at least some of the prospects visiting Memorial Stadium, inviting them to join in the story.
But I think it’s fair to say that the majority of Nebraska’s recruiting success even in this historically fallow period is due to Frost’s charisma and vision. If there is one thing from which he has never wavered, it is that he “knows where this is going.” And you can hear lots of Frost’s recruits echoing that line.
So I got to wondering just how unique Nebraska’s recruiting accomplishment has been compared to its lack of performance on the field. I took the 247 top 25, and calculated each team’s winning percentage from 2017 to 2019, to get a visualization of just how much an outlier Nebraska is in terms of recruiting accomplishments in comparison to wins and losses.
As you can see, with one exception (oh hai north carolina y’all have been garbage lately), Nebraska’s winning percentage – or, more accurately, lack of winning percentage – really does stand out from the rest of the top 25 recruiting programs. That dichotomy is a visual reflection of the Frost effect, of Frost’s ability to keep alive his vision of “where this thing is going” and get top-flight talent from around the nation to believe it.
Of course, this can’t go on forever. If Nebraska continues to struggle on the field, eventually Frost’s belief and strength of personality won’t be enough, and the recruits will stop coming. In the very near term, whether that’s next year or within the next two, Nebraska’s win-loss record has to start matching its recruiting success.