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C O M M E N T A R Y
T A D    S T R Y K E R
January 24, 2010

 
The annual countdown to Signing Day is well underway, and a lot of recruitniks are living on pins and needles until the press conference on Wednesday, February 3, when their favorite college football team’s recruiting class is announced.

Personally, as a Nebraskan, I admit that I’m interested to see who signs with the Cornhuskers. But frankly, I’m already relieved. My stress level is down. The biggest name I’ve been following is safely in the fold.

Prince Amukamara is set to play his senior season for the Big Red this fall.

If Pelini’s biggest recruiting success so far was keeping Ndamukong Suh from transferring to Oregon State in 2008, and if No. 1A was keeping Suh away from the NFL for his senior year, then this development possibly ranks No. 2 in importance in Pelini’s recruiting wars. The return of the Prince will be provide the quickest payoff of any 2010 recruiting transaction, at any rate – even more than signing the highly touted defensive end, Owa Odighizuwa. Besides, his last name is easier to pronounce.

Amukamara won’t be quite as big a difference-maker as Suh was, but his presence on the field this fall will be huge nonetheless. A lockdown cornerback with his skills is hard to find. With No. 21 on the field, opposing offensive coordinators will have their options limited. He is Nebraska’s version of New York Jets All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Maybe I’m giving Pelini too much credit for this recruiting victory. After all, Amukamara never requested a draft evaluation. Maybe he never even thought of going pro. But when a CBSsports.com draft analyst listed him as a potential first-round choice early in January, it should have raised every Husker fan’s blood pressure a few points. You never know these days when someone is going to go for the short-term money instead of finishing his college career.

 
Suh is glad he stayed around Lincoln an extra year. Here’s hoping things work out just as well for Amukamara. That includes staying focused, working hard in the off-season, being a good example to his teammates and accepting more leadership responsibility.

And, perhaps most important, staying healthy.

As a junior, the native of Glendale, Ariz., had five interceptions (second only to Matt O’Hanlon’s six) and broke up 11 passes, which was best among the Blackshirts. He made 41 solo tackles, which was fourth on the team.

It’s possible that Nebraska’s keeping the Prince while defending Big 12 champion Texas loses Earl Thomas will make the difference in one or two meetings between the two teams this fall.

At the very least, Amukamara is one of the biggest reasons Pelini predicted the Blackshirts would be better in 2010 than they were with Suh in 2009.

So are tackle Jared Crick and end Pierre Allen, both returning starters from what was probably the best defensive line in the nation. A maturing group of linebackers will help. But the Huskers will be very strong in the defensive backfield, where returning starter Alfonzo Dennard will line up opposite Amukamara and keep opponents from avoiding the Prince all game long.

Amukamara won’t be able to avoid the spotlight. Like Suh before him, he will be in high demand at press conferences. It will be interesting to see how he responds. Suh never claimed to be a vocal leader, although he became one by the middle of his senior year. Amukamara seems even less inclined to speak to the media at this stage of his career.

He’ll be the center of attention this fall. How well he reacts – and how well he inspires his teammates – will go a long way in determining how high the Huskers rise in the Top 25.

 

Formerly the sports editor at the North Platte Bulletin and a sportswriter/columnist for the North Platte Telegraph, Tad Stryker is a longtime Nebraska sports writer, having covered University of Nebraska and high school sports for more than 25 years. He started writing for this website in 2008. You can e-mail him at tad.stryker@gmail.com. | Archive

 
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