Nebraska Doesn't Need 4-Star WR Monte Harrison
But this isn’t a story of Billie Joe and Bobby Sue. This is a story of an 18-year old from Missouri just out of high school with a tough decision to make.
Monte Harrison was one of the most sought-after wide receivers in the country for the class of 2014 and a recent Nebraska Cornhuskers signee. He caught 60 passes for 1,007 yards and 13 touchdowns last year. He tacked on another 15 touchdowns in rushing and kick returns on his team’s way to a state title. Harrison was one of Nebraska’s prized recruits and likely could have contributed right away.
But Harrison is a two-sport stud. His superb play in the outfield as a high school baseball star made him the second-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers (No. 50 overall).
So what did Harrison decide to do? Follow Steve Miller’s advice, signing a contract to play baseball that included a $1.8 million signing bonus.
Can you blame him?
Now Harrison is on the diamond instead of the football field, but where does that leave the Huskers? This season it leaves them with a Harrison-sized hole.
Kenny Bell is no doubt the stud of Nebraska's receiving corps, but Big Red fans are still waiting for the speedy Jamaal Turner to make his mark. That creates an opportunity for players like Sam Burtch, Taariq Allen and Jordan Westerkamp to create a splash. They are fine receivers, but lack the “it” factor Harrison would have likely brought to Lincoln. In 2014, the Huskers better hope “Afro Thunder” (Bell) stays healthy.
So how does Nebraska replace Harrison in the future? It's done a pretty good job so far landing Washington transfer Damare’ea Stringfellow, who will have two years of eligibility and has already shown he can produce at the college level. Jariah Tolbert and Glenn Irons were the other two receivers in the 2014 recruiting class.
Bo Pelini and company need to make that position a top priority for 2015.
Which leads me to this – is it worth the Huskers going after a guy like Harrison? Let’s face it, Harrison was going to get drafted and get offered a bundle of money. The fact he slipped to the second round surprised most of the baseball pundits.
The Huskers went through this same song and dance just a few years ago. Remember Bubba Starling? He was another two-sport darling who was going to be the savior at quarterback. The Kansas City Royals ended that quickly, drafting him No. 5 overall in 2011. Sure, Starling’s been toiling in Single-A ball for three years, but he chased the money and the dream of being a Major Leaguer.
Carl Crawford was another Nebraska quarterback recruit. I’d say he’s done pretty well for himself as a four-time all-star in his 13-year (and counting) career with Tampa Bay, Boston and the Dodgers.
But this isn’t about the Harrisons, Starlings and Crawfords of the recruiting world, this is about the Huskers using precious resources on guys who likely won’t ever make it on campus. Sure, there’s a chance one of these players will hold off on baseball for the opportunity to play Saturdays in Memorial Stadium; but those chances are becoming slimmer with all the money teams can throw around at players these days.
Now the Huskers have a hole in their recruiting class, and there won’t always be a Stringfellow out there wanting to get out of his current arrangement. Instead I would like to see them go after guys they know want to play football, who want to have the ‘N’ on their helmet and not tell the coaches in June they won’t be needing that scholarship, thank you very much.
With recruiting rules tightening and the race for five-star athletes becoming a nationwide competition, I don’t think Nebraska can afford to spend that kind of time and energy on a guy like Harrison. If the Huskers miss out on some big names, so be it.
Again, I don’t blame Harrison for making his decision; and living in Milwaukee I hope I see him around Miller Park sometime. I also don’t blame the Huskers for going after him, but in the future I hope we don’t have to talk about recruits who took the money and ran far away from Lincoln.
Jay Saunders is a Big Ten contributor for FanIQ with keen knowledge for Nebraska football. Follow him on Twitter: @JayinMilwaukee