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Fact or Fiction: Dawson Merritt is the most important target for Nebraska

Rivals national recruiting analyst Greg Smith is joined by national recruiting analyst Marshall Levenson, InsideNebraska.com’s Tim Verghese and SpartanIllustrated.com’s Ryan O’Bleness to tackle three topics and determine whether they believe each statement is FACT or FICTION.

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1. Tavien St. Clair is the prospect you are most excited to see at the Rivals Camp Series in Indianapolis.

Birm/Dotting the 'Eyes

Levenson: FACT. Since the last rankings update, there have been a great number of opportunities to evaluate the top signal callers around the country. As a result, there will be some shuffling among the ranks from top to bottom of the position. Getting to see Tavien St. Clair, a prospect who presents major upside, in this setting, will allow us to get a thorough and accurate read on where he stands.

Anytime you can get a lengthy evaluation of a 6-foot-4, 230-pound prospect at the quarterback position, it calls for being the most anticipated performance of the day. If he indeed performs how I believe he is very capable of doing, he very well may thrust himself into five-star territory in the 2025 class.

Smith: FICTION. This answer comes with a strong caveat. I saw St. Clair at Elite 11 in Ohio pretty recently. He was outstanding during that event and punched his ticket to the Elite11 Finals. While I’m excited to get another evaluation point on him, I’m going to mix things up.

However, I’m going with another quarterback. Fellow Ohio native and Georgia commit Ryan Montgomery is a prospect I haven’t seen in live action. He’s clearly got the physical tools and I love his intangibles. Seeing him close up in the same camp with St. Clair and several other good quarterbacks will be a lot of fun. We’ll learn something about how these two quarterbacks compare after this weekend.

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2. Dawson Merritt is the most important recruit on the board for Nebraska right now.

Parker Thune

Verghese: FACT. Linebacker is a key position of need for Nebraska to address in the 2025 cycle and Dawson Merritt is the type of prospect that would not only help fill that need, but raise the ceiling of the defense.

You could make the argument that Omaha (Neb.) Westside four-star linebacker Christian Jones is Nebraska’s most important target in the cycle overall, but right now, given the timeline, Merritt is the most important recruit on Nebraska’s board heading into the summer. The Huskers have invested a lot of time and energy in their pursuit, with coaches, off-field staffers and even players working to land the four-star linebacker. His combination of athleticism, instincts and violence in a rangy 6-foot-3 frame is hard to find. He’d be an immediate difference maker in Nebraska’s defense.

Add in the fact that the Huskers would have to beat out Alabama head-to-head for his talents, which would be an impressive recruiting win for defensive coordinator Tony White and linebackers coach Rob Dvoracek, and landing Merritt is the most important task for Nebraska in the coming weeks.

He officially visited Nebraska for the spring game at the end of April and has scheduled an official visit to Alabama for June 7. A decision is expected shortly after that final official visit.

Smith. FICTION. Merritt is a very important recruit based on his positional value and location. Nebraska desperately needs to start landing Kansas City talent. However, he’s not the linebacker I’m going to select.

Omaha (Neb.) Westside four-star linebacker Christian Jones is my selection. Jones is ultra-athletic and hasn’t come close to hitting his ceiling as a player. The thought of defensive coordinator Tony White using Jones as a chess piece in his 3-3-5 attack sounds pretty fun.

Not only is Jones a great prospect but he’s a homegrown prospect. Jones has seen all the ups and downs with the program. If he picks Nebraska it’ll be a big stamp of approval for the direction that coach Matt Rhule is taking the program. It would serve notice to other prospects in the state and in the region that the future is bright in Lincoln.

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3. Michigan State is ready to make a leap up the recruiting rankings this summer.

O’Bleness: FACT. Understandably, some Michigan State fans grew concerned that the Spartans didn’t have a single commit in the 2025 class in late April. However, remember that the coaching staff is brand new and worked very deliberately over the past few months to build roots in the state of Michigan and in the Midwest, while still relying on connections on the West Coast and elsewhere around the country, before beginning to piece together the class.

Now, you’re starting to see that hard work pay off on the high school recruiting trail (not to mention the transfer portal) as Michigan State has gained five pledges from April 22 through mid-May. With the official visit season for MSU beginning soon, expect the Spartans’ hot streak to continue.

The Michigan State staff under head coach Jonathan Smith may not get a ton of four-star and five-star recruits, but it is known talent identifiers, and more importantly, talent developers. MSU will get a lot of its Plan A targets and great fits, even if some of those players don’t look like highly ranked prospects on paper.

While a slow start to the cycle may hinder Michigan State’s chances of getting in the top eight or so in the now-18 team Big Ten, I think we will see Michigan State quickly catapult itself from the basement of the conference to the middle of the pack at the very least.

Smith: FACT. The Spartans had a bit of a slow start to the 2025 recruiting class as coach Jonathan Smith and his staff got settled in. But now the team has real momentum on the recruiting trail.

Three straight days with a commitment have Spartans fans buzzing about the work the staff could do as official visits really ramp up. The team is red-hot on the trail right now after gaining commitments from linebacker DiMari Malone on May 12, tight end Emmett Bork on May 13 and running back Jace Clarizio on May 14.

The Spartans are hosting a couple enormous official visit weekends in June. That includes the June 14 weekend that will be headlined by Michigan four-star defensive end commit Bobby Kanka. There are plenty of prospects coming to town that can help MSU shoot up the Big Ten recruiting rankings.

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