LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska coach Bo Pelini's 26-player recruiting class appears more talented than the one he signed in 2012 and is perhaps the best of the six he's assembled for the Cornhuskers.
The Huskers on Wednesday received letters of intent from as many as eight players who earned ratings of four stars on the five-star scale from various recruiting services. They signed 12 players on offense, 13 on defense and a long snapper. They come from 13 states and Canada.
"There's a lot to like in this class," ESPN analyst Jeremy Crabtree said. "They did well early in the process. The only downside is that they probably missed the cherry on the top of the cake."
Scout.com has the Huskers' class ranked 11th in the nation - highest ever for a Pelini class - after listing Nebraska 50th a year ago. Rivals.com ranked Nebraska 17th and ESPN.com and 247sports.com each have the Huskers 23rd.
The Huskers are a consensus third in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and Michigan.
"With this group we have going forward, our goal obviously in the coming year is going to be to win `em all," Pelini said. "I think this is one step forward in heading in that direction."
Nebraska strengthened itself at quarterback with the addition of Johnny Stanton of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., who turned down Oregon, California and Wisconsin, among others. The Huskers lose three-year starter Taylor Martinez after this coming season, leaving Stanton to battle redshirt freshman-to-be Tommy Armstrong for the job in 2014.
"You add him to the stable of quarterbacks we have on campus, and I feel good about that position," Pelini said.
The Huskers, who lose running back Rex Burkhead, picked up four-star backs in Terrell Newby of West Hills, Calif., and Adam Taylor of Katy, Texas. Newby has had back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons at Chaminade High, and Taylor ran for 2,754 and 45 touchdowns as a senior at Katy High.
"In my opinion," Pelini said, "we got two of the best in the country."
On the defensive side, Pelini signed the nation's top-ranked junior-college end in Randy Gregory. A lot of schools targeted Gregory even though he missed the 2012 season at Arizona Western Community College because of a broken leg. As a junior, he had 82 tackles, 21 for loss and nine sacks.
Top linebacker signee Courtney Love of Youngstown, Ohio, was a January enrollee and already has impressed in winter workouts. Love, who attended Pelini's alma mater of Cardinal Mooney High, had 110 tackles and nine sacks last season and is a two-time All-Ohio pick.
"They would have liked to have had more defensive-back skill," ESPN's Crabtree said, "but we're nitpicking. They did really well with a lot of positions. They even recruited a long snapper. It's diverse, athletic."
The Huskers put an emphasis on establishing line depth, signing six linemen on defense and five on offense.
Pelini signed one scholarship player from in-state, linebacker Josh Banderas out of Southwest High in Lincoln.
Also joining the class is Martinez's brother, Drake Martinez of Laguna Beach, Calif. Martinez is listed as an athlete but will start his career on defense, probably at safety.
Pelini said each incoming player should prepare as if he will play in 2013.
"I look back and I think the one mistake I did make is that I didn't play some of these kids more, that I did redshirt some of these kids," he said, referring to past recruiting classes. "I made that decision a little bit too quick and I've kicked myself for it. You evaluate and you learn."
Pelini called the recruiting process a "whirlwind" because of the fluid nature of verbal commitments. He said his assistant coaches were on the phone Tuesday night making sure players who pledged to the Huskers would follow through and sign their letters of intent.
The Huskers thought they had lost out on wide receiver Tre'vell Dixon of Baldwin, La. Several media outlets reported that Dixon had de-committed from Nebraska on Tuesday, but he ended up signing with the Huskers.
Another player, defensive end Dimarya Mixon, signed after reneging on his pledge to Missouri over the weekend.
But safety Marcus McWilson of Youngstown, Ohio, who accepted a Nebraska scholarship offer last fall, announced two weeks ago that he would sign with Kentucky instead of the Huskers.
"Let's face it, commitments don't mean a whole heck of a lot," Pelini said. "Until you get that fax, you know no commitment is worth much. You have to keep recruiting them right to the end."