Hot Reads: California Stars
Photo Credit: Paul Gero

Hot Reads: California Stars

January 31, 2017

“He’s outstanding. He really complements our staff. He’s a guy that’s been in California and has great ties there. He’s got great relationships with the high school coaches. He knows the area and knows the schools, and knows where the good players are at…”

Is that a) Mike Riley talking about Donte Williams in 2017, or b) Bill Callahan talking about Bill Busch in 2006?

Of course the answer is ‘B’. Too strangely specific not to be the answer, but that was about the extent of Callahan’s California talk on signing day in 2006. That’s despite the fact that eight of 24 players signed on that day were from California. The year before, Callahan and crew hauled in a class of 31 that included nine Californians. It wasn’t a movement then, just where Nebraska got a third of its players.

Nebraska’s current class — carrying around the “Calibraska” tag since last spring — includes four Californians among 19 commits. That number will likely increase by at least a couple on signing day, but it still has a ways to go to match the 2005-06 stretch when 30.9 percent of the recruits Nebraska signed were from California.

How’d the Huskers’ California haul work out then? In 2007, Marlon Lucky (2005 class) was Nebraska’s leading rusher and scorer. Maurice Purify (2006 class) was the Huskers’ leading receiver (Lucky was second). Offensive lineman Carl Nicks, while failing to really reach the potential indicated by his six-year NFL career, earned honorable mention and second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2007.

The impact on Nebraska’s defense was less apparent. Rickey Thenarse and Anthony West became multi-year contributors in the secondary. Bryan Wilson, another safety, played 27 games over two years as a backup, but in terms of California star power, the Blackshirts didn’t fare quite as well as the offense did.

And that, quality more than quantity, might be the difference between now and then. Four of the top six prospects in Nebraska’s 2017 class are California kids. Most of the players the Huskers are still in on heading into tomorrow would rank in the top-half of the class as well.

Maybe that’s why this particular reopening of the California pipeline got its own hashtag.

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