If you been paying attention through the close-but-not-quite years of Nebraska’s current conference title drought (est. 1999), the Huskers current recruiting momentum is somewhat hard to understand. There was that year Bill Callahan landed a class some ranked as the best in the country, but minus that blip recruiting has often been viewed as one of the primary reasons for the drought. A perceived drop off contributed to Frank Solich’s departure. Steady top-20 to top-30 recruiting was used to explain why Bo Pelini’s teams were steadily top-20 to top-30 but not more.
Mike Riley’s recruiting has gradually ticked up from that level, but tonight’s Friday Night Lights camp represents a different level. No, I’m not just trying to drum up hype in this case. If you take just the top 2018 prospects here — eight Nebraska commits, plus 10 others visiting on Friday — and use 247Sports’ class calculator (http://nebraska.247sports.com/Season/2018-Football/Commits/Preview) to make that the Huskers’ 2018 class, you end up with a team score of 262.18. That would rank third nationally right now behind Ohio State and Miami, and that doesn’t even include commits Cameron Jurgens or Mario Goodrich (who are not attending). Leave them in the class, and the score jumps to 272.72, tops in the country.
That’s not going to happen, of course. One, Nebraska doesn’t have room for an 18-person class (yet), much less 20. Two, tonight will be the closest Nebraska gets to some of these recruits. From here they’ll go off to their Alabama visits and USC commitments and maybe the trip to Lincoln was just a fun time. But at least Nebraska took its shot.
So why is this all working now? I think you have to credit how adaptable Mike Riley and staff have been in recruiting as they’ve learned more about this program’s strengths and weaknesses. Brendan Radley-Hiles is playing a large role, too. But Joshua Moore, speaking to the Victoria Advocate, gave some reasons for his recent commitment to Nebraska that are starting to feel pretty familiar:
“For one, it’s a family environment up there,” Moore said. “I went up there for the spring game a couple of months ago. I went up there for the first time, and I felt like I visited like 20 times. They treated me like I was a senior already.
“Every other visit has been good, but I just felt something about Nebraska stood out to me and my parents the most. I felt comfortable there. That’s pretty much what sealed the deal.”
“I pretty much evaluated every single school that I knew I wanted to play for,” he said. “The process I used was on overall development not only as a football player, but who would set me up best for life after football as well. Second was early playing time, and it’s a great opportunity for me as well. The third was where I was most comfortable. Nebraska got a check on all three boxes.”
Now, could you change the recruit, replace “Nebraska” with any other school and have a recruiting quote anyone could have made about anywhere. Probably, but I still think Moore’s comments are a good encapsulation of Nebraska’s strengths. And when you look at Riley’s low attrition rate, unique at Nebraska and more impressive given a coaching change, I think there’s some additional support for the “family atmosphere” line of thought.
Riley is hoping for a big family outing at Memorial Stadium tonight. We’re not talking about the informal holiday cookout with whomever is in town. No, Riley’s looking for a family reunion, all the cousins and nieces and nephews and whoever else they can bring with them.
— Mike Riley (@Coach_Riley) June 22, 2017
The Grab Bag
- Matt Fortuna of Athlon Sports lists five things that need to happen for the Huskers to be a top-25 team.
- In the latest rubber-necking recruiting offer, Illinois has extended a scholarship offer to a 10-year-old.
- Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com goes over on Nebraska’s seven wins.
- ICYMI: Mike Babcock unveiled his All-Time All-California team at Nebraska.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.