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How Riley’s Spring Game Success Ranks in Big Ten

April 08, 2017

Nebraska is set to host more than 30 prospects for the 2018 recruiting class at this year’s spring game. While impressive, the list of visitors only means something if those in attendance end up signing with the Huskers. That’s why we took a deeper look at the first two spring games of Coach Mike Riley’s Nebraska career to see just how successful he was.

While two spring games provide some insight into Riley’s success to date, it’s not enough data to really uncover any trends. We won’t be able to benchmark Riley’s 2017 spring game visitors until the next signing day, but we can compare his 2016 spring game results to those of other Big Ten programs.

There are three programs in the Big Ten that appear to be at the top of their game when it comes to recruiting. They are Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Comparing the 2016 spring game visitors of those three programs to Nebraska’s seemed like the next likely step to understanding Riley’s personal success.

As a reminder, Riley converted nine out of 21 visitors from the 2016 spring game. That put him at a 43 percent success rate for the day.

Ohio State – 2016 Spring Game

(Information via Eleven Warriors)

2017 Recruiting Class Visitors

  • OT Josh Myers – Verbal commit  – Signed with Ohio State
  • OT Jake Moretti – Verbal commit – Signed with Colorado
  • S Brendan White – Verbal commit – Signed with Ohio State
  • RB Todd Sibley – Verbal commit – Signed with Pitt
  • DB Marcus Williamson – Verbal commit, signed with Ohio State
  • DT Jerron Cage – Verbal commit, signed with Ohio State
  • QB Danny Clark – Verbal commit, signed with Kentucky
  • K Blake Haibeil – Verbal commit, signed with Ohio State
  • RB Najee Harris – Signed with Alabama
  • QB Kellen Mond – Signed with Texas A&M
  • DB Amir Riep – Signed with Ohio State
  • DE Chase Young – Signed with Ohio State
  • WR Jaylen Harris – Signed with Ohio State
  • DT Dalyn Wade-Perry – Signed with Stanford
  • OT Joel Honigford – Signed with Michigan
  • DE Darius Stills – Signed with West Virginia
  • DT Howard Watkins – Signed with Illinois

Urban Meyer hosted 17 visitors for the 2016 spring game. Out of that group, eight signed with the Buckeyes. That put Meyer at a 47 percent success rate for the day.

While a smaller list than Nebraska’s, Ohio State hosted some top talent for the 2016 spring game. Those that went elsewhere chose programs like Alabama, Michigan and Texas A&M. Regardless, Riley wasn’t too far off Meyer’s mark for visitors that become signees.

Michigan – 2016 Spring Game

(Information via

2017 Recruiting Class Visitors

  • RB Kurt Taylor – Verbal commit, signed with Michigan
  • OT JaRaymond Hall – Verbal commit, signed with Michigan
  • TE Carter Dunaway – Verbal commit, signed with Princeton
  • LB Josh Ross – Verbal commit, signed with Michigan
  • QB Dylan McCaffrey – Verbal commit, signed with Michigan
  • LB Drew Singleton – Signed with Michigan
  • DT Corey Bolds – Signed with Penn State
  • OL Brett Neilon – Signed with USC
  • C Cesar Ruiz – Signed with Michigan
  • WR Nico Collins – Signed with Michigan
  • DT Phillip Paea – Signed with Michigan
  • OL Robert Hainsey – Signed with Notre Dame
  • TE Major Tennison – Signed with Alabama
  • CB Deommodore Lenoir – Signed with Oregon
  • ATH Collin Smith – Signed with West Virginia
  • DT Neil Farrell – Signed with LSU
  • RB O’Maury Samuels – Signed with Michigan
  • DT Fred Hansard – Signed with Penn State
  • OT D’Antne Demery – Signed with Georgia
  • RB Stephen Carr – Signed with USC
  • DT/OG Popo Aumavae – Signed with Oregon
  • LB Jordan Anthony – Signed with Michigan
  • ATH Markquese Bell – Signed with Maryland
  • ATH Scotty Nelson – Signed with Wisconsin
  • ATH Allen Stritzinger – Signed with Syracuse
  • FB Chase Lasater – Signed with FAU
  • LB/DE Corey Malone-Hatcher
  • DT Deontre Thomas – Signed with Nebraska
  • LB James Houston – Signed with Michigan
  • CB Elvis Hines – Signed with Kent State
  • CB Meshael Custis

Jim Harbaugh had an impressive 31 visitors at Michigan for its 2016 spring game. However, he only signed 11 of those visitors for a 35 percent success on the day. In Michigan’s case, it appears they like to invite everyone possible and go from there. It’s not a bad strategy if you wish to boast about visitor numbers, but it could affect the visit-to-signee ratio.

Something tells me Harbaugh doesn’t care much about the ratio though. He’s filling his classes just fine and he can tout high visitor numbers.

Wisconsin Football – 2016 Spring Game

(Information via BadgerNation)

2017 Recruiting Class Visitors

  • DE Jackson Perkins – Signed with Navy
  • LB Izayah Green-May – Signed with Wisconsin
  • OT Tyler Beach – Signed with Wisconsin
  • OG Logan Bruss – Signed with Wisconsin
  • QB Jack Coan – Signed with Wisconsin
  • OG Alex Fenton – Signed with Wisconsin
  • TE Jake Ferguson – Signed with Wisconsin
  • DE Aaron Vopal – Signed with Wisconsin
  • CB Nick Nelson – Hawaii transfer, signed with Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s spring game isn’t considered to be a big deal in Madison, so it’s important to remember that when considering spring game visitors. Paul Chryst hosted nine total visitors for the 2016 spring game, with eight ultimately committing. Needless to say, the Badgers had an impressive 89 percent success rate.

However, knowing Wisconsin puts more emphasis on regular season visits for recruits versus the spring game, this is a bit of a unique situation. In fact, it’s almost the outlier when looking at the Big Ten overall.

The general takeaway from all three programs is that Riley isn’t too far off. Remove Wisconsin from the mix and Riley is right in the middle of Michigan and Ohio State for turning spring game visitors to signees. It’s still not enough data to fully unlock a trend, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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