On Matt Rhule’s first day at Nebraska, to the media gathered inside the Hawks Championship Center and the fans inside Memorial Stadium, he explained his vision for the football program. The program builder then said how he’s going to do it.
The former Penn State walk-on linebacker said he wants speed and explosion. He wants fast guys who can make plays. He wants great quarterbacks who can command an offense and run the show. Above all, however, he wants toughness.
“At the end of the day through the weight room and recruiting we want to have a physical team that can control the line of scrimmage and control the game,” Rhule said on Monday. “I believe that is the type of team that can win in the elements. That is the type of team that can win on the road. That is the type of team that can have a lead and keep a lead. That is the type of team that Nebraskans want to see.”
Rhule stressed that last part. From a blue-collar upbringing, Nebraska’s new head coach doesn’t take fan loyalty lightly. Husker fans are immensely proud in their sellout streak approaching nearly 400 games. Those fans take their hard-earned dollars and spend them on Nebraska football games. That’s not lost on him. Nebraska intertwines its identity, as a state, with the football program. So the new ball coach wants to build a team the state can be proud of. Both in results and identity.
“That is the type of team I want to be from the spring game to practice to a mat drill to a weight lifting session to a meeting, I expect our guys to be tough,” Rhule said. “I expect them to work hard. I expect them to compete. I expect that because I and my staff will do the same thing every day.”
He described an old-school type of team. They won’t spread the field like others. And in order to do that, he said he’ll likely fill his staff with NFL experience. He’s certainly done that in his first week on the job. Running backs coach EJ Barthel, defensive line coach Terrance Knighton, offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield, special teams coordinator Ed Foley, secondary coach Evan Cooper and strength and conditioning coach Corey Campbell—all six announced hires so far—have NFL experience. Most of them are young and energetic. They fit Rhule’s vision. They’ve also jumped into the job.
Foley, Satterfield, Knighton and Rhule were all on the trail Friday, visiting high schools in and around Lincoln and Omaha. Nebraska extended scholarship offers to a handful of recruits right away. The latest came early Friday with 4-star athlete Rico Walker in Hickory, North Carolina. Walker recently decommitted from North Carolina and will play in the Under Armour All-American Game. Nebraska previously offered a few FCS standouts via the transfer portal and dual-threat football and track athletes.
On the flip side, prospects decommitted and current Huskers declared for the transfer portal. Four-star receiver Omarion Miller and 4-star athlete Malachi Coleman reopened their commitments. Receiver Decoldest Crawford, offensive lineman Brant Banks and homegrown linebacker Ernest Hausmann announced they’ll enter the transfer portal. Defensive back Jaeden Gould, receiver Kamonte Grimes and kicker Chase Contreraz are also entering the portal. It’s not unlikely the Huskers could lose more commits from its 2023 recruiting class or more players to the transfer portal. Rhule understands that. He visited Coleman on Friday to earn a new commitment from the top in-state athlete of this recruiting class.
“Everyone of these guys, it’s an anxious time for them,” Rhule said. “I’m going to tell people this is how we’ll do things, I’ll share a vision with everybody, if it’s for you great, if it’s not for you I understand.”
Nebraska will host a Junior Day on Sunday. Rhule also said he wants to host visits next weekend if possible.
“Trying to just bolster the class and get as much talent here as we can,” Rhule said. “We’ll be relentless.”