There’s no break, Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule said. There’s no let up in this coaching staff as they try to turn around the fortunes of Nebraska football.
Rhule referenced the words of his college football coach, Penn State legend Joe Paterno, who told him to “run scared.” When asked if he could finally breathe after hitting the recruiting trail upon his hiring, Rhule said there won’t be any breathing.
“We’re in a sprint,” the head coach said. “We’re not taking a break. Now the focus is purely on the guys that are here.”
Rhule spoke for just over 30 minutes on Wednesday for a National Signing Day press conference. It’s the first time he’s spoke to local media since the Early Signing Day presser he held in December. He discussed late additions to the 2023 recruiting class, transfers, player evaluations and the roster as a whole after opening with a brief statement. Rhule opened by celebrating National Girls and Women In Sports Day, Title IX and Black History Month. He also celebrated the football team’s GPA, which he recognized the players and previous coaching staff for. Rhule said he’s texted the four former Huskers who will be involved in the upcoming Super Bowl—Cam Jurgens, Jack Stoll and Ndamukong Suh for the Eagles and DiCaprio Bootle on the Chiefs’ practice squad.
Then he pivoted attention to the team he’s coaching now. By Wednesday afternoon, Nebraska added 41 total players to its roster since the end of the 2022 season. That includes 28 high school and junior college signings, 11 arrivals through the transfer portal and the retention of both Zavier Betts and Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda. Rhule said all players expected to be on campus are at this point. The rest of the incoming class will join in the summer.
“It’s been a privilege getting to know this team. Really, really cool guys on this team,” Rhule said. “Change is always hard. A new coach is always really, really hard. Really proud of the way they’re working. They’re working really hard both on the field and off the field.”
At one point in the Rhule takeover, Nebraska ranked No. 63 in the 2023 recruiting class composite rankings. Just eight total commits to Nebraska from the previous coaching staff stayed committed and ultimately signed with the Huskers. The program cracked the top 25 in the composite recruiting rankings and No. 29 in the overall rankings when accounting for transfer portal arrivals. Plus, Nebraska added six preferred walk-ons to the program, five of them from Nebraska. He was asked about what he’s learned recruiting to Nebraska in his first year and he affirmed Nebraska can attract talent. They’re looking for a football-loving, hard working, focused and studious recruit who can excel on and off the field, he said. Then the fan base, facilities, university, campus and city adds allure.
“We should absolutely recruit well every year,” Rhule said.
He complimented local media’s coverage of special teams coordinator Ed Foley traveling across Nebraska for visits. But, just as Foley said on Monday, that’s his job and it’s a testament to the work ethic that’s to be expected by this coaching staff.
Rhule couldn’t get into roster evaluation much now because he hasn’t gotten to coach this team. The team’s total scholarship amount cracked triple digits this week with 103 scholarship players. New NCAA rules allow more flexibility in how the Huskers can trim their roster to the 85-scholarship limit. The origins of those cuts will largely involve workouts and spring ball performance.
Rhule said he’s given some of his assistant coaches time off after signing day. Most of them immediately went to work recruiting upon their hires. The head coach, meanwhile, will be in the building for the rest of the week. His aim is not only getting to build team camaraderie but build a plan for Nebraska’s 2024 and 2025 recruiting classes. February gives them a quiet month to work with before the calendar gains steam.