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Nebraska Recruiting: Is It Time to Talk About Calibraska Again?

July 07, 2022

Recruiting never stops and it’s easy to miss the top stories day-to-day. Hail Varsity recaps all things Nebraska recruiting news, analysis and more so you never miss a thing.

You probably remember Calibraska. It was a recruiting movement during the Mike Riley era—or maybe just a catchphrase—and it was fun until the Riley years weren’t. In the 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 classes (the last one mostly recruited by Riley’s staff in the first year of early signing, but signed by Scott Frost), Nebraska landed 12 players from California. From those 12, which included two quarterbacks and some high-profile receivers, the Huskers basically had two starters in the secondary to show for it when it was all said and done—cornerback Lamar Jackson and safety Marquel Dismuke.

You also probably remember the Alamo Texas. In what must only soothe the state’s ego, Texas has taken on somewhat mythic proportions in Nebraska recruiting circles. The move to the Big Ten severed the Huskers’ direct tie to the state, and, since that coincides pretty well with the program’s current downturn, it makes for a convenient explanation for Nebraska’s present standing. Not the explanation. An explanation, but a fairly popular one.

I’ve never fully bought the Texas talk for a couple of reasons. Nebraska recruited the state well while it was in the Big Eight, a conference that included no Texas schools. Two of the greatest Huskers from Texas, Turner Gill and Broderick Thomas, never played a game in their home state. Did playing in the Big 12 starting in 1996 offer another thing to pitch to Lone Star Staters?

Sure. From 1973 to 1995, Nebraska signed an average of 2.3 Texans per class. During the Big 12 years, 1996 to 2010, it jumped to 3.7, and the Huskers have signed an average of 2.4 Texans per class in the Big Ten era.

There you go, proof that playing in Texas mattered in Texas recruiting. Yeah, maybe. Maybe even “probably,” but I can’t attribute all of the 1.4 extra Texans a year during the Big 12 years to simply being able to say, “you can play in front of friends and family at least once every year.” There are too many other factors—staff makeup, emphasis placed on the state, recruiting budget, etc.

The other big hurdle for me with the Texas thing? California has supplied Nebraska as many scholarship players as Texas has since 1973. From Tom Osborne’s first season through the 2022 class, the Huskers signed 45 Californians and 46 Texans. Nebraska averaged 2.4 signees per class from California during the Big Eight years (1973–95) of this span, 3.1 during the Big 12 years (thanks largely to Bill Callahan) and 2.1 during the Big Ten years since. That’s all without playing in the state on any sort of regular basis.

Though the Huskers will in the Big Ten of 2024 thanks to the additions of UCLA and USC. Good news for a Calibrevival? I think it’s good news for the Bruins and Trojans first because the conference switch should help those programs keep top in-state talent home (which has been a problem of late). The starting quarterbacks at Alabama and Ohio State played high school football in California, for example, and they’re pretty good. Guys that good will always have the opportunity to go anywhere, but it’s the tier just below that where USC and UCLA could see some benefit. All of the sudden they can pitch Californians Big Ten football without leaving your home (state). Yes, you’ll play in the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl. You’ll also play in the Big House and the Horseshoe.

Oregon can’t pitch that. Washington can’t. The two programs that always probably should pick first in California anyway, now have something that should help get them back to their rightful spots.

Outside of those two, Nebraska probably should benefit the most from the Big Ten’s westward expansion. Not because it’s the next “closest” school. Not because it can pitch a game in the neighborhood to native Californians in the near future. (If I don’t fully buy that as something lost in Texas, I can’t fully buy it as something gained here.) It’s simply because, for the past 50 years, Nebraska has almost always counted on California as a piece of its national-by-necessity recruiting puzzle.

For that reason, the history intersecting with a new direct link, the Huskers might want to devote a few more assets out west.

Though if you want to horse-race this thing, Texas v. California, Texas might be a slight favorite. Nebraska’s signed a player from each state in the past two recruiting classes. It has two Texans committed for 2023. Running backs coach Bryan Applewhite was at TCU and Mickey Joseph wasn’t far away at LSU. They have connections in Texas. New recruiting director Vince Guinta was most recently at Baylor before moving to Lincoln. (Though he was also on the Callahan staff that signed 24 Californians in four years, and Guinta, a Utah alum, has a Pac-12 stint on his résumé, too.)

Give me Texas by a neck, but it won’t surprise me if California closes strong in the years ahead. Just like it’s always been at Nebraska for the past five decades. Now if the play can follow a similar path . . .

Recruit Watch

>>Defensive back Mario Buford––Nebraska target, Texan and brother current Husker Marques Buford––was named a top-300 recruit in the 2024 class by ESPN.

>>If you’re reading this before midnight on Thursday, current Husker running back Emmett Johnson could still use some votes in this national high school player of the year race.


>>Erin Sorensen and Hurrdat Sports’ Ana Bellinghausen discuss the Huskers’ roster updates.

>>The latest Mind Your Own podcast is here.

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