Despite the Mike Riley era coming to a quick end after just three seasons, there were positives to be gained from the way he and his staff recruited at Nebraska. There were certainly lessons to be learned from tactics the staff used that can serve as a blueprint, in part, for the next coaching staff.
Importance of Camps
Nebraska took a very aggressive approach to the camp circuit under Riley. The Huskers took advantage of being able to have satellite camps around the country so they could get in front of and work with more high school talent. Cornerback DiCaprio Bootle is a player that Nebraska landed from working with him at a satellite camp. Nebraska also made its Friday Night Lights camp series a destination event. They were able to get huge buzz in June from the camp that featured 5-star defensive end Micah Parsons, 4-star defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles and 4-star defensive back Houston Griffith among many others. Getting prospects on campus for game day is ideal but those additional times on campus for camps is also vital to building relationships and evaluating players.
Importance of Marketing and Increased Recruiting Staff
One of the best things Nebraska did that will have a lasting impact on how recruiting is done here going forward is beefing up the recruiting staff and increasing the amount of marketing materials done for recruiting. For years, Nebraska had lagged behind other major college programs with the amount of recruiting and support staff it employed. That changed under Riley and led the program to have a much higher recruiting profile than it had enjoyed in the past. That’s something that should be built upon and continued.
The Lesson of Calibraska
Nebraska currently does not have a single recruit in the 2018 class from California after Radley-Hiles and Chase Williams left the class. The “Calibraska movement” will be viewed as failure because the Riley tenure was a failure as a whole. However, the lesson here is not that you have to narrow down your focus to one state, but if you have good marketing as I talked about above, plus you are focused and relentless in your recruiting, a movement can catch on.
Nebraska Can Get Very Good Players to Campus
One thing Nebraska fans should hope to get used to is the number of high-caliber prospects visiting campus. This staff showed that with hard work and creativity, you can get 4-star and even 5-star prospects to visit Lincoln. It’s a small sample size for the Riley staff but the chart below shows its three-year performance of visitors on campus versus Bo Pelini’s last three years. For Riley, keep in mind that 2016 was year one and 2018 went off the rails with speculation once Shawn Eichort was fired. Given that, 2017 is the best representation of his staff operating their recruiting plan. Simply put, it’s a complete myth that coaches can’t attract high quality prospects to Lincoln. Consistent top-10 classes may be unrealistic, but top-20 classses are certainly within reach and would allow Nebraska to be competitive with proper coaching.
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.