After the star-studded Friday Night Lights camp that saw some 6,812 fans show up to Memorial Stadium, Mike Riley spoke with the media about the camp, the fans and recruiting.
On Twitter, Riley called for 10,000 fans to pack the stadium for the camp. While they didn’t quite get there, around 7,000 is still an incredible turnout for a camp that lasted less than three hours.
“I didn’t know what to really expect,” Riley said. “I think it was awesome. What a great, electric atmosphere and we really appreciate it. That’s a pretty good picture for some of these guys that are both coming and thinking about coming tonight. They got a good glimpse of how our fans think of our team.”
“And maybe our future team,” Riley added, after a brief pause.
Riley said the fan atmosphere made an impression on the 200-plus campers in attendance.
“I think they really enjoyed that,” Riley said. “We all know Memorial Stadium at night is electric anyway and so you take a deal like this with some guys … Our fans are knowledgeable so they know a lot of these guys that were here tonight, and there were a lot of good players. I think both the players and the fans enjoyed it and that’s pretty special. Almost from every player that I talked to about it, none of them have ever experienced anything like this. It really makes it fun to be a part of.”
The amount of 4- and 5-star recruits who showed up to either participate or take in the atmosphere of the event reached double figures. Eight 2018 commits and at least another 14 players with Nebraska offers turned up on Friday night.
“It was a great group of athletes,” Riley said. “Almost across the board position-wise, there were some guys that were definitely prospects. There were some commitments out there, some offers, some guys that we’re really recruiting hard at this point. It was a good group. And there were some young guys; that’s always really helpful. We’re way ahead in our evaluation of 2019 and even some into ’20. We got a glimpse of one of those guys tonight too.”
All eight of Nebraska’s commits from out of the state (Manny Allen, Brendan Radley-Hiles, Mario Goodrich, Tate Wildeman, Chase Williams, Will Farniok, Joshua Moore and Barret Pickering) showed up for the camp, which Riley called a “gathering time” for the 2018 class.
“One of the good things about them being here is they get to know each other,” Riley said. “I think we have recruited a bunch of like-minded guys that have a vision like I do and they want to be great. It was fun to see that group out there tonight.”
Riley also talked about the status of the 2018 class as a whole.
“We’re well on our way with commitments for this upcoming year,” Riley said. “I had said that [completing the class by July 1] was a possibility and not necessarily a goal; we didn’t have to do that. I thought we could probably do that, but where we sit right now, we have lots of evaluation. Tonight was just kind of a confirmation of a lot of things. I hope tonight was also a really good recruiting night, that maybe through this we’re going to get another one or two commitments in this next span of time after this camp just because what we’re doing this weekend.
“We also have a big recruiting day tomorrow with a lot of these same players that were here tonight. This is kind of continuing work and I really like where we are right now. I’m really excited about how this has gone to this point. The one thing about recruiting is you can never relax because you have to keep your commitments and you have to find the next guy. But it sure is fun. I like working with our coaching staff; I think we have some bulldogs that really bust their tails to do a good job in this area.”
This was the fourth Friday Night Lights camp for Riley’s staff at Nebraska and the event has grown larger each time they hold it.
“I’m really proud of the people that are with me because for them, the night like a year ago created a think tank for them about how to grow it,” Riley said. “We keep searching for ways to do this better and I like that, I like that energy from our team. I think we have to do that in the football end of it and in the valuation and recruiting end of it. That has to be something that we keep pushing the envelope, trying to make it better. I’m proud that we go that route and the work that our guys have done in that way and I’m sure we’ll evaluate all this. We’re going to evaluate now the camp season – this is really the end of that for us – and see what was really productive, what we might change and when we do it at home what we can do better.”
Finally, Riley talked about his approach to the summer camp season and looked ahead to how the Huskers will spend the rest of the summer before fall camp begins.
“The one thing I did try to do even when we went to the camps, when we traveled, I tried to condense that travel time to one week and I didn’t take everybody,” Riley said. “I wanted to leave at least part of our coaching staff at home so they would be at our daily training sessions with our team. I didn’t not want to lose a week of that with our own team. And at the same time I wanted to have our guys out evaluating and getting started on that recruiting process with these guys at these other camps. I tried to balance it for a week. Then the rest of the weeks in the month of June, we really focused on our team.
“Next week will be an exclamation point because our coaches, after next week, will get a break and go on vacation. So next week will be for our staff, we’re going to stay in-house. We’re going to do a lot of our football camp preparation for our own team’s football camp in August and we’ll also continue to do our recruiting for this class.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.