WATCH: Mike Riley Breaks Down 2017 Recruiting Class
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

WATCH: Mike Riley Breaks Down 2017 Recruiting Class

February 02, 2017

Opening Statement:
“Excited to be here. Excited to announce the 2017 Husker Class. Very proud of the work that was done and the development of those relationships to get us to the point where we can have a class like this. Lots of people take part in the recruitment here. Everybody is all in at Nebraska. When you’re talking about recruiting these young men we owe a lot of gratitude to Life Skills, academic support, professors around campus that have taken part. Our president, chancellor, athletic director. Our athletic department in general is always really engaged in the recruiting. We appreciate all those parts it means a ton to us. So everybody plays a role in what ends up being our class. We’re excited about it. You don’t really know what’s going to come out in the end but we got about half of our kids in the class in the radius. I’m not going to make that overly dramatic but that’s interesting to me. There’s still work to be done with that whole thought. I have a goal for next year, we’re going to step up making sure we cover all of the ground in our radius thoroughly and then we hit those spots that’s going to be our identity. We hit California, Texas and Florida. We got another kid from Louisiana. We got a kid from Oklahoma. We spotted around and got some guys. Went up into Michigan and got a guy. We got a Delaware guy, that’s a good deal. As far as positions, we hit our marks where we wanted to fill in guys. Wide receiver is not quiet full, but pretty close, probably okay because I don’t know if you want more than three to four guys in a class at one spot anyways. So I think this will be alright, we will save that for the recruitment for next year. John Parrella did a terrific job, really good group of kids. Excited about that group. We are kind of looking forward to how this develops in the future, we are tweaking plans as we speak all areas where guys recruit, position recruiting. We had a long meeting yesterday about recruiting the 2018 kids so we are on to it and getting ready to go. The next order of business for us will be the hiring of our next coach and then getting ready for spring practice which will be fun to do with this group. The 2017 Huskers are ready to go.”
On the receivers:
“Well we got Jaevon McQuitty, he’s a perfect fit for us right now. Jaevon has been committed for a while and is in school. You got Keyshawn Johnson Jr., who his recruitment and then commitment and him being here already. I think when you go back to that, which sparked a lot of momentum for the Huskers with this recruiting class. I think that Keyshawn Jr. is somewhat of a magnet and I think the other guy with him at his high school is Tristian Gebbia. That was a good deal for us. We have Tristian, we have Keyshawn and then the other receiver that really is a dynamic player is Tyjon Lindsey. We love that group. Maybe we would like to have one or two more guys but like I said, when you get a lot of guys in one class and you start trying to fit them into play, it becomes a little tougher. We are going to say this is the perfect number and go forward and we love these guys so it worked out real well.”
On the amount of kids from California:
“I would say four might be high end, but I would say two or three are alright. When I look at this, I’m not going to get overly anal on ‘this is what we should get out of it.’ The one thing is we found that we did really well in California. I mean even down to today, you saw it right with a bunch of really good players. I don’t mind that, I hate losing at the end but I think it proves once again that we got four guys that wanted to come. We love it. We shot our bullets at eight guys, there’s nothing wrong with that, they are really great players. Is it always going to work out like that? I don’t think so. We are after the right people, we are down to the last day. We got half of that number. Elijah Blades is the one we got in the end and Tyjon Lindsey, two pretty high profile guys that choose Nebraska. We are doing the right thing. I think the question is a good one because I think it is always about where you put your man power and where you’re going to put your time. You want to be fruitful in that. I think as we go and as we get earlier starts as we have now once again. We are earlier last year than the year before and we are earlier today than we were last year so going onto ’18. As we know that, we are getting a better picture of earlier of where to really pinpoint. ‘Is this guy an explorer? Does he want to reach out and try something new?’ The more we can find that out earlier, the better. We went after Foster Sarell in a great way. He’s the number one lineman in the country. We got down to the last two or three with him. Had we known that Stanford was his dream school since he was a little kid, maybe we wouldn’t have spent that much time on it. Maybe we would have because we always think we can win. You got to make those kinds of decisions and then you go. I don’t have any regrets about that and this is really good class. That’s whatever you look at it as high teens early 20’s, I want to do better next year. We are on our way to start to do that. I’m excited about this group and this will be a great addition to what we are trying to get done here.”
On filling the lines:
“It’s always going to be linemen we get. I don’t care if our numbers don’t say it. We can get good linemen, we are going to take them. Linemen and cornerbacks. Corners and defensive backs are gold. Next year you’ll find a long list of defensive backs on signing day. You know we have those marks that we have to fill, those numbers that are important there. I think that it is important for us to have that in mind at the same time at those positions but we find the guys, we have a connection, we love this guy. I don’t care what the numbers say, we’ll go get him.”
On the Nebraska recruits:
“There’s four total and it’s a sign that everybody can take note of that we are going to do our diligence in our home state as we are in the radius and we want to make sure we do it justice. I know it was a late offer to Chris Walker, but we have watched him for a long time. We had a lot of eyes on him through his senior year. We wanted a senior year evaluation on it and when we felt we were right that he would be a great addition to this group, we went on it and we were fortunate to get it. I think that when these guys are at that level to be offered by Nebraska and they are in state, it ends up being a tremendous bonus for our fans and all the people in the state that have watched these kids grow and play. To see them continue as so many have in the past, it’s kind of especially exciting for all of us to do that. We get to watch these guys more than any other place in the country and we’re proud to have these guys join us, they’ll do well.”
On recruiting process of Ben Miles:
“We have had some guys committed for a long time, I’m trying to recall two people, Ben Miles was one of them. One of the first things I did was thank him on his long standing commitment and loyalty to what he said. That is great for us, obviously simplifies things knowing what we can count on, on signing day. Not every guy is built like that, equipped like that, ready to do that. It can be in this day and age very, very confusing to give the kids a little benefit of the doubt. None of us like that. We like to say okay we can count on it, that’s going to be done, that’s not necessary in reality. I hope it gets back to that. I hope there is more training about that. I hope that there are some families that when they commit, they just tell you point blank ‘we have saved this because there’s only going to be one commitment from this kid. This is what he wants to do.’ Like I said not everybody is we equipped like that or knows. These are young guys. In some respects, we give them the benefit of the doubt. We get it, although it can be very disappointing. It does make you wonder about [if] more information earlier might have helped you know what was kind of in the works. I don’t know if you can find that out. That particular case you’re talking about was a little bit over the top. I got three commitments from the guy so that might be a record.”
On Jamire Calvin:
“When he says to you ‘well it’s not over’ then my reaction is well what does that mean to us? It basically meant to keep recruiting him and so we played it kind of slow. We didn’t do much and let him think things out. I had already been to the house and visited him. There’s some of these things you can’t predict. With the way things are going and their commitments and decommitments and the flipping and all that, this basically was instigated by him. We just took our time with it. We weren’t even aware at the fact that he had recommitted to us on Friday. We were on the plane. Got off and the phones all had it on there that this had happened. What do you do? What do you say?”
On John Parrella and Guy Thomas’ relationship:
“John [Parrella] did a great job with these guys. Guy Thomas obviously had many options and took a trip as late as this last weekend. We did not know for sure what was going to happen but John was confident. John did what I think is probably the most important thing in recruiting, he built up a great deal of trust with Guy. They talked pretty openly and John felt confident, made us all feel good about it and Guy ended up signing. We appreciate that. Damien [Daniels], he recruited long and hard for a long period of time. I can tell with the kind of work that is done when I end up getting my time to go on the home [visits] and the ground work that’s been laid becomes pretty easy. John did an outstanding job with all of that group. Those two guys in particular.”
On Donte Williams as a recruiter:
“Donte [Williams], is one of those guys that builds that relationship and trust with guys that travel. It’s hard for a guy that changed jobs and pull guys with him because it creates some doubt in there but there were a number of these guys that were very loyal to him and appreciated that relationship, he stayed with it. He’s a connector. Elijah Blades is not here without Donte Williams. There’s no doubt about it. He did an outstanding job. The whole recruiting process is to find the right guys because you can never discount the evaluation, you’ve got to do a good thorough job on the person and the played and making sure he’s the right fit. Then it’s the building through time and that’s the way to like it. Through the course of time that’s what we’ll do for `18 as we begin again for another class.”
On wide receivers:
“It’s a possibility that they [Keyshawn Johnson Jr., Tyjon Lindsey and Jaevon McQuitty] could [play], I do. I won’t commit to what that means. I will say if they do not redshirt, they will be playing in the games. We’re not going to halfway go with a freshman. That’s the edict around here. That’s what I tell the coaches, if we’re not going to redshirt a guy then he’s in the ball games. These guys have a chance, two of them are here right now that will be able to go through spring ball which will help them a lot. The other one is simply a terrific player. Reminds me of another guy I had who I thought was for sure a redshirt and ended up in fall camp doing so many things that he had to play. Then he became an All-American, James Rodgers. So camp can do that for a guy. They are just going to have to play and prove that they’re ready, opportunity is great, and losing three senior players is hard. The receiving deal is full of opportunity for guys to make head way and playing in the games.

On recruiting quarterbacks:
“What I want to do is win and we’ll get the best guy to do that. We want a passer, we want a guy that can pass the ball. If that guy can run too that is really good. We’re not going to turn down one of those dual threat guys at all. As a matter of fact, some guys that are high on our list for next year are that kind of guy. What we know now is we can blend what we have done in the past with what we have learned to do in these past couple of years. I like that a lot, there are some elements that we put in over the last couple of years because of the skill set of Tommy [Armstrong Jr.] that are going to be good for us going forward in the future. I am excited about it. It’s going to be good for Nebraska and it’s going to be good for our coaches and it’s going to be good for our playbook. I think that that has to be forever revolving around your people. I don’t expect to have anyone who can run like Tommy. But does that mean a guy can’t run his own read or do some of the stuff that we did? Absolutely not. It might not be a 30-yard gain, it might be a 10-yard gain, but we’ll take it. I think it puts unique pressure on the defense. We’ll select some things to make part of our identity. Frankly, these guys have all done that at some point in their career. They have done a little bit of it in some way.”
On open scholarships:
“I love that versatility which will carry through to that time and see what might be available. We had some options last year that we weren’t able to take advantage of. This year we will be if it’s the right guy.”
On the signing class as a whole:
“All are really confident guys. Ben Miles gives us a guy that can do a lot of what we’ve done before with a fullback. We can just move him out a little bit and he can do a lot of what we’ve done before as an H-back. This guy is a really good player and he’s versatile. The two tight ends I’m very excited about, because we need that surface of tight end blocking. When we have really good wide outs and a really good quarterback who can throw the ball to some of these guys, the better your tight end is as a threat, the more choices your defense has to think about who they can double cover. We’ve got versatile guys here, and guys that are going to be big, good looking guys with those pads on when they walk on the field. I could go position by position, but that’s what we wanted, and that’s what we got.”
On Les Miles:
“I’ve really been excited to know Les [Miles] through this process. I really didn’t know him at all except through TV and watching him coach. Really enjoyed the home visit. Really proud that that family chose Nebraska. I think all of Nebraska should be proud and feel good about that with his experience. That he would open the door for his son to come to this school, I think it says a lot about this school. We want to create that momentum and excitement, and build it and do better.”
On the walk-ons:
“We had all the walk-ons in on Sunday for a visit. We put them and their families through the steps of going to college and getting enrolled and doing the tours. I talked to them about the development of the program and how excited we are about having them in the program. What we have created for them is an opportunity and what they gathered is a responsibility to be a Nebraska football player at the highest level. They create the story as they go. As you know, there are a lot of great stories about walk-on players at Nebraska. This is not just your normal walk-on situation. These guys have been selected. It’s hard to get to this number because of the number of kids who are interested in walking on. We’re excited about this group.”
On Tyjon Lindsey:
“We’re just glad we got him. We are excited to have him. I like the guy. You’ll like his demeanor. He’s confident, not cocky. He’s really good. He’s dynamic, he loves football. I think he can contribute. For what we have done in our past offensively, he checks off a lot of boxes. The guy can do a lot of stuff.”
On recruiting:
“It’s more of a check for me and a message to the staff that we did well in California, or got back into Texas. Or we got our guys out of Florida. But I don’t want us to forget that we can get guys here. So I really want to hit that radius hard. I want to make sure that every guy who might be a prospect in Kansas City is on our campus in a couple of months. Same thing with St. Louis. I think we can do better there. There’s lots of athletes. I think we can find the right guy for Nebraska. We’ve already got some pretty good players there. We got another guy out of Indiana. I think that says something. This is all reachable, these folks can drive here. I want to start this thing from the inside out. We’ll know about our guys that we’re going to go after. We’ve already offered lots of guys. We know the guys in California. We have to do a good job from right here in our radius because those are the guys that we can actually get here first.”
On possible changes to an early signing period:
“I think the earlier visits are great. If you ever talk about an earlier signing day, you better have the same conversation about earlier visits. I will say, I wish they would have gone ahead and done it, July 1. If that indeed becomes the situation where you can visit April, May, June, and can’t sign until mid-December, do you want that visit then or do we want that visit at a game? If we could have that visit and then sign guys July 1, let’s do it. But if we have to wait until December, and we don’t get to bring a guy in for one of our games. What we have found is that the game is a great experience for these guys. Half of our early commitments had been to the Spring Game. About half of our signees have been on our campus before July 1. It will be great to be able to pay for that visit. I think that’s right for these families. I think we chickened out at the end. Make that early signing day, and then we’ve got something to talk about. Now we have some decisions to make on the visits. There is some strategy involved that I’m not sure about.”
On camps:
“We’re going to have to be selective on the number of camps that we have here in Lincoln, which we still want to have. We’re unlimited to the number of youth camps that we can have, which is good. Our coaches and players can be involved in coaching those kids. That’s what camp used to be about. Now, we’re talking camps about recruiting. Like our Friday Night Lights, we want to maintain that situation here, and maybe there’s three of those. Then when we go, we have to select seven other spots that will be valuable for us in that way. It’s only staff members now. You have to be careful on how you do that, but I think it will work. I think that rule is necessary. It was going haywire out there. And the fact that where the camps can be was smart. Whatever it is, it’s a total of ten camps.”
On Elijah Blades:
“I only hoped I knew what he was going to do today. I think we have a good core coming back, but to think that we don’t have a young guy coming in to be involved. This guy will be involved with that group as far as pushing in there to play. This gives us one more real competitive guy to look at for winning the games this fall.”
On picking the new safety’s coach:
“We aren’t close. We have started the process of interviewing a guy today, the first one. I don’t want to put anyone on edge by saying this is going to be the day when we’re going to announce. But we have started it. I will add, the sooner the better for everybody. But I’m not going to hurry to the point where I don’t feel comfortable. We have to pick the right guy.”
On the defensive recruits:
“When you look at it from the front first, it’s outstanding. Four guys there is good. With the 3-4 defense, a guy like Guy Thomas might be that short side of the field outside backer that is that tweener guy between a 4-3 defensive end and an outside linebacker who can rush the passer and do a little pass coverage. Lots of length, lots of athletic ability, and speed. If we put him up there right now, you’d say, he’s a good looking outside linebacker. Then you get into the true backers, Andrew Ward and Avery Roberts. Those are good football players. Just getting Elijah in this group really helped everybody feel good about what we added even though it wasn’t deep in the secondary.”
On roster changes:
“Christian Bailey is not going to play next year. He’s graduating and is going to go on to pursue the next step of his life. We appreciate him and his time. He’s been fun to work with.”

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