In less than a month as Nebraska football head coach, Matt Rhule has distinguished himself.
Of course, he hasn’t done so through on-field metrics, or even offseason accomplishments. Rhule has built a solid staff and impressed with his recruiting work so far, but that perception usually exists with new coaches.
Instead, Rhule has made his mark so far on Twitter. Through vague strings of emojis, other cryptic tweets and occasional pictures of locations he’s at, he’s certainly drawn attention for his posting.
The Huskers have only had four football coaches who have been able to have a significant Twitter presence while coaching the team. It’s early, and it’s the offseason, but Rhule might be the most consistently online. It’s certainly a stark contrast from Scott Frost’s posting habits.
The current head coach’s press conference Wednesday not only provided him the chance to discuss the program’s signing class and his staff so far, but explain his social media impact.
Rhule said that his use of social media mostly comes as a tool for him to communicate with his audience. He doesn’t spend tons of time reading the remarks of others — online remarks made toward a coach aren’t “super flattering” sometimes — but it’s a way for him to display who he is and the identity the program will take on.
“I can also send a message about who we are,” Rhule said. “That we are going to be an old school program with a new school look. We are going to do things the modern way but retain old school values.”
I have to laugh a little bit at modernity taking the form of emoji-filled tweets. His Twitter feed doesn’t necessarily make him blend in with the younger generations. If his style of speaking in his introductory press conference was likened to that of a preacher, his posts have given the vibes of a youth pastor trying to relate.
Of course, that’s not actually a criticism. The specifics of the tweets aren’t really important. As the coach said, it has served as a way for him to connect with others early on in his time at Nebraska. He mentioned wanting to be involved in the community in his first press conference, and while he was referring to being out and about in Lincoln at the time, the online presence also accomplishes this.
It’s been evident on Twitter already, but Rhule said his posts have been received well.
“It has been fun,” he said. “My mom calls me every day asking me to explain what this emoji means and what this emoji means and that has kind of taken on a life of its own. I have recruits asking me if I can say this, so if recruits are asking me to do it, I will do it.”
Most, if not all of his notable tweets have had to do with recruiting. When No. 1 2024 recruit Dylan Raiola decommitted from Ohio State, Rhule tweeted a gif that picked up some attention.
Shortly after Rahmir Stewart, a three-star safety from Philadelphia, announced his commitment to Nebraska, the coach let out a chain of emojis that included a reference to Philly cheesesteak. He also visited a recruit’s mom’s restaurant, posting a picture of his food then circling back to it when Princewill Umanmielen committed.
It’s not hard to see the appeal for a recruit here. It’s unique and draws attention, while also being a part of the coach’s personal connection with the player.
Not all of it has been fully wholesome, however. Rhule seemed to choose cryptic violence in a tweet featuring a duck and raised hands next to money bag and ghost emojis. That message was popularly interpreted as some type of shot at Oregon and Miami.
He also drew ire from Colorado fans upon retweeting that Mario Buford had been offered by the Buffaloes and new head coach Deion Sanders. There’s a small bit of justification here in that he’s related to current Husker safety Marques Buford Jr., but it’s not like Rhule’s been promoting all of the 2024 defensive back’s offers.
The Huskers just beat out Colorado for four-star Malachi Coleman, and the rivals will play each other next season.
That leads well into a fun question — how will this continue as time goes on? The tweets have mostly been limited to recruiting and generally having some fun, and I wonder how much of that energy will continue when the next season gets underway. It’ll also be interesting to see if and how these habits are dependent on team success.
Nebraska has certainly gotten familiar with being dunked on over social media for a variety of reasons in recent years. If Rhule loses a big game, will a team emulate his tweeting style for a postgame tweet? How many people will throw out the (very dumb) “Maybe he should stop tweeting so much and focus on coaching” take?
None of that really matters much, of course. I’d like to see these posts continue, even if I occasionally cringe at some. I enjoy the fun things that college football coaches and programs do, whether it be the flashiness that Sanders has brought to Colorado or Rhule’s tweets.