Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Coaching Staff Giving Everyone a Chance to Earn Their Spot on Husker Football Team

February 03, 2023

Nebraska added a final incoming freshman to its 2023 recruiting class on National Signing Day. That signing moved the Huskers’ 2023 recruiting class up to 39 signings. Eleven of those were transfer portal arrivals, 28 were high school or junior college signings. In total, the Huskers added 41 new players who were not on the team’s final 2022 roster—if receivers Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda and Zavier Betts are included.

Head coach Matt Rhule supported Betts and Garcia-Castaneda on Wednesday. He said he’ll take cases like theirs on a case-by-case basis. A phone call introduced him to Zavier Betts. Since then, he’s rooted for Betts and holds excitement for on-the-field and classroom accomplishments. Garcia-Castaneda reached out to Rhule. The receiver entered the transfer portal following Scott Frost’s termination. He saw limited snaps, let alone targets, under former interim head coach Mickey Joseph. Garcia-Castaneda ultimately withdrew from the portal and instead redshirted in 2022.

Rhule decided to give them both another chance.

“Give everybody a chance and then go through the spring and then, people are going to see the standards and how we do things and they’ll either decide that they want to do it or not,” Rhule said on Wednesday.

That is Nebraska’s coaching staff’s intention for spring ball and going into the 2023 season. As of National Signing Day, Nebraska’s roster includes 148 total athletes with 103 on scholarship. NCAA rules on certain recruiting class limitations were repealed so Nebraska needs to simply be at 85 scholarship players on roster this fall. Nebraska can get creative doing that.

Lincoln Riley, for example, might have laid the blueprint last season. USC needed to lose over 40 players in order to meet the 85-scholarship limit. Some of those numbers happened via the transfer portal, exhausting eligibility and declaring for the NFL Draft. For some remaining “cuts,” the school’s compliance department found an NCAA bylaw. That bylaw allowed a new coach to trim his roster for up to a year as long as the school honors that player’s scholarship if said player doesn’t transfer. Those players aren’t on the football roster but don’t count towards scholarship limitations. Meanwhile, that former player still receives medical, mental health and academic benefits afforded by the scholarship.

“We are obviously over on scholarships right now,” Rhule said. “There are so many new rules now that allow you to do things to get there, so we will work on that as we go. We have kind of remade the team, and I think the team that is here is remaking themselves in the weight room right now.”

Rhule said they’ll take a deeper look at the roster with the athletics and compliance department to make sure the roster is Title IX compliant. He wasn’t sure about the number but wants to make sure everyone on the team receives the same resources.

A quick breakdown of Nebraska’s listed football scholarship shows six quarterbacks, six running backs, 16 wide receivers, eight tight ends, 15 offensive linemen, 12 defensive linemen, four edge rushers, nine linebackers, four nickels, 19 defensive backs, two kickers, one long snapper and one punter.

Winter workouts and spring ball will likely go a long way in determining how that shakes out. Based upon Rhule’s comments, it’s realistic some will transfer out during the May portal window. That window is for those who might not see themselves fitting into Rhule’s vision for the program. Players could transfer for a lack of foreseeable playing time or just not being a fit under a coaching staff that didn’t originally recruit them. Basically, the Rhule coaching staff is establishing a high floor for player culture. That’s on the field and off. All of that in effort to turnaround the fortunes for Husker football. Some of the players recruited to do that by the previous staff won’t be around to see the vision come to fruition.

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