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Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Texas Influence Increases In Matt Rhule’s Coaching, Executive Staffs at Nebraska

January 15, 2023

Matt Rhule left Texas for the NFL and, seemingly, brought large swaths of the Lone Star State with him when he returned to college football.

Nebraska’s new head coach arrived in Lincoln with a sterling reputation among Texas high school football coaches. His latest staffing and recruiting moves show a direct, intentional target on Texas. He wants grinders and high energy people with a drive to return Nebraska to national prominence. While focusing on Nebraska itself, he’s gone south to make it happen.

First, he secured the commitment of Bay City speedster Brice Turner. He was the first commit of the Rhule era at Nebraska and one of four Texans in Nebraska’s 2023 recruiting class. That also includes Riley Van Poppel and Dylan Rogers, who committed to Nebraska during Scott Frost’s tenure, as well as Princewill Umanmielen. That alone is more than the amount of Texans on Nebraska’s roster in 2022 (Michael Booker, Marques Buford and Richard Torres). Right now there are eight native Texans on the roster (those recruits, those three returning and former Baylor transfer Joshua Fleeks)—quarterback Casey Thompson and receiver Marcus Washington played at Texas but neither are from the Lone Star State.

Outside of the roster makeup, Rhule hired Texans to his coaching staff and administrative staff. Defensive coordinator Tony White largely grew up in Texas and played high school football in El Paso. Wide receivers coach Garrett McGuire, son of former Baylor assistant and current Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire, is not only from Texas but quarterbacked at Baylor. Tight ends head coach Bob Wager is a highly respected high school coach from Texas, who joined Rhule’s staff after a storied 17-season stretch leading Arlington Martin High School.

The latest reported addition to Rhule’s staff is University Interscholastic League Director of Athletics Dr. Susan Elza. Multiple outlets are reporting she’ll resign from the Texas equivalent of the Nebraska Schools Activities Association to become Rhule’s chief of staff. Sources indicate the move is expected to become official at some point this week. A former accomplished softball coach, Dr. Elza spent more than 7 years in her most recent position. While responsibilities of the role aren’t defined, she’ll likely represent Rhule in off-the-field matters, ensure a quality on-campus recruiting experience and make Texas high school coaches comfortable sending their recruits to Lincoln for visits.

Dr. Elza is in line to join the Texas High School Athletic Director Association Hall of Honor later this year.

CJ Cavazos also reportedly joined Rhule’s administrative staff as director of football relations. Cavazos is a Texas Tech graduate, former director of college and professional relations for the XFL and ran a recruiting service based in Dallas-Fort Worth for over 25 years.

Rhule and his staff are still heavily recruiting Texas for future recruiting classes. Three-star tight end Ian Flynt from Taylor High School in Katy, Texas, came to Lincoln for an official visit this weekend. He’s a Husker legacy—his father, Darren, threw shot and discus at Nebraska. Earlier in the weekend, Nebraska became the first school to offer a scholarship to freshman Jamarion Carlton out of Temple, Texas. Carlton, already 6-foot-4, 205-pounds, is a defensive end in football and a center on Temple’s basketball team. Nebraska also offered junior composite 4-star defensive end Nigel Smith out of Melissa, Texas, last week. He received a scholarship offer from the previous staff as well.

Fitting Rhule’s high-energy, aggressive recruiting push came the offer for Arlington Martin tight end Ismael Smith Flores. He’s a 3-star senior tight end who still hasn’t committed, let alone sign anywhere. He played his high school ball for Wager and he announced his offer from Nebraska on the same day Nebraska announced Wager as tight ends coach.

Rhule’s staff on and off the field comes with experience all over the country. That includes a healthy dose of Friday Night Lights.

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