Nebraska coach Mike Riley announced a 20-man recruiting class Wednesday with prospects from 13 states. And the Huskers assembled the group in two months – in many cases reaffirming commitments made to the staff of former coach Bo Pelini.
Riley joked on signing day that he should write a book, “Recruiting in 60 Days.”
The Huskers finished 31st in the ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings, fourth in the Big Ten. The coach took time Wednesday to answer our questions about the recruiting experience at Nebraska:
What stands out most to you about the work you’ve done in your first two months on the job?
Mike Riley: The individuals who have signed with us will be the most important part of what we’ve done in the job in the first 60 days, because that’s what we had to throw ourselves into immediately. I’m not necessarily a fan of that. What I would rather do is spend my first 60 days getting to know the football team and really feel a part of what’s going on here. But the reality of it is, for the good of this football program and the university, that’s where we had to go.
The other part of it is, I think, as we did this, we started formulating a philosophy for the future in recruiting. I think that, as a byproduct, might be the next most important [thing] that’s happened. We’ve got an idea of how things have taken shape. We’ve seen where these guys have come from. Now, what does that mean to our future, and how do we put that into an overall plan for recruiting down the road?
How important has social media become in connecting with the players you recruit?
Riley: I think it’s another form of access that is legal that we have fully tried to be a part of. We can jump into that and have more ways to pass on information and to connect through the social media. And so, for us, in particular, in a short time period, I think it’s been really important.
How are your Twitter messages constructed?
Riley: The message comes from me. How it’s finally formulated, they’ll usually take what I have to say and make it better, so I’m good with that. That is fine with me. I’ve worked with Ryan Gunderson for a long time, so he understands the philosophy of messages that I want to put forth to young men we’re recruiting, to the parents and to our fans. So it’s actually pretty seamless. We talk about messages, and he kind of formulates it and puts it together.
Ryan’s got the keys to that car for sure. He knows way more about it than I do.
What did you find most challenging about keeping the commitments secure of players who chose Nebraska before you took over as coach?
Riley: We wanted to reconfirm Nebraska’s commitment to the guys who were already committed. Most all of them wanted to come to Nebraska. They just wanted to know in their mind that we were going to be a good fit for them as a coaching staff. One of the hurdles you run into – and it was pointed out by one of the parents – they know coaches of our opponents a lot better than they knew us. So we had to really introduce ourselves to these folks, tell them our intentions and let them decide if not only the school was a good fit, but if the coaching staff was a good fit.
What did you learn about Nebraska by representing the school on the recruiting trail?
Riley: I found it to be great recruiting for Nebraska. Doors were open right away. Take Jalin Barnett. We had been on Jalin (at Oregon State) for literally years, because we had two starters on our team from Lawton, Oklahoma. So we knew about Jalin, but the interest picked up because it was Nebraska. We were immediately more relevant to him, both in location and as a school.
You did not sign a quarterback in this class. Moving forward, what is your recruiting plan at the position?
Riley: We would like, over a period of time, to evaluate that position closely, rank them before we ever offer, offer the first guy that we rank and then go from there. From there, you’ve got to like the next guy or get out of it. You just don’t want to take them to take them. As with every position, you’re selective, but I don’t want that room to be too big. One in each class is OK, maybe a walk-on with it, but we’re not going to let it get to 10 guys. We want to get them practice. We will begin now to find that first offer and then also find the next three guys who are above the line.