The press conference to introduce Mike Riley as the new head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers Football program is coming down in about a hour or so. There will be questions asked and answered, but do you know truly about the man who is taking over North Stadium?
For that, I reached out to our Oregon State SBNation community Building the Dam, and site manager Andy Woolrdridge welcomed my questions with open arms.
They do run a very good site there, so check them out and see what they said as Riley left Corvallis and headed to the Midwest.
1. Well, this all went down out of left field. Care to tell us what Nebraska should expect out of Mike Riley?
A guy who even if the performance on the field isn't up to standard, won't embarrass the university with bad behavior. A coach who will be as open with the press and the fan base as any. And a pro-style, passing offense that tries to be balanced with the run.
How good a defense the Huskers will get will probably depend on how he puts his staff together. Riley tends to trust his Defensive Coordinator and his staff with the defense, while he has usually concentrated on the offense.
2. He’s not won a lot in Corvallis, but he’s developed some Quarterbacks and Wideouts on offense. What does he bring to development behind center?
An emphasis on the fundamentals that the pro game, at least as we long knew it, have preferred. A strong arm, reading the defense and working the progressions, and an emphasis to the wideouts on precise route running.
He will also incorporate tight ends, often 2 or 3 of them at a time. This is often the real ace in the hole for the quarterback.
3. Could his age (61) be a big issue in how many years he has left in the coaching ranks?
Coach Riley is in excellent health, and he has said he has no intention of retiring any time soon. Some have speculated that he has been slowing down, as one of the causes for the recent decline at Oregon St., but taking on the Nebraska job suggests to me that he's still up for a challenge.
We discussed this today, and while 10 years might be an extreme outer limit, 5-7 more years is not an unreasonable expectation, and that's longer than the average coaching tenure.
4. What was the mood with Riley and the fan base after this season? There had been rumblings (from your site even) about Riley possibly being on the hot seat.
There was definitely growing discontent among Beaver Nation as the losses mounted, and something had to change, though most expected it to be some mix of changed offensive schemes and staffing shakeups, not this.
The general feeling was that his preferred style was becoming increasingly hard to recruit enough players to run to its potential, given the prevailing trend in the west to spread offenses at the high school level, especially enough linemen. That last part is a key difference headed to Nebraska, where a good supply of large linemen won't be a problem.
5. Recruiting looks somewhat lackluster at Oregon State. Is that because of being in Eugene’s shadow? Could Riley flourish in that aspect in Lincoln?
A better adjective might be uneven. Oregon St. has had some good recruits, but had trouble with breadth and depth, and that's been what's really got them in trouble. Success in Eugene hasn't helped, but the Beavers have targeted a different athlete in many cases. Washington has re-arisen as a bigger challenge on the recruiting trail.
Riley should do well in the mid-west, where his easy-going personal demeanor will probably play well. He's also had some success in Texas, and I'd expect it will be easier to sell a young Texas kid on going to Lincoln than Corvallis, so that should help the Huskers.
6. What assistants do you think Mike will bring from Corvallis? All or none, or some?
Certainly some, as he always has kept many of his inner circle together. Whether its most or not could ultimately determine his success at Nebraska, though, as several of his most senior staffers are the ones that people were becoming the most concerned about, specifically long time Defensive Coordinator Mark Banker, o-line coach Mike Cavanaugh, and special teams coach Bruce Read.
Some of his younger assistants, specifically LB coach Trent Bray and assistant line/TE coach Tavita Thompson, as well as defensive line coach Joe Seumalo, could be especially good hires, and are assistants many here hope stick around.
7. Finally, what would you like to say to Riley as he embarks to the Midwest from the Northwest?
Thanks for the good things you did, and good luck! Perhaps we will meet up in Pasadena in a few years.