I am not sure if you have noticed, but the Nebraska Cornhuskers are making noise in the papers, blogs, and message boards. And it's not because of a coach needing to look happy,or relaxed, or players getting arrested and such (some about being let go though).
It's recruiting. And it is absolutely a blast to have something to write about in the last week of June.
When you look at the current trend of Mike Riley's staff at Nebraska, the first thing anyone has noticed about recruiting, or coaching, or mostly anything, is how open he and his entire staff (coaching and support) have been. They are transparent, both in what they are doing and in the excitement they portray about their involvement.
And, it's about more than social media gifs and satellite camps, although that's a good place to start.
The strengths and weaknesses of Bo Pelini's staff became something that you could literally plan vacations around. His staff had some good points about recruiting that helped them out. At the same time, there were glaring deficiencies in how the staff went about business. They were so glaring that, in all honesty, that there was no point in bringing them up.
What Mike Riley has done, is take the bad and turn it good, and take the good and make it better.
I go to this quote from Linebacker Coach/Recruiting Coordinator Ross Els on recruiting from this ESPN Big Ten Blog piece about 2 plus years ago. It's aptly titled "Nebraska Must Be Patient In Recruiting":
"I want to be done now," Els told ESPN.com. "The problem is we aren't going to get a ton of commitments, obviously, until we get kids on campus. And because of our small population base around here, it's hard to get kids to come visit us right away when we're not paying for it. It's expensive."...
The Huskers will gladly pay for recruits to take official visits after the start of their senior year in high school, but the value of the official visit has changed as recruits are committing earlier and earlier....
...Nebraska has had to be more patient, if if not by choice. The Huskers had three verbal commits at this time last year, and only 10 of the eventual 25 signees pledged before the season. Big Red made its big recruiting push in the weeks before signing day as it hosted prospects on official visits. The 2012 class followed a similar pattern, as only five of 17 signees committed before the season.
"Some kids will make the circuit," Els said. "They'll go along that East Coast and hit four or five schools. Well, when you come to Nebraska, where else are you going to go? No place is really very close. They have to make a special trip. ... It's not an excuse. It's just a fact that it's hard to get kids up here early.
"Once we do, we've got a great shot at them because of the facilities, the people. So I'd love to be done, but we'll take 'em when we get 'em."
Els said Nebraska doesn't shy away from recruits who are anxious to make verbal commitments. In those cases, the coaches strongly encourage them to get to campus.
Nebraska often doesn't land recruits in a hurry to decide if they aren't in "that magical 500-mile radius we talk about," Els said, but because the Huskers recruit nationally, many of their targets will make several trips (unofficial and official) before finalizing their choice closer to signing day.
Els has a simple message to Husker fans anxious about the 2014 class: be patient.
"You can't compare us to Ohio State and Michigan and Notre Dame," he said. "We will not fill up that quickly. If we're filling up that quickly, it's either because we just won the national championship and everybody wants to play for us, or we might be not very selective in who we're taking. We don't throw offers out there just to throw 'em out there."
Now, the issues that Els speaks about above are the same things that Riley's staff of Ryan Gunderson, Todd McShane and such are dealing with right now. To them, it's not a roadblock but something to improve.
Later that year, Els came up with a quote about going out on a bye week to recruit:
NU will send out eight coaches to recruit this week. Head coach Bo Pelini and offensive coordinator Tim Beck are the guys who are not likely to hit the road. Recruiting coordinator Ross Els said Nebraska had a slightly less-coordinated plan of which players to visit this week vs. the first bye week, when NU visited all of its top prospects.
"This week there was some gray area of (assistants) really not deciding where they wanted to go until the last minute," Els said. "There were either options or it was a situation where we said … I don’t know. It was just different for some reason of being a little bit unsure on where to go. I guess I don’t know why."
Nebraska under Bo Pelini was a great school to recruit during the offseason. Big Red Weekends (BRW) were the staff's time to shine and get who they wanted into the fold. However, once late July/August rolled around, that was basically it till December, and that was limited till a big post-bowl January push.
Mike Riley's staff has not only been on the gas pedal since they have arrived, hosting 2 BRW's, and heading on a 5 day, 5 city, 4 state satellite camp tour. If kids aren't coming to you, you go to the kids.
Not only has the staff gone out and gone to the kids, but the openness in how they do things has excited people far and wide.
Even with the loss of Jared Bubak yesterday, Nebraska has a top 25 class nationally and is pushing to make it better and ascend in a revived Big Ten Conference. Plus, there has been so, so much work put into the classes of '17 and '18, which was another issue with the previous staff.
You can say that there's no way to really know what kind of a HC Mike Riley will be, and you're correct in saying that on the field results will be measured more than recruiting rankings on National Signing Day. However, he gets that. Riley also gets that A helps you realize B easier.
"The expectations are super high here," Riley says. "That’s what the history is at Nebraska. They weren’t losing a whole bunch of games in the past. We have to take the next step and move forward.
"There are two things that have to happen. First, recruiting has to get better. We were 30th in the nation in recruiting, and we have to get into the top 25 and higher. It’s proven that teams at the top of the recruiting charts play in championship games. The second is that we have to use our talent in the best way. We get good players, but we have to utilize them in the right way."
It's something that a lot, but not all people are noticing. The folks over at Burnt Orange Nation talked about losing Jack Stoll to Nebraska. What is their thought of Nebraska's recruiting prowess? A has-been.
The frustrating aspect of Stoll's recruitment is that Nebraska is no longer the recruiting power it once was, ranking outside the top 30 temas nationally the last two years in the 247Sports Composite team ranings, and Texas was the first major program to offer -- this wasn't a case of new tight ends coach Jeff Traylor getting in on his recruitment too late.
This is the same school that is 51st in America in recruiting right now while, again, Nebraska is 21st. Sink on that for a second.
Nebraska under Bo Pelini was a school that recruited kids who other Power 5 schools didn't go after (#DiamondsInTheRough). They were the staff that backed off when kids were being sought after other schools that were more aggressive. They were the school that went hard after kids who had "fallen through the cracks" in the third week of January. They were the school that you heard got on a recruit then moved on if the interest wasn't there immediately.
Go bury the dead horse, everyone. And allow the new ones to take in the barn.
Now, Nebraska is the school flipping kids from Miami. They have the coaches that aren't afraid to call the 5 Star #1 player in the USA and offer him. They aren't scared of heading out to someone's house. They don't get upset about what flights come in and don't come in. They would rather find a way to make it work than tell you it's really hard and they aren't sure if they have the resources to do work with in one of the country's most storied programs with a big ass budget.
Will they lose battles? Of course they will, heck they lost the battle with Bubak. Will they not get the perfect class? Probably not. However, you can say that they will get the class they need and make it work to their benefit. And that's something that Mike Riley has made a living on both sides of the ball.
You can mock, dismiss and hand wank all you want about the excitement right now and scream "LET'S SEE IT ON THE FIELD". That's fair, but it's also fair to be excited at the beginning of July about Nebraska Football.