Stay updated with Nebraska Cornhuskers football recruiting in the latest edition of The Harvest, which posts at 7:30 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. Be sure to check out previous editions of The Harvest here.
Uncertainty makes recruiting difficult
The rumors are everywhere. On the verge of completing his third straight underwhelming season as coach of the Nebraska football team, Mike Riley is firmly planted on the hot seat with three games left in the 2017 regular season. The Huskers (4-5) will need to win two of those three — they play Minnesota, Penn State and Iowa — in order to become bowl eligible.
There’s a chance the Cornhuskers will finish the regular season 5-7. Nebraska went 9-4 last season after starting 7-0. And while Huskers fans might be upset with the play on the field and want Riley gone, his placement on the hot seat has significantly impacted recruiting efforts.
The staff is working hard to grow the 2018 class, which is ranked 53rd in the country and 12th in the Big Ten. With only 10 verbal commitments, Nebraska would like to see that number push closer to 18.
“The one thing we are doing as a staff is we are going forward with the things we are supposed to do. Coach our team and recruit the next one,” Riley said earlier this week. “That’s what we’re focusing on. We have put a ton of time into this 2018 class, and like you mentioned, we had a number of really good visitors this last weekend.”
During conversations I’ve had with recruits, I’ve often heard something along the lines of, “I’m waiting to see what happens with the coaching staff.”
Nebraska has not secured a commitment since Oct. 6, when David Alston announced he would join the Huskers. The Huskers have a long way to go to reach their goal, but it will not happen until athletic director Bill Moos makes a decision about Riley.
At that point, the staff may no longer be recruiting for Nebraska.
Here’s a look at a couple more ways this coaching uncertainty impacts recruits.
Viability of assistants staying on under new coach
That is something quite uncommon in college coaching. Understandably, coaches want to hire the assistants they are comfortable with and feel will help the team. Another reason a new regime will not retain a previous coach’s assistants is because it hopes to literally “clean house.”
However, there are several reasons to retain a member or two of a coaching staff when a new coach comes in. A recent example I can think of is Dave Aranda staying on as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator (for one season after the hiring of Paul Chryst) and Aranda staying on at LSU after Ed Orgeron took over.
A coach may want to keep an assistant on staff to maintain a level of continuity within a position group. Sometimes, an assistant coach is a premier recruiter, and his prowess on the recruiting trail and ability to deliver top-end recruits — particularly in a transition class — might prompt the new head man to keep the assistant on staff.
An interesting nugget caught my eye this week. Mike Matya caught up with Mario Goodrich, a 4-star athlete committed to the Huskers, during his official visit last week. Matya reported that cornerbacks coach Donte Williams informed Goodrich that he and the staff will be back in Lincoln next season.
Here’s what Matya writes:
“I mean, I learned that coach Riley is not going to get fired, basically, and that’s always good,” Goodrich stated. “Coach Donte for sure is going to be there.”
Understandably, the Nebraska coaching staff is trying to reassure current verbal commits to prevent a slew of de-commitments in the wake of Brendan Radley-Hiles’ backing off his commitment. Perhaps Williams’ message carried a couple of other meanings.
Meaning A: The coaching staff is legitimately confident it will win two of the next three games and go to a third straight bowl game. Would that be enough for Moos to give Riley another season? The current staff is betting on the fact that it will have a full year to right the ship.
Meaning B: Williams is convinced he will be in Lincoln next year regardless of who is head coach. He and receivers coach Keith Williams have worked extremely hard on this recruiting class. Maybe the work has been twofold, with an obvious dedication to the current program and boss, with something to show a potential future Nebraska football coach.
For now, much like a Nebraska recruit, all we can do is wait and see.
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