When it comes to building a successful college football program, there are a number of things necessary to succeed. A few of these necessities are athletes, fans, coaches, and administrative support.
Lately, Nebraska football has been bringing in a high number of elite level athletes into their program. As of the writing of this article, with only 10 commitments, the Huskers rank 21st in the country according to the 247 Sports Composite Rankings. Out of the 10 commitments, 6 of the athletes are 4-star prospects.
When it comes to bringing in top tier athletes, a large number of prospects talk about the fan interest in a collegiate program. The current staff at Nebraska, led by head coach Mike Riley has taken this idea to heart.
A few weeks ago, on June 22nd, the Huskers head coach sent out a tweet asking if the Big Red faithful could pack 10,000 fans into Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium to watch the 2nd of Nebraska’s 3 Friday Night Lights camp. While they were not quite able to reach Coach Riley’s lofty goal, they did have an official attendance of 6,718, although several reports from journalists who were there had the number closer to 8,000.
Let’s take a minute and examine this concept. At this camp was an unprecedented number of 4-star prospects, as well as 5-star defensive end prospect Micah Parsons. The Huskers coaching staff was able to analyze these players, while also showing off the fan base that Nebraska possesses as well. In addition, the attendance at the camp was greater than 92 other NCAA Division I programs had at their respective spring games.
Having the current coaching regime utilize the fans as a recruiting tool pales in comparison to the previous staff. It is no large secret that Bo Pelini loathed recruiting, but he also fostered an “us against the world” mentality in his program. By not utilizing the passion of the fans, it led to underwhelming results in recruiting. In 7 seasons at the helm of the Huskers, Pelini averaged a 30.28 class ranking according to 247 Sports.
While Mike Riley has only 3 seasons to compare to Pelini’s 7, his average of 26.33 is a vast improvement. As a matter of fact, Riley has not had a class ranked below 30th, which is higher than what Pelini’s average over 7 seasons was.
It is no surprise that for the most part, recruiting rankings directly reflect a team’s success on the field. If you look at the top 5 in recruiting rankings for the past several seasons, you will see names like Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Florida State, and Oklahoma. These are teams that are very much in the picture year in and year out for the College Football Playoff.
How high can Nebraska’s recruiting reach if the coaching staff continues to utilize the fans? If I had a crystal ball, I would certainly tell you. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see, but the trajectory is certainly heading upwards.