Mike Riley is a much different coach than Bo Pelini. That's not to say one coaching style is better or worse than the other, but for Nebraska fans, Riley's approach seems to be working.
In his short time as the head coach of Nebraska football, Riley hasn't shied away from much. For example, when he stopped by the ESPN broadcast booth during the Holiday Bowl in December, he gladly stepped into the role of the color commentator as the game progressed.
Riley also joined other college coaches from across the country in the ESPN2 film room during the national championship game. As Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald wrote about Riley's appearance, "The new Nebraska coach wasn’t the most vocal guy in the room during the broadcast, but he often brought a different perspective when he spoke."
It's fascinating to listen to Riley. While in the ESPN2 film room, he competed with Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi for time to talk. Like Nyatawa said, he wasn't the most vocal. However, in my opinion, he was often the most poignant.
Riley knows what Nebraska fans are looking for. They're looking for a leader who doesn't scream and a coach who lets fans have a more regular look inside the life of Nebraska football. Winning is also important, but for the time being, it's about much more. That's where Riley is focused.
As a result, the Huskers' perception is changing. With national signing day around the corner, that's a good thing, too.
Speaking of recruiting, that's another area where Riley is doing things a little different. Pelini wasn't too active on social media when it came to recruiting, aside from the occasional "BOOM" tweet he and his staff would share after a recruit committed.
In Riley's case, it's all about keeping fans in the loop. That's why Riley shares where he's going when he heads out on the road.
It's a different approach than Pelini's, which is refreshing. Fans want to feel privy to important information, and Riley is allowing that.
Part of Riley's charm is his humility. When arriving in Lincoln, Nebraska, for the first time, Riley was greeted by a state that already knew who he was.
"I always thought I was a relatively unrecognizable guy," Riley said, per Eric Olson of the Associated Press (via NCAA.com). "I have appreciated the genuine welcoming. We're still undefeated, so that's a good thing as you go forward. It has been a nice entry."
It's hard not to like the guy, isn't it? That's exactly what athletic director Shawn Eichorst wanted when he looked for Nebraska's next head coach. Winning is great, but in a state with "Visit Nebraska, visit nice" as its tourism slogan, there's more to it than that.
Riley can't change the whole perception of Nebraska overnight. However, the new head coach is working hard to just be himself and make the Huskers look good while doing it.
And that's exactly what Nebraska needs.