Mike Riley will have been Nebraska's head football coach for only two months when national signing day rolls around. He hasn't let the limited time to recruit stop him, though. Instead, Riley hit the recruiting trail hard and hasn't slowed down since.
That's what a new coach has to do, though. For Riley and his staff, there was no time to waste, so they didn't.
As a result, what can fans expect from the 61-year-old's first class? Will it be a success?
The short answer is yes.
You may be wondering how a class that hasn't been finalized yet can be called a success. It's a valid question, too. For Riley, it has everything to do with how he's handled his short time in charge of Nebraska and his vision for the future.
Of course, some fans will point to the numbers. Nebraska is currently ranked No. 36 on 247Sports' 2015 Recruiting Team Rankings. Don't let the ranking fool you, though. There is plenty of talent hidden in Riley's class.
|Nebraska's Current 2015 Commits|
|Eric Lee (Enrolled)||CB||4-Star|
|Avery Anderson (Enrolled)||ATH||4-Star|
|Aaron Williams (Enrolled)||S||3-Star|
|Dedrick Young (Enrolled)||ATH||3-Star|
That's where Riley excels, too. He's known for developing players, as ESPN's NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper noted, per Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald:
He gets the most out of his talent and he's produced NFL players. He develops players. He obviously works well with quarterbacks. He's a heck of a football coach. He's a great guy. I think he'll do a very good job. I've always been a huge Mike Riley supporter.
That's why fans can't take the final overall ranking of the 2015 class and use that to call it a success or not. A more appropriate benchmark is to look at what Riley is doing to improve recruiting at Nebraska and whether or not he's able to generate more interest for the Huskers. That's where the success ultimately lies.
Riley has already made some changes in how the Huskers recruit Nebraska. At the Outland Trophy banquet, he was clear on that.
“Our goal for the future will be to own this state—and obviously that means Omaha,” Riley said, per Rich Kaipust and Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald.
That's great news for both Nebraska high school athletes and Nebraska fans. Recruiting talent in-state has been something fans have wanted. Players and their coaches have, too.
“One thing, he told me, was that their No. 1 priority was the state of Nebraska,” Omaha Central coach Jay Ball said, per Kaipust and Nyatawa. “And on the first day available, being back here in Omaha, that says a lot.”
That focus alone can be considered a major success for Riley and his staff.
Another area in which fans can feel good about the next class is in how transparent Riley and his staff have been about it.
An obvious supporter of social media, Riley hasn't shied away from sharing "inside information" with fans. It's nice, too, if not a little shocking.
This alone makes the class feel like a bigger success for Riley. That's not to say that a tweet will make or break this recruiting class, but it doesn't hurt.
We want to share what we’re doing. And I think you see that on social media a little bit. We’re not trying to just lock the door and close the blinds. We know that what we’re doing, people are interested in, and it’s fun and it’s exciting.
That openness is also beneficial for future recruiting. Players potentially interested in Nebraska for the 2016 class are getting a firsthand look at how Riley and his staff operate. That transparency could absolutely pay off in the end.
Ultimately, Riley's first class won't be perfect. He hasn't had much time and a portion of the class wasn't recruited by him. However, what Riley is doing is building the foundation for the future.
That's what makes this class a success already, and if Riley is truly able to develop talent like so many say he can, there's little reason to believe this class can't be exactly what the Huskers need.