Nebraska’s expanded recruiting efforts in the state of California under coach Mike Riley received plenty of headlines during the 2017 recruiting cycle. The Huskers went toe-to-toe with some of the nation’s best programs and the “Cali-braska” efforts resulted in multiple highly ranked commitments.
But for all the attention the school's push into California has received, efforts in the state of Texas might be just as important for Riley and the school going forward.
In the 2018 cycle and beyond, the Cornhuskers are making the Lone Star State a major priority. Those efforts are about to hit an important milestone as several top targets are expected to converge on Lincoln for the program’s spring game Saturday.
“I loved it when I went up there the first time and I’m going back for the spring game,” said quarterback Grant Gunnell, a 2019 QB from Houston (Texas) St. Pius X. “I really like coach Riley and one thing he told me that I thought was awesome is that he’s trying to turn Nebraska into Quarterback U. I know he’s coached several guys that are in the NFL so he has the history to back up what he’s saying.”
Riley has taken a personal approach with several Texas natives, including four-star wide receiver Joshua Moore, the nation’s No. 119 overall player. Moore is now at IMG Academy in Florida, but is a Texas native and one of Nebraska’s top overall targets in the class regardless of position.
“I definitely feel like a priority,” Moore told Rivals.com “It's not everyday that you get to text the head coach literally every single morning. Coach Riley and (wide receivers) coach (Keith) Williams both made time to reach out to me and my parents every morning, so I definitely feel like a priority.”
According to Nate Clouse, who covers the school for Rivals.com's HuskerOnline.com, it’s no coincidence that Riley has taken such a personal interest in Texas.
"After not having signed a single player out of the state of Texas in its 2016 recruiting class, Riley publicly said he and his staff had to do better in the state going forward,” Clouse said. “Nebraska did indeed improve by signing three very nice players out of the Lone Star State in defensive tackles Damion Daniels and Deiontae Watts and offensive tackle Brenden Jaimes in 2017. The Huskers have continued to increase their presence in Texas for 2018 as they've already nearly offered just as many prospects as they did all of last year.”
To Clouse’s point, Nebraska has offered at least 29 prospects in the state of Texas in the class of 2018 alone, a number that nearly matches 2017’s 33 offers in the state with 10 months remaining until National Signing Day.
But it’s not just the offers that are worth noting; several prospects from Texas are open about their affinity for the program.
“When I got the Nebraska offer that was huge for me,” three-star Addison (Texas) Greenhill School wide receiver Kassidy Woods said. “Their fans have been hitting me up and showing me love and you can tell how badly they want to get top guys there.”
The rabid Nebraska fan base is something that several prospects mentioned when discussing the school and with a sellout expected for the spring game, it would help put the Huskers over the top for several Texas prospects.
“I want to see the fans in action,” Gunnell said. “It’s the spring game so I bet it will be crazy. It’s sold out. The fan base is awesome. They don’t have pro sports teams, all they have is football, Nebraska football, there so this is big for them.”