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The best and worst of Nebraska recruiting under Mike Riley

Mike Riley
Mike Riley (AP Images)

The Mike Riley era at Nebraska was shorter than most expected it would be but Cornhusker recruiting was consistently exciting. Here are some of the recruiting highlights of Mile Riley’s tenure as well as a look at what the next Nebraska head coach has to work with.

FULL COVERAGE OF NEBRASKA'S FIRING OF MIKE RILEY: What happens to Calibraska movement? | Mind of Mike | Who is next in Lincoln? | Riley's failure to develop QBs | Recruiting misses that doomed Riley | Which teams will benefit? | Recruiting busts under Riley | HUSKERONLINE.COM


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Riley’s biggest recruiting win at Nebraska?

“It would have to be Tyjon Lindsey last year. It looked like Nebraska was in it with him but he committed to Ohio State and Nebraska kept after him, especially wide receivers coach Keith Williams. Lindsey ended up flipping a couple weeks before Signing Day. He was the highest-ranked recruit Mike Riley signed during his tenure at Nebraska. Had Bookie (2018 Rivals100 defensive back Brenden Radley-Hiles) not decommitted, he would’ve been the biggest recruiting win.” – Nate Clouse,

Riley’s biggest recruiting loss at Nebraska?

“Losing Bookie was a big loss but this could also be (2017 Rivals100 wide receiver) Joseph Lewis. Nebraska was really in the mix for him. There were a handful of California guys that came down to Signing Day last year like Joseph Lewis, Greg Johnson and Deommodre Lenoir. All three of those guys were players that Nebraska thought they might be able to get on Signing Day but they missed on all three.” – Clouse

Riley’s biggest scouting win at Nebraska?

“No question this is JD Spielman. He was arguably the top player in Minnesota last year but didn’t have a ton of options for whatever reason. Mike Riley was on him early and was really the main guy pushing that recruitment. He watched Spielman’s film and thought he was going to be the next James Rodgers or Brandin Cooks type of wide receiver. He redshirted last year and this year he’s one of the top wide receivers in the Big Ten in all-purpose yards and receiving yards. He’s arguably been Nebraska’s MVP this year.” – Clouse

Riley’s biggest scouting miss at Nebraska?

Jalin Barnett was a four-star offensive lineman in Riley’s first recruiting class and he never panned out. He’s still third or fourth string right now. Riley has only had a couple full classes at Nebraska but there are couple guys that never made it to campus after signing or ended up transferring. They landed Jordan Stevenson late after he didn’t get into Wisconsin. That looked to be a pretty big recruiting win but he came in and was just a total disaster from the second he got on campus. He showed up out of shape and overweight.” – Nate Clouse,

Riley's final roster breakdown

As you can see by the charts below, the final roster Riley played with this season had no five-star players and 19 four-stars. The challenge of recruiting to Nebraska is demonstrated in the second chart, which shows the Huskers have pulled players from an amazing 27 states, plus one player from Canada. They have multiple players from 17 states, and some of their most popular states (Florida, Louisiana, California) are not near Nebraska. With few home-state options, the Nebraska staff is always faced with the difficult task of pulling in players from all over the country.

Nebraska's Scholarship Roster by Star Ranking
Ranking Number of Players











Nebraska's Scholarship Roster by Home State
State Number of Players





Louisiana, Texas


California, Missouri




Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma


Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ontario (Canada) South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin