Reasons for optimism in the Mike Riley era

The Huskers have a new man captaining the Nebraska ship. Can he pull the boat out of rough waters?

The Bo Pelini era at Nebraska is over. While the headlines are still heavy with Pelini flavor, Husker football is now a ship with Mike Riley as its captain.

There are several reasons to be optimistic about the direction of this ship. We are going to look at three major reasons Nebraska fans have to look forward to a bright future.

Experience: One thing many Husker fans desired was getting a head coach with experience. No more growing pains from learning on the job. The feeling was the coordinator route had been tried before with Pelini.

“I love coaching football and I have coached now for 40 years,” said Riley at his introductory press conference in early December. 21 of those years have been as a head coach in the CFL, NFL, and on the college level. Husker fans wanted experience? Well, they got it. Riley knows what it means to be a coach, recruit, deal with media, represent a university, and every other aspect of being a head coach. There won’t be growing pains as he “learns the role.”

Reputation: There might not be a better statesman in all of college football. Riley is highly regarded by nearly everyone in the profession.

“Mike Riley is a tremendous football coach, a man of high character and virtue, a wonderful husband and father, and the son of a football coach,” said athletic director Shawn Eichorst at Riley’s introduction press conference.

Let’s face it, Bo Pelini fractured the fan base and created a hostile relationship between Nebraska and the rest of the college football world. Some real healing needs to take place and a new culture must be created. Riley is a man capable of accomplishing this as he leads the football team. While it’s never good to get hung up too much on the past, a demeanor that resembles Tom Osborne ought to be very welcomed by everyone at this point.

Beyond his reputation as a person is his reputation a football coach. “Speaking to knowledgeable football people around the country, Mike is held in high regard for his football intelligence on both sides of the ball, for his approach in teaching the game, for his ability to get the most out of his student-athletes,” said Eichorst. “He is a great recruiter, a great motivator, and I am confident his staff will only complement his exceptional abilities.”

One thing that helps Riley in recruiting is both his reputation and his NFL experience. Parents and high and schools coaches will be made well aware of Riley’s reputation and student-athletes love the thought of playing for someone who coached, “in the league.”

Teacher and Developer: The most crucial thing Riley brings to the table is his ability as a teacher and developer of football players. Without a strong home recruiting base, it is crucial that Nebraska has someone who can develop talent with the best in the nation. It is this ability that has put Michigan State in the top 10 the last two seasons and it is a good recipe for the Huskers.

When you consider what Riley had to work with at Oregon State he did an exceptional job developing talent and sending guys to the NFL. Since 2003, Nebraska has had 38 players drafted and Oregon State has had 29.

“As an assistant coach and as a head coach, both at the collegiate and professional level, his teams played sound physical football, and Mike has a track record of evaluating and developing talent,” pointed out Eichorst.

Several Pac 12 coaches have commented on Riley’s ability to evaluate talent better than most. A proven track record of identifying and developing talent is exactly what Nebraska needs if they want to get back to competing for championships. When you fire a 9-3 coach nothing else will satisfy.

Nebraska has their man in Mike Riley and what he brings to the table ought to inspire optimism in Husker nation.

*** Posted by Josh Harvey ***

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