According to Director of Football and Recruiting Operations Andy Vaughn and Director of Player Personnel Ryan Gunderson, Nebraska’s primary focus in recruiting going forward under head coach Mike Riley will be to win the 500-mile radius.
"If we can't find it inside that first area, then we go look for it,” said Vaughn. “There's no reason to go across the country to find a position or talent that we have close by."
This will include Omaha, where the Huskers’ presence over the years hasn’t been as strong as one might think.
In this magazine article published by Bryan Munson in the fall of 2014, he takes a look at the Omaha recruiting scene over throughout the years for the Huskers.
(It’s been slightly updated in spots with a coaching change)
Pop quiz: Who is the last player who committed to Nebraska from Omaha, and in what year?
I was asked that question on an Omaha radio show and I was stumped. Something kept telling me to say Niles Paul from Omaha North.
A lot of people come back to Paul. Clearly he was the biggest name – U.S. Army All-American and nephew of Ahman Green – but that’s the wrong answer.
Here’s a hint. This player was on the team in 2013, albeit as a reserve.
Give up? It’s C.J. Zimmerer from Omaha Gross, from the recruiting class of 2009.
That’s quite a drought. But why? Has Nebraska purposely neglected to recruit the metroplex? Has the talent pool not been yielding talent worthy of drawing a Nebraska offer?
“It’s a fine line out there,” Omaha North head coach Larry Martin said. “In my humble opinion, I think that this area of the country is under-recruited because of climate, no spring ball and population. In the end you have to project these guys a little bit.”
There is another side, though: The players from Omaha who didn’t get an offer in the past six years, but could have. Here’s a prime example: Lincoln Hansen. Hansen, from Millard North, clearly was one of Nebraska’s biggest walk-on targets in his senior year, but he chose to accept an offer from Eastern Michigan instead, and it’s paid off.
Hansen was a redshirt senior this year, recording 46 appearances and over 30+ starts. Last year he was considered the anchor on the Eagles’ offensive line, leading to third-team all-conference honors; he also won academic all-conference recognition last year.
“In the past four to five years, there hasn’t been anyone whose received an (Nebraska) offer,” Omaha Central head coach Jay Ball said. “Some have gone on and done well for themselves. When Nebraska was very strong in the 1980’s and 1990’s, there was a strong core of players there from Omaha.”
Perhaps Hansen was a miss by the staff, but there definitely isn’t a laundry list of names to rattle off to go with him. Still, missing on Hansen – or on in-state players in general – usually carries with it more than just the loss of the player.
There is some public opinion that Nebraska should offer each and every player within the state borders, just to keep them from going elsewhere. It’s not only about the quality of the player; past out-of-state players as well as in-state high school football coaches will tell you how hard the in-state players play for Nebraska.
“I think that a lot of those kids from Nebraska can show those out-of-state kids a thing or two about hard work,” Ball said. “The University of Nebraska is their home base. It’s a pride factor for them.”
When looking at a player like Neal, he’s got incredible length and is an exceptional athlete, but the word that must be included in his evaluation is “raw.”
What everyone should know about Neal, and it is what Nebraska knows, is that Neal’s best football days are still in front of him. Consider Neal a block of clay that the coaches can mold and shape. That clay is potential. There are things that need to be added, like the right training program (which leads to physical development), and of course the right coaching (which unlocks the potential).
Nebraska’s coaches are back recruiting in Omaha with scholarships to offer, they have always been in Omaha with their walk-on program. A resurgence of in-state talent, regardless of where it comes from, could really help Riley and his staff take that next step when it comes to capturing a conference crown.
*** Posted by Josh Harvey ***