My recipe for following recruiting:
1 case of pepto bismol
1 bottle of liquor (preferably 120 proof or better)
2 hand towels (one for waving around in victory, the other for crying into like a two-year old)
1 punching bag
1 prescription of Prozac (unlimited refills)
Ok, now to the reason why:
Mission 1: Change offense from a power-running attack with a high emphasis on the option to the "West Coast" offense, a formula for attack designed by the legendary, Bill Walsh.
Should you choose to accept this daunting mission, your first task is easy-find the right offensive players for that system.
Ok, the idea is easy, making it happen, not so much, but that's just what Bill Callahan and company has to do. Turn a offense that emphasized the running game to an almost ad nauseam but typically Husker level into a slick-modern-pro-style offense that will not only resemble the NFL, but hopefully attract recruits that have some aspirations for football's "elite" league.
If you are going to run the west coast offense though, you need quarterbacks, receivers, running backs and linemen suited for just such a task. The question most asked when they finally realized the scope of the changes was whether NU had any of those players or not.
The coaches say yes, but the inordinate amount of offers out right now (estimated at around 110), especially to those aforementioned positions would tell a different story.
I can see the sign now- Help Wanted: Need skill-position players and linemen suited for the west coast offense. Must be attuned to the intricacies of this pro-style offense and able to contribute right away. Looking for self-starters, people that like long hours working towards such a goal and for such services rendered, you have a full ride scholarship to the University of Nebraska.
Again, if you don't follow recruiting, much of this will probably appear to be a different language in some aspects, but suffice it to say that Nebraska is going after just about anyone and everyone that everyone else wants for themselves.
That's hardly an exaggeration as you can almost pick about any player across the country that is sitting on 20 written offers or more and chances are, Nebraska is somewhere on that list. And, if they are a lineman, QB or wide receiver, the chances are so good, you would get less money back on that bet than what you would if "Smarty Jones" won the Belmont this weekend.
Yes, it's a ton.
There's a couple of messages that could send and it could come down to either a half-empty or half-full mentality. For example:
Half Empty means that this is panic-mode. Callahan arrived in Lincoln, realized he didn't have anyone that fit his offense and is going at the recruiting like he's having to build a team from scratch. While admitting that his offensive line needed help, the head coach has tried to avoid instilling complete dismay in the Husker fan-base by not coming out and just stating, "we need everything".
Half full means that Callahan is simply recruiting as anyone should and the vast amount of offers only means that this staff has done their research in a far more expeditious nature, thus being able to evaluate, analyze and justify offers far quicker than their predecessors. Recruiting is a major emphasis for this staff (as it should be) and regardless of some very capable players on the team right now, you can't ever have enough solid skill-position players and linemen. It's just a sound recruiting philosophy.
Personally, I am going to opt for a little of both, but for anyone that thinks Callahan is in panic-mode right now, that's likely not to be how the first-year coach perceives his current situation. Now, when he got the job, had three weeks left with virtually no staff outside of a recruiting coordinator and a QB coach who would eventually be tutoring the wideouts and he had half a recruiting class yet to find-THAT is panic-mode.
This isn't that.
Yes, there are a lot of offers out on the table which certainly paints the picture that NU is going after anyone and everyone that might even be close to a reasonable shot. One does need to look at the fact that they are going after them at all.
Before Callahan and crew had taken over, the year before, it wasn't too far before this date that year that Frank Solich's new staff was applauded for having something like 75 offers out around the country. That was a lot of players and seemed to convey to most people that NU was really hitting the road and recruiting-something that Solich and the group prior was chided for doing exactly the opposite.
Now, this staff is over 100 offers and doesn't show any signs of slowing down. In fact, day by day there seems to be another and then, another that is a "new offer" from the Big Red.
When Callahan was putting his staff together, it seemed like there was an emphasis on getting coaches with good backgrounds in recruiting. The story has been told more than a few times that out of the 22 starters on Bob Stoops' first championship team, John Blake was responsible for 18 of them being there at all. What all this means though is that for all the recruiting prowess that each coach on this staff might have, they are going to need all of it and more.
Things are about to heat up.
Take into account what goes into recruiting just one single player. First, there is film-review, but that is probably preceded by a lot of phone calls received and made to find out about the player in the first place. After that, if you have made the determination they are worth the offer, you put it together and that's just where the recruiting begins.
Most of these offers are extended to kids that NU has already been recruiting, at least to an extent. That means lots and lots of letters, some even being hand-written by the coaches and that takes a lot of time. Once an offer is extended, that time devoted is going to increase almost exponentially.
More letters, more hand-written letters, trips during May for evaluation. Phone calls during that time as well and once June hits, back to the letters. The season starts and that means more phone calls and more letters along with more phone calls, trips to see them play, more evaluation of their film, more letters, more phone calls and possibly even a visit or more.
Ok, then it's hosting official visits, the school going out of their way to bring out the entire "dog and pony" show for each, trying to make every single player feel like they are the one player they need.
More phone calls, more letters, more visits and if the player has decided to wait until after their own season to finish, this process could go all the way thru January and even up to February, the month for "signing day".
Now, multiply that by 100+. That's long-balling it a bit as many of those hundred plus will have made up their minds by then to either go to Nebraska or venture someplace else. But, the coaches have to plan as if every single player is planning on waiting until signing day before they decide which college is for them.
Suddenly, this very capable staff and all their emphasis on recruiting isn't looking like it's got this all by the horns, but could be spreading itself far too thin. Some would however think that it's better to do that than to do nothing at all.
What this will equal in the end, especially if Nebraska keeps up the torrid pace in adding offers by the day is that once the real "meat" of recruiting hits during the regular season, you are going to see a roller-coaster ride in recruiting that is going to be something that you have never seen, at least not here at NU.
Usually, even for the most diehard recruitnik, the worst scenario is that they latch onto one "big" name player, follow that process along becoming emotionally connected to the conclusion and if Nebraska loses out, they are despondent, are asking for the coaches' heads and obviously the program is finished.
Now, it's not one big name, but you can basically pick most of the highly touted players out from around the country and Nebraska is hard on their heels. People won't be able to get wrapped up in one, because they won't know which one to choose. To be honest, I am already loading up on the Pepto for when the Fall arrives.
For those that follow recruiting enough that they purchase subscriptions to the various recruiting sites, I am thinking that instead of offering the new buyers recruiting yearbooks as an incentive to buy, we should be giving them prozac.
Trust me, some might feel they need it.
This year, the first year of the Callahan Era is going to more than likely be the most hectic-non-stop year of recruiting that you are likely to ever see out of Lincoln. Between the fact that the offense is almost having to be rebuilt and many of these coaches are recruiting for NU for the very first time, it's catch-up, look-up and "buck-up" time for the entire staff. Their workload is going to be extreme.
And for you that follow recruiting with a fervor, just strap in and get ready because as the old saying goes, "you ain't seen nuthin yet"- the amusement park is only opening just now. You want emotional highs and lows? You want more dramatic twists than an episode of "Law and Order"? You've come to the right place, because Nebraska recruiting is going to be part elation, part depression-part anticipation, part dread and all with a healthy dose of melancholy as you are trying to figure out which part you are feeling at the time.
It's the best roller coaster around and you don't have to even leave your chair to take a ride. Beware though, because once this roller coaster gets moving at top-speed, there's no getting off. High speed, loop-de-loops and some drop-offs that will leave you queasy.
Oh yeah. The football team will be playing a season as well.
I've changed my mind. Forget about my recipe for recruiting. I am replacing it all with one thing- A Cryogenic chamber.
Unfreeze me when it's over.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619