During the recruiting process, a rush end, linebacker, cornerback or safety might not ever even talk to that position coach at NU. It might be Ron Brown, it might be Jeff Jamrog or it might be Dan Young who has been charged with showing them what NU has to offer.
The official visit though, that's where it's different. That's when those players get to meet the coaches personally, that will be coaching their position. What if those coaches aren't there as in, they don't currently exist? How much does that hurt Nebraska? "It can definitely effect a kid in his thinking, no question about it." Coach Ron Brown stated. "Kids want to know who they are going to hang out with for the next four or five years of their life."
That kind of familiarity, even if it occurs over just a 48 hour period can sometimes be invaluable when convincing a player that this place is for them.
This day and age though when everything is covered so well or perhaps so overly well, players don't miss much and there's not much they don't see. Shifts in coaches isn't new to them, rather it's something they see everyday. "A lot of these young men have been familiarized with coaching changes." Brown stated. "They see it at a lot of schools."
"There's a number of schools that recruit young kids that have now taken another job or what have you. So, I don't think it's the most unusual thing that a kid has ever seen, but it's certainly unusual at Nebraska."
Unusual indeed. A school that just a few years ago competed with only Penn State for the top spot in regards to coaching continuity. A school who's leaders were institutions as much as they were coaches, change isn't the norm for NU.
How do you convince a young man that was raised on hearing about their continuity to think that this isn't a time where it's all coming apart at the seams? For some, at least the coaches hope, they will see the history as a gauge of the future and not take so much of the current state of things as an example as to what NU is all about. "Nebraska has had such a rich tradition." Brown stated. "What we've done in the long haul and even in the recent history goes a long ways with a kid."
History is something Nebraska sports a lot of and some history that few (if any) colleges can compete with. It's those years that weren't so long ago, that Brown thinks do as much selling for the program now as anything they can say the day they are here. "A lot of times, where you hear a kid talk about a school, the reason why they are interested is that when they were 11 years old or 10 years old and they were watching the games, it's an exciting thing." Brown stated. "They haven't played high school football yet, it's a football thing and they are curious and they are watching college games."
"They remember the great Nebraska teams. They remember some of the players that we have had and that's often-times what sparks interest in them."
"It doesn't just die out because there is a couple of vacancies. It doesn't fizzle out that easy. If a kid had a genuine interest in Nebraska before he got here and it's been the kind of a school he's been thinking about for years, that interest won't wane quickly either."
Nebraska coaches will rely on some of that former Husker magic to keep the inspirations healthy for recruits coming in, so that they may be a part of some hopeful Husker magic in the future. NU coaches will also rely on themselves.
Recruiters like Ron Brown have almost become legendary in their ability to get recruits to come to NU. For each one that goes out on the road, they have a mighty chore in showing Nebraska to be superior to another or in some cases, the right place for that particular player.
During this stretch without some coaches who were themselves on the road, demands on coaches like Brown have gone up exponentially. "We've had to dig into other people's territories." Brown stated in regards to regions across the country each is slated to recruit.
"This time of year is a tenacious time anyhow. This is the tough time where you are juggling a lot of balls. You are trying to coach your kids and get them ready for a bowl game, you are out there on the road, there are coaches out there in the air and new kids popping up. You have coaching vacancies, so all of a sudden, the whole staff got fired and such and such a place, and now, maybe you can come in on this kid and get him in on a visit date. And then, of course, you have coaches that are no longer with the program, with the limited staff, we have to shuffle and add numbers to us."
"No question, we are zipping around, scrambling around and trying to be strategic with the workload that we have."
With that added workload, as Brown stated, they had to add to their numbers. The problem though is who to add. Graduate Assistants were brought in to try and shoulder some of the recruiting, the NCAA allowing NU to do that because of the obvious circumstances.
Without knowledge of the direct impact Jimmy Burrow has had, we point to Tim Albin who seems to have picked up quite fine where George Darlington left off.
Sam Baker, one of the highest touted offensive linemen in the country didn't appear as if he was going to visit Nebraska. After an in-house visit from Albin though, Baker is scheduled to come to Nebraska for one of his five visits, cementing Albin at least as an immediate plus, if not a prolonged future one.
That kind of success doesn't really surprise arguably NU's best recruiter, Ron Brown. "Based on just knowing Tim and being able to work with him the last few years, he ought to be a great recruiter." Brown stated. "He's got great people skills, he's very enthusiastic and he's a very hard worker and I think he's very sincere about all that."
Along with Albin's sincerity, coach Brown also saw the kind of drive it takes to really make it happen when you are trying to get those oh-so valuable recruits. "He puts in a ton of hours." Brown stated. "Being in the situation that he is in, he's got the dual responsibilities of recruiting, but he's the type of guy that will do a good job."
Energetic is one thing, but the qualities a good recruiter must have often range from being personable to borderline "pain in the butt" tenacious. Only the seasoned, accomplished recruiters know the fine line of that, but Brown said that Albin's style works and Brown also harkened back to the style of a coach that some might remember. "He's tenacious, but I would say that he isn't overbearing." Brown stated. "Each guy has his own style and you have to be who you are."
"Coach Osborne was a real low key and soft spoken man, and yet there was a tremendous determination about him. It just came out differently than it might be with someone else. I think we all have our own style, but the one thing you have to be able to do is present the school very accurately, you have to be able to communicate, be hard working and it's the little things."
"It's the letters you write or the extra visit you make. You take that last flight on that last day you can make it to that kid in Florida. It's the little things that really matter."
You are not going to find many (if any) that can give you a lesson in recruiting 101, better than Brown. For me, it's actually nice to talk to someone that has been doing it for as long as he has.
And for as long as he has been doing it and perhaps longer, the University of Nebraska has carried with it one label that they have not shed and that's, "telling it like it is".
In the present day world of recruiting, you see as many sales pitches as you do compliments. Coaches willing to tell you what you want to hear, rather than the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help you God. They aren't con-men. They are salesmen.
Ok, some of them are con-men.
Not Nebraska though. Every year, every recruit, if there is one theme I have gotten about NU recruiting from each recruit that has thought to bring it up, it was the fact that Nebraska never sold them an empty box, rather told them how big the box was, how much it weighed and item-for-item, what was in it. Basically, they told them the truth.
It can't be overstated and can't be underrated, because that's the reason most of these out-of-state recruits are at Nebraska right now. Some say that not being that salesman has hurt NU recruiting, but Brown says it's simply the way to be. "I've talked to a lot of recruits over the years." Brown said. "One of the things they have made comments on from people was that, a guy was articulate, but they didn't think he was right square down the middle."
"The integrity level was maybe a little bit off. Maybe saying things they wanted to hear, making promises they shouldn't be making, people will read through that."
"I think what you need to do is be genuine. One of the things I have tried to really do with recruiting is say, Lord, you have a place for this young man and quite frankly, maybe Nebraska might not be the right place, but I will do everything I can to convince them that this is the right place for him. And the reason why, is because I know I am going to be there for him, I know we got a bunch of great coaches and great people to plug into his life."
"However, Lord, if you feel like this is not the best place, all I am going to do is try my best and if he says no to it, then he says no to it."
"But for me to do anything other than to be dead straight down the middle honest and with the fullest integrity and try to manipulate that kid into coming to Nebraska, number one, I think it's wrong, because you might win a couple that way, but they would be disillusioned in the end and two, it usually fails because people usually see through it."
Is it any wonder why this is Nebraska's best recruiter?
The reputation Nebraska has for giving the "skinny" rather than the "fat" has gotten their fair share of stars. Kids that came on a word, a promise or just a little faith that NU was the right place for them.
That reputation will have to be in full force this weekend, so that recruits can look beyond the glaring issue of NU missing a coach here and there. Though coach Frank Solich stated that he had faith in recruits knowing what NU was about, it doesn't change recruits from seeing NU as it is.
And that's a partial staff.
There's little doubt that coaches like Ron Brown will get his share of commits. Plus, it seems apparent that Tim Albin could be a bonus as well for NU's recruiting efforts. Heck, in all actuality, of the staff that remains, it appears that Milt Tenopir is the one coach that doesn't recruit off campus at all. That's a lot of good recruiters and Nebraska is going to need them and everything they have.
They have to not only make up for personalities, but make up for some holes yet filled. They have to be part recruiter and party lobbyist, counselor and yes, sometimes a magician, because they are going to need a few tricks in the end.
No, not those to deceive others, but maybe themselves as they try to convince everyone that everything is ok. It might be in the near future, but right now, it's all potential waiting to happen. It's potential that NU fans hope visiting recruits will see.
It's ok for you to be anxious. This is one of the most anxious times for the program that they have had in about forty years. It's ok to be even a little fearful. With what NU has to lose by not convincing recruits isn't just one year's class, but a team's future success in the end. And yes, it's even ok to be skeptical, because just how much can such a shorthanded staff accomplish?
If that wasn't enough emotional baggage to carry, add to that a little pride. Yes, I said pride. Pride that even when things get as bad as they have gotten, they could still get much worse. NU could stop doing things the "way" fans have gotten accustomed.
In a world full of cheating, lying, political nonsense and colleges in trouble for paying players, NU may not get the stars, but then again, they didn't have to pay "star" prices.
They did it the right way, the only way, the NU way.
Now, NU fans just hope that is enough.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619