LINCOLN, Neb. — About 45 minutes before Mike Riley’s news conference Wednesday announcing Nebraska’s 2017 class, the head coach and his staff still weren’t entirely certain how the class would shake out.
In the span of about 10 minutes, however, things cleared up: Nebraska missed out on 5-star WR Joseph Lewis, 4-star athlete Greg Johnson, 3-star athlete Michael Onyemaobi and 4-star CB Deommodore Lenoir.
Nonetheless, Riley took the podium around 5 p.m., took a deep breath, and said he was pretty pleased with the 20 recruits he and his staff brought in for the 2017 class on National Signing Day.
Because for the most part, he said, Nebraska set out what it needed to do with its 20 commits. And despite missing out on a few bombshell recruits, he’s still pleased with the newest batch of Huskers.
“Positionally, we hit our marks where we wanted to fill guys,” Riley said.
That ended up being one each at quarterback, fullback, running back and cornerback; two tight ends; three receivers and three linebackers; and eight linemen, four on each side of the ball. That was good enough for No. 23 class in the country on 247sports.
Riley said he would have preferred one or two more wide receivers in the class, thanks in large part to the last-minute de-commitment from 4-star WR Jamire Calvin.
And that was despite the fact that Riley said Calvin committed to him three separate times. “That might be a record for me,” the coach said.
Regardless, Riley is happy with the three wide receivers Nebraska did end up with: Tyjon Lindsey and Jaevon McQuitty, both 4-star prospects, and 3-star receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr.
“We’ve got Jaevon McQuitty, he is a playmaker and a tough kid. He’s a perfect fit for us,” Riley said.
Riley called Johnson a “magnet” on the recruiting trail, and also a pretty good receiver at 6-foot-1, 195-pounds.
“And then the other receiver that is a really, really dynamic player,” Riley said of Lindsey. Riley also said that Lindsey reminds him of a former player, James Rodgers, who played as a true freshman at Oregon State in 2007. Rodgers went on to be an All-Pac-12 player and spent time in the NFL. He is also ended his Oregon State career as the Beavers’ all-time leader in receptions (he has since been passed twice).
Riley said he didn’t want to commit to saying if all three receivers will play right away, but said the opportunity is “definitely” there.
As for the rest of the day, while Calvin flipping to Washington State at the last second was certainly dramatic, it wasn’t the only dramatic moments of Nebraska’s National Signing Day. The day began with the commitment of 3-star DE Guy Thomas, who was considering Nebraska, Pittsburgh and Louisville. He chose Nebraska. The Huskers then got another boost with a commitment by 3-star DT Damion Daniels.
Daniels, at 6-1 and 315 pounds, will fit well in Nebraska defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s 3-4 defense, Riley said. Same with Thomas.
“(Defensive line coach) John Parrella did a terrific job recruiting them,” Riley said.
Thomas will fill well as a possible outside linebacker, and Daniels will be great up front, Riley said.
After the Thomas and Daniels signings, Nebraska was at 19 signed letters of intent, with Calvin set to make it 20. But the number looked like it might stay at 19 with the Calvin de-commitment, until a commitment from 4-star CB Elijah Blades settled it at 20.
From a recruiting standpoint, the next few months will be for the staff to figure out next year’s approach, Riley said. The main focuses that Riley mentioned on Wednesday? Getting more players in the 500-mile radius, and landing more defensive backs.
Though Nebraska signed three in-state recruits — along with McQuitty from Columbia, Mo. — Riley said there’s still more Nebraska can do to lock in the local prospects.
“There’s still work to be done in the 500-miles radius,” Riley said.
There will be camps this summer, and Nebraska will begin to offer more and more 2018 prospects in the coming weeks. Riley also mentioned that Nebraska will hit the spots they hit this recruiting cycle next year, particularly California, Texas and Florida.
But first, spring football. And a little rest.
“We’re very proud of the work that was done and the development of the relationships where we can have a class like this,” Riley said.