LINCOLN, Neb. — The line stretched from the north end zone to the 40-yard line.
The crowd went about 4 people deep, and was so tightly packed you couldn’t stretch your arms out and not touch a 4-star recruit or their parents.
Nebraska’s spring game on Saturday will long be remembered. It was the second-highest attended spring game in Nebraska’s history (about 78,000 in attendance), plus it showcased a quarterback battle for the first time in almost a decade between redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien and redshirt junior Tanner Lee.
But it was that 40-yard line that will not soon be forgotten. The Huskers hosted more than 40 recruits Saturday, nearly 20 of them 4-star ratings. Two had committed less than 12 hours earlier — 4-star CB Brendan Radley-Hiles and 4-star WR Manuel Allen — and another 2019 recruit would commit just hours after the game.
But it wasn’t just that the recruits were there, accompanied by Nebraska’s 2017 signing class and commits in the 2018 class. No, this will be remembered as the embodiment of what coach Mike Riley envisions for this program. Recruiting is Riley’s bread and butter. It’s why he’s fired coaches and started an entirely new department within the athletic department dedicated to recruiting. And it’s the showing out by top recruits on Saturday, with the commitment of a few them, that will stick around for a while.
“I am energized at this very, very moment about this weekend in total,” Riley said. “It is so much fun. We are now seeing young men really understand and see what this place is about and what it can be and having our vision that I have. It’s exciting.”
It was a weekend with so much news it’s almost hard to fully contextualize it right now.
Getting Radley-Hiles alone was a massive victory for the Huskers. He’s one of the top corners in the 2018 class and if he ultimately signs would be one of the highest-rated prospects Nebraska’s signed in almost a decade. Getting Allen, a 6-foot-2 receiver from California and the No. 31 receiver in the 2018 class, was an added bonus at a position Nebraska really needs top prospects at. Then scoring Marquez Beason, a 4-star receiver from Dallas, not only is a huge sigh of relief, but also begins Nebraska’s 2019 recruiting class on a high note.
With Radley-Hiles, Allen, 4-star TE Cameron Jurgens, 4-star WR Eric Fuller, 3-star center Will Farniok and 3-star DT Masry Mapieu, Nebraska’s 2018 class is now ranked No. 12 in the country by 247sports.
And the potential impact of those commitments, plus the day in and of itself, could pay huge dividends down the road.
“Like I said it really has to do with the continued educating of these guys that are out there that are difference-makers that feel it. They can feel this whole idea that we have and what’s going to take place,” Riley said. “It’s a great, great feeling right now.”