As Husker fans, we passionately sat at the bar trying to figure out how Rhule was going to get from over 100 kids on scholarship, down to 85 that the NCAA allows. Sure, you had the people who thought they were smart sitting there saying “well since Rhule is a first year coach he can hand out retirement packages or medicals to guys.” You then had the massive idiots telling you that we would “just put guys on NIL scholarships” which is illegal.
But for the 99% of us that are intelligent, our crux wasn’t that we thought we couldn’t get to 85. It was the fact that we were probably going to lose some decent guys in the process. It happens with every coaching change. Last week, Matt Rhule spoke to a group of media and not only did we get to 85, but we were able to put two walk-on players on scholarship in Nate Boerkircher and John Bullock.
These two make all the sense in the world. Boerkircher was basically our #1 TE all spring while they held Fidone out and will be our #2 right behind him for the fall. Bullock was running with the 1s more often than not with Nick Henrich sidelined all spring and with Luke Reimer held back as well. With Hausmann transferring to Michigan, the door was so wide open at ILB that we were even trying Jimari Butler there.
This is important for many reasons, the first and probably most important, is the fact it shows our staff will give you what you earned. If you’ve been paying attention the past couple months, Matt Rhule has quietly put together a very good walk-on class to come in along with the 2023 scholarship players. It gets very difficult to convince kids to do that rather than taking an FCS scholarship or money at a D2 if they think they will have to pay their whole way the entire time. Some of the guys coming in are impressive:
David Borchers – is a walk on linemen out of Iowa
Leslie Black – An edge rusher out of Georgia, turned down FCS offers to come walk-on
Jacob Bowers – Has only played football 3 years, led his league (which is the same as Mater Dei) in tackles, and is on Team USA rugby
Caden Becker – An Omaha Skutt graduate, signed with Wyoming out of high school as a QB. He is transferring to Nebraska as a walk-on to fill the H-back/TE role
Danny Pasko – He was a first team all-state LB in Illinois largest class of football
Barret Liebentritt – Another Omaha Skutt standout who was at Notre Dame and is transferring to Nebraska to play fullback.
All in all there are about 20 walk-ons coming to Nebraska under Matt Rhule. It was something I was worried about after Frost left, because numbers to help practices are important (more on that later). But it seems Rhule, Cooper, and Hale are scouring a more national scale to find some under the radar kids.
I’ll just give one example of that. Pasko was a sophomore when Covid hit so didn’t really get to play. As a junior in 2021 he weighed 185 pounds, so you aren’t getting many looks. Many times you are committed before your senior year, and not too many P5 coaches are giving someone under 200 pounds a scholarship. He grows to 220 pounds for his senior year and becomes first team all-state. These are exactly the types of guys that Rhule is looking for.
Going back to the numbers thing, I know there is a narrative on message boards and social media that we don’t need to take as many walk-ons as we do “because only 1 or 2 are actually good enough to help on Saturdays.” I think that’s true. But that is being short-sighted to other areas that these guys can help the team.
Walk-ons are culture setters many times. Usually over half our walk-on class are from Nebraska who everytime they go home over a break or talk to anyone from back at school they care about Nebraska football. It just means more. The walk-ons are who made guys more talented from Florida and California back in the 90s work hard. Lawrence Phillips wasn’t going to let Matt Turman out hang clean him in the weight room.
I also am a firm believer you need about 20 offensive linemen to run efficient practices. I’d actually argue that needs to be 20-25 so that in the spring you can still be effective. I think you need to have 2 full lines preparing for Saturdays. However, many times teams only travel with 8 or 9 OL, so some coaches just keep 8 or 9 up with the ones during practice. But the more important part is scout team. For those of you that don’t know this already, scout team sucks. You are going up against guys you have no business going against. You don’t feel like a huge part of the team because you actually sit in defensive meetings so you can see how other teams run their plays. It just blows. I know, “some of those guys aren’t helping our defense get better”. I get it. But at the end of the day you can’t just run 1 v 1 everyday in practice. This isn’t Nebraska football back in the 90s where there were 3 and 4 stations working. With the camp circuit and recruiting services, it’s just so much tougher to find those diamonds in the rough.
There will be some guys like a LB or two and a DB or two that just walk away from the game in my opinion to help us get where we needed from a numbers perspective. But overall Rhule did a very good job keeping the core of what we needed here. Remember, when Frost was our head coach, we had our best returning offensive player transfer out for like 3 years in a row with Spielman, Robinson, and then Martinez. Not a good trend. If we can wash out the non-contributors and keep the dudes getting all-conference for us, the portal becomes a positive instead of a negative for the Huskers.
So when Rhule was announced, there were already guys that had made their mind up to move on like Hausmann and Gould who took off to Michigan and Syracuse, respectively. But many guys decided to stay to see what they could do in the spring. As it stands now of the guys who stayed, only two of them has even made it back to a Power 5 school in Ajay Allen and Jalil Martin. Pretty telling when you look at how bad we’ve been.
We’ve got guys heading to Liberty, Charlotte, all the Go5 schools you can handle. Even our starting QB that everyone wanted to stay because of how good he was couldn’t get guaranteed a starting spot anywhere but Florida Atlantic. Alante Brown and Stephon Wynn are probably the next closest to getting a Power 5 deal, but teams are very reluctant with Brown due to his grades. Hell, he may end up in Boulder because Deion just needs numbers. But Wynn surprises me a bit, he’s a defensive lineman that has some playing experience. There is always a need for depth with guys like that at many schools. I think he will end up at a place like Texas Tech or something.
I just have to go back to how happy I am we have Matt Rhule doing it this way instead of how some of the people were clamoring for Coach Prime. Rhule decided to bring in over 100 scholarship players and decide who was going to help him. Deion decided to just tell everyone they suck and grab the players that weren’t playing at other places or were coming off of injury. That model just won’t work. He will be pressing the reset button every single year.
My Take On The Raiola Situation
Here’s the deal… we had a shot. No one visits here that often if we don’t. Besides Georgia, he visited Lincoln the most out of any school he had in his finalists. But as i’ve been telling people from the beginning, we were just a year too early for the Raiola sweepstakes. The end goal for any recruit is to get to the NFL. And he would have to be taking a leap of faith that Rhule and Satterfield were going to get things going here and get him where he wants to be.
Or… the kid can go to Georgia that has already shown they can get it done. Further, the Raiolas looked at Stetson Bennett and see he is getting an NFL chance while they think their upside is much better than his. Surround yourself with great players and all of a sudden you don’t have to do as much to get where you want to go. That’s before we start talking about us getting dwarfed with NIL and other things. I still think we can possibly get a visit out of Raiola if we start 3-1 and show we are on our way to getting to a bowl game.
I’m not trying to be that guy, but i’m actually fine with him going elsewhere. If you have a chance to get the #1 recruit at his position you do it every day of the week. I just think in the long run Rhule and staff will find a better fit and something that can be more effective for both sides in the long run.
Things are going to get pretty dull around Husker Nation for the next month or so, so i’m working on a post that I think you will all enjoy that is breaking down some key things for success in 2023. In late June we will be launching our site for another way for you to help keep this site going which will have shirts i’ve designed, some tumblers, and other items so you can get something with your donation so you aren’t paying me to ramble. I think we have some pretty cool designs already if I do say so myself.
Nothing is required just helps with site fees