Category Archives: Huskers News

Nebraska announces Huskers Tour stops (including Nebraska City) featuring Mike Riley, Shawn Eichorst

After the popularity of last year’s Huskers Tour, Nebraska football coach Mike Riley and athletic director Shawn Eichorst will once again venture out and visit with fans and alumni throughout the state.

Nebraska announced Tuesday the eight stops Riley and Eichorst will make from May 8-12 as part of the 2017 Huskers Tour. Tickets for these events will be available beginning Thursday at 9 a.m.

Below is the Huskers Tour event schedule:

Monday, May 8: Lunch with the Lincoln Executive Club in Lincoln at The Nebraska Club from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door or contact Tim Brusnahan at tbrusnahan@allophone.net

Tuesday, May 9: Brunch in Alliance at Newberry’s from 10-11 a.m. MDT. Complimentary tickets can be picked up at First National Bank, located at 124 W. 3rd St.

Tuesday, May 9: Reception in McCook at the Red Willow County Fairgrounds from 1:45-2:45 p.m. Complimentary tickets can be picked up at the McCook Chamber of Commerce.

Tuesday, May 9: Pep rally in Grand Island at The Balz Reception Hall from 5:15-7 p.m. Complimentary tickets can be picked up at First National Bank locations (810 Allen Drive and 2023 South Locust).

Wednesday, May 10: Exclusive pep rally and reception for First National Bank employees in Omaha. This is a private event by invitation only.

Thursday, May 11: Happy hour in Fremont at the Fremont Golf Club from 4:30-6 p.m. Complimentary tickets can be picked up at First National Bank locations (152 E. 6th St. and 801 E. 23rd St.).

Thursday, May 11: Happy hour in Elkhorn at The Mark from 6:30-8 p.m. This is open to the public with no tickets needed and no admission charged.

Friday, May 12: Lunch in Nebraska City at The Golf Club at Table Creek from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Purchase tickets at the Nebraska City Chamber of Commerce.

Dissatisfied but not discouraged, Shawn Eichorst and Tim Miles share same vision for Nebraska’s future

LINCOLN — Tim Miles has had better times in his life.

Nebraska men’s basketball lost its final five games to slide to 12-19, marking the third straight losing season for the fifth-year coach. Soon after, four players transferred. And rumors of other defections circulated on social media.

“In the past six weeks,’’ Miles said Tuesday, “I think I’ve had every skill, ability and talent in my life questioned.

“Sometimes, guys get jumpy. I’m not jumpy at all. I feel great about the people we have in our program.’’

So does NU Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst.

In a joint 40-minute interview with The World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star, Eichorst and Miles took turns noting that while things aren’t great now, they can turn around quickly while reaching for what both men said is their joint goal for the program:

An annual NCAA tournament bid.

Nebraska has made one NCAA appearance in the past 18 seasons — in 2014 under Miles — and is 0-7 all-time in the tourney.

“We have done it before,’’ Miles said. “We’ve done it at other schools before. We’re going to do it here again, and do it even better. I am unflinching in that belief.’’

Even with the NCAA tournament as a goal, Eichorst said, there is no ultimatum on number of victories or postseason play for the coming season for Miles to keep his job.

“I’m a believer in Tim,’’ Eichorst said. “He’s an experienced coach, he’s a good person, he’s a hard worker.’’

A continual upgrading of talent is necessary.

“We have got to get a couple of these signature players in our program that are all about the team,’’ Eichorst said, with Miles quickly adding, “Yes.’’

“Rugged, championship-flight type of young men who have played in championship programs who understand there is a lot of work that needs to be done and attention to be paid to one another.’’

Eichorst said Miles’ job — despite rampant speculation — wasn’t in danger as Nebraska endured its late losing skid.

Eichorst did nothing externally to tamp down the talk until issuing a tweet just after the season-ending loss to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament. Privately, Eichorst said, he supported Miles throughout, though sources with direct knowledge of the situation said Miles wasn’t told point-blank he definitely would be back until a few minutes before that Penn State game.

After finally blunting the conjecture, Eichorst was asked, why not show up in the locker room to answer questions instead of tweeting two sentences and leaving the arena?

“You and I see that differently,’’ he said.

Eichorst said he doesn’t regret not extending Miles’ contract last summer to the usual five years, saying negative recruiting can come from anywhere on any issue. The two have yet to meet on Miles’ contract going forward. The deal is set to expire on March 31, 2020.

The story around Husker hoops grew more positive over the weekend.

Four-star guard Thomas Allen of Garner, North Carolina, chose NU over Kansas, Georgetown and Xavier among others. Nebraska also snagged fifth-year graduate transfer Duby Okeke from NCAA tourney qualifier Winthrop, where the 6-foot-8 center with a nearly 7-5 wingspan set a school record for blocked shots.

Allen and Okeke join five-star Georgetown transfer forward Isaac Copeland and first-team Illinois all-state wing Nana Akenten from Bolingbrook, Illinois, in the Class of 2017. Two more scholarships are open.

Still, Nebraska has gone nine years without winning a postseason game, and over the past 14 years has produced just one winning record in conference play. To find a similar run of futility requires a return to the 1950s.

“Stats don’t lie,’’ Eichorst said. “We need to continue to upgrade our roster. We need to develop our players, and improve in areas offensively and defensively where we’re deficient.’’

Miles interjected with a smile: “Make some 3s. Have some assists on occasion.’’

“Strategy for sure,’’ Eichorst continued. “We’ve got to find our identity. We’ve talked a lot about that over the course of the last year.’’

A year ago, Eichorst and executive associate A.D. Marc Boehm took a day-and-a-half retreat with Miles and his staff to dissect the program. Another such gathering is coming soon.

Boehm just completed his 14th season with what his university-issued biography states is oversight of men’s basketball. That has coincided with the poorest success rate at Nebraska in more than six decades.

Eichorst bristled at questioning of Boehm’s performance during such a lean period.

“That doesn’t have anything to do with Marc,’’ Eichorst said. “Ultimately, that’s my responsibility.

“I think Marc does a terrific job. This isn’t about Marc Boehm or anybody else from a support perspective. This is about Tim and I working together to make our program better. I think that’s totally unfair and a cheap shot.’’

Boehm’s salary, which includes his work overseeing men’s basketball, is $222,283 this fiscal year.

Eichorst, making $1,089,805 this year, said neither he nor Miles is making excuses, and that “the buck stops with me.’’

“It’s easy to press the reset button,’’ Eichorst said. “I don’t think that’s where we are. We need to build stability and consistency. … We’re all in this together. There is no blame to be placed.’’

NU director of basketball operations leaving for high school coaching job

LINCOLN — Throughout Teddy Owens’ varied life in basketball, the goal has been to get back to running his own program.

Next month, Nebraska’s director of basketball operations for the past three years will return to the bench as head coach at Carrollwood Day School in Tampa, Florida.

“This is a great opportunity for our family,’’ Owens said. “My goal has always been to impact young men’s lives, whether in college or in high school. This will be the perfect place to do it.’’

Owens, 35, had looked into various college assistant openings the past couple of years.

“I would usually hear the same thing — that I didn’t have recruiting experience,’’ he said. “So I had to continue to weigh whether to pursue college jobs.’’

Carrollwood Day won’t be the first head coaching stint for Owens, the son of former Kansas head coach Ted Owens.

For three seasons in the late 2000s, Teddy was head coach at Lincoln Christian High in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He also was an assistant at three other high schools following his time in college as a student manager for Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State.

Owens went from high school coaching to work as a graduate assistant for two years at Oklahoma under Lon Kruger. Owens then arrived at Nebraska in 2013, spending one year as administrative coordinator before being promoted to operations director.

Carrollwood Day is an independent, non-sectarian school that runs programs from preschool through high school, and is funded primarily by tuition.

The curriculum follows the guidelines of the International Baccalaureate Organization. Carrollwood’s website says it is one of six schools in the nation certified to offer all three levels of IB’s rigorous academic program.

Nebraska gets commitment from four-star athlete Chase Williams

LINCOLN — Nebraska football kept its recruiting roll going Sunday evening when Corona (California) Eleanor Roosevelt athlete Chase Williams verbally committed to the Huskers via a video he released on Twitter.

Williams, a 6-foot-1, 190-pounder who plays wideout and cornerback for Roosevelt, visited Nebraska for its spring game. A unanimous four-star prospect according to all four major recruiting services — 247 Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout — he’s the fourth prospect from the state of California to pledge to NU for the 2018 cycle.

Though he declined phone calls and interview requests shortly after his announcement, Williams told Scout.com before the Twitter video that he’s slated to play cornerback at Nebraska. Though a corner in high school, he’d excelled more at wideout, where, last season, he caught 42 passes for 1,007 yards and 19 touchdowns.

“They’re bringing me in as an athlete but with more of an emphasis on corner,’ Williams told Scout. “I’ve been working really hard all spring at DB and I really like the position and I’m excited to continue to learn and get better at it.”

Williams, should he stay at corner, is the second cornerback commit in the class, following Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles, who was often by Williams’ side at the spring game. Radley-Hiles wrote on Twitter Saturday that Nebraska would be getting another commit Sunday; Williams was the guy.

He also appears to have been one of the two silent commits to whom coach Mike Riley was referring during a Thursday night radio appearance on Husker Sports Nightly. Williams told Scout he’d been committed to Nebraska for one week, which predated Riley’s interview.

At eight commits, Nebraska is technically more than halfway done with its 2018 class. Riley said in an interview with the World-Herald last week that he doesn’t expect NU to sign more than 15 players in the class, although he could envision the number growing to 18 with some unexpected attrition.

NU coaches head out around the nation this week for the spring evaluation period. The Huskers are still looking for another defensive back, another receiver, a quarterback, an offensive tackle, another defensive lineman, an outside linebacker and at least one running back. The Huskers have offered kicker Barret Pickering from Hoover (Alabama), too.

As of Sunday night, Nebraska’s 2018 class was No. 9 in the Rivals ranking and No. 10 in the ESPN, Scout and 247Sports rankings.

Huskers rout Illinois in five-inning shutout

LINCOLN — There was no need for an extended postgame team meeting Sunday following Nebraska’s 14-0, five-inning softball blitzing of No. 25 Illinois.

The Huskers salvaged the final game of the three-game series by roughing up four Fighting Illini pitchers on the way to the biggest victory margin over a ranked team in school history.

Husker coach Rhonda Revelle and her assistants had a long chat with players after Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Illini. How the Huskers bounced back after those intense conversations left Revelle encouraged heading into the final seven games of the regular season.

“To see that kind of response makes you feel as a coach that the team is still working hard, they’re still emotionally invested, and they’re still going to fight until the very last out,” Revelle said. “We just beat a very good Illinois team. They’re ranked 25th in the country for a reason.”

Tristen Edwards, MJ Knighten and Kaylan Jablonski all had three RBIs for the 20-25 Huskers, who improved to 10-7 and solidified their hold on fifth place in the Big Ten before 641 at Bowlin Stadium. Edwards was 3 for 4 with two doubles, tying her career high in hits for the third time in six games.

Nebraska is one game behind Ohio State for fourth place in the Big Ten and has a two-game lead on sixth-place Indiana. The top four teams in the regular season earn first-round byes in the May 11-13 Big Ten tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The game also ended two innings early because of a dazzling pitching performance from Cassie McClure. The senior from Kingwood, Texas, allowed three hits and had three strikeouts while not allowing any runners past second base.

“I’m really proud of Cassie coming out and just being really steady out there, being very consistent,” Revelle said. “It really started with her in the circle, and then that second inning … we just kept pushing runners to the next base.”

That second inning produced six runs. It allowed McClure to take a more relaxed approach to the remainder of the game after the intense conversations that took place Saturday afternoon.

“We had a harsh conversation yesterday,” McClure said. “It was truthful and honest. But it was something that needed to happen, and just going from the last two games we wanted to bounce back.”

Nebraska opened the bottom of the second with back-to-back walks to Jablonski and Laura Barrow. A single up the middle on a 3-2 pitch by Taylor Otte brought Jablonski home to give the Huskers a 1-0 lead.

McClure then was hit by a pitch that bounced off the dirt to load the bases. That chased Illinois starter Taylor Edwards from the game, just her second loss in 16 decisions.

Illini ace Breanna Wonderly entered the game, but she didn’t have much luck slowing the Huskers, giving up six hits and four earned runs while recording just four outs. A walk to Alexis Perry forced home Barrow for a 2-0 NU lead.

Then a squeeze bunt by Bri Cassidy up the first base line got the speedy Otte home for a 3-0 advantage. Alyvia Simmons followed with an RBI single that scored pinch runner Rachel Arthur before Tristen Edwards hit her first double — a shot to center field — that put the Huskers ahead 5-0.

Knighten then had an infield single that fell between Wonderly and shortstop Stephanie Abello just to the right of the circle to reload the bases. Jablonski came to bat for the second time in the inning and coaxed a walk from Wonderly to bring home Simmons for a 6-0 lead.

Nebraska added two more runs in the third. McClure opened the inning with a walk before back-to-back singles by Cassidy and Simmons loaded the bases. Edwards drove in McClure with an RBI single before Knighten drew a bases-loaded walk to score pinch runner Lotte Sjulin.

The Huskers secured their first run-rule victory of the season with another six-run inning that was made possible by an Illinois error that extended the inning. The big hits were an RBI double by Edwards and a two-run home run to left center by Jablonski.

Nebraska travels to Omaha on Tuesday for a 6 p.m. game against Creighton that was originally scheduled to be played March 29, but was postponed because of rain. The Huskers will play their final three home games of the season starting Friday against Northwestern.

Illinois (34-11, 12-3)………….000 00—   0    3 1

At Nebraska (20-25, 10-7)….062 6x—14 11 0

W: Cassie McClure (8-7). L: Taylor Edwards (14-2). 2B: I, Kiana Sherlund. N, Tristen Edwards (2). HR: N, Kaylan Jablonski. A: 641.

Huskers take down Minnesota, capture series win

MINNEAPOLIS — Nebraska found some unorthodox offense early and starter Jake Meyers gutted through six innings as the Huskers clinched their series against former Big Ten leader Minnesota with a 9-4 win Sunday.

NU scored runs via a double play, wild-pitch strikeout, throwing error and rare home run — its 12th of the spring — to beat the Gophers for a second time in three days Sunday and cap an errorless weekend at Siebert Field. Jesse Wilkening’s 3-for-5 effort highlighted an afternoon in which eight Huskers collected hits and six touched home plate.

Meyers picked up his sixth win despite surrendering four runs for just the second time this season in a 10-hit outing. But the left-handed junior didn’t allow any scores outside of a pair of Minnesota home runs in the fourth.

“When Jake’s got his down-angle fastball working with that changeup, he’s very tough to square up,” NU coach Darin Erstad said. “He was up a little bit. But you know what? That’s why it’s a team and we gotta pick him up, because he’s picked us up a ton this year.”

Chad Luensmann netted his sixth save by getting the final five outs. The NU reliever came in with a 6-4 lead and two Gophers on base in the eighth but survived the jam with a flyout and strikeout.

Nebraska (23-15-1, 7-4-1 Big Ten) steps out of conference play for a home game against UNO on Tuesday at 6:35 p.m. before traveling to Ohio State next weekend.

An ideal first 3 1/2 innings Sunday saw Nebraska sprint to a 5-0 advantage. Meyers retired nine straight Gophers after giving up a leadoff double in the opening frame. The offense produced a three-run second courtesy of a Luke Roskam ground-rule RBI double, a Wilkening run-scoring hit and a double play that plated Roskam.

Following a 1-2-3 third, Nebraska extended its cushion in the fourth when Wilkening connected for his first home run of the spring — and second of his NU career — on a two-run shot to left.

Minnesota (23-12, 8-4) responded with consecutive homers in the bottom half to set up the tense finish. Terrin Vavra and Micah Coffey began with singles before Toby Hanson blasted a 3-1 offering to center for his third long ball of the season. Three pitches later, Matt Stemper connected for his fifth round-tripper to bring the hosts within 5-4.

Missed opportunities both ways highlighted the ensuing stretch. Luis Alvarado and Roskam singled to start the sixth, but Nebraska couldn’t get down a bunt try and didn’t score. The Huskers loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh but managed only one run on a wild-pitch strikeout to extend to 6-4.

A pair of two-out hits went for naught for the Gophers in the fifth when Meyers induced a flyout to end the threat. Back-to-back singles started the bottom of the sixth before Nebraska’s ace escaped with a 4-6-3 double play and strikeout.

Nebraska added three insurance runs in the ninth when Ben Miller and Scott Schreiber singled and came home on an infield throwing error. Mojo Hagge capped the day with a bouncing RBI single with two outs.

“It’s pretty apparent that we’re not going to hit 1-9 on a consistent basis, so we’re going to have to scratch and claw for everything we can get,” Erstad said. “We’ve been doing an okay job of that. You gotta get the big hits once in a while and we did that this weekend. That was just a nice, solid baseball game by our boys.”

Husker hoops gets commitment from center Duby Okeke

Tim Miles found a big man on the transfer market.

Nebraska landed a commitment from graduate transfer Duby Okeke (Doo-bee Oh-Kay-Kay), a 6-foot-8, 230-pound center from Winthrop. Okeke, who will be eligible to play immediately, announced his decision on Instagram.

In 94 career games for the Eagles, Okeke averaged 4.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. He set the school record for blocked shots with 165 in three years. Multiple media reports tout him as a fan favorite for his thundering dunks and high-flying rejections. He also has postseason experience, with Winthrop making the NCAA tournament this past season.

The son of Nigerian immigrants who now live in Jonesboro, Georgia, Okeke didn’t play basketball until ninth grade.

Husker A.D. Shawn Eichorst had big hand in shaping NCAA recruiting reform

LINCOLN — As Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst stood on the sidelines last week at Nebraska’s spring game, football prospects and their parents mingled around him. Each of those prospects, including national top-100 cornerback commit Brendan Radley-Hiles, paid his own way to attend NU’s spring game.

How much bigger might the turnout have been if Nebraska could have paid for prospects and their parents’ travel, lodging and meals? If NU had at its disposal the ability to bring in prospects for spring official visits?

Thanks in part to Eichorst’s work on an NCAA committee over the last two years, Nebraska coach Mike Riley and his assistants will be able to ask — and answer — those questions in 2018.

Eichorst was a key architect of a massive recruiting reform package passed April 14 by the NCAA Division I Council. Eichorst worked on the NCAA Football Oversight Committee and was co-chairman, along with Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, of a Division I Football Working Group committee that helped create the reform that the Council approved. The NCAA Board of Directors will finalize the reform package on April 26.

“There wasn’t a day that has gone by in two years where I haven’t been working on this, whether it’s a phone call, research, floating ideas,” Eichorst said. “It was a labor of love, there’s no doubt.”

April, May and June official visits are in. Summer football camp rules have been drastically changed. Colleges can no longer hire individuals — such as a high school coach or a personal trainer — associated with a current prospect unless that individual becomes a full-time, on-field assistant coach. Starting in January, programs can employ a 10th full-time assistant who works with players and can recruit on the road. Most notably, the council paved the way to a December signing date that still must be approved by the Collegiate Commissioners Association this summer.

For Eichorst, who started work on the Oversight Committee in spring 2015, it was a “full team effort” — including dogged work by Todd Berry, American Football Coaches Association executive director; Mullen, a high-profile coach from the SEC; and several other administrators. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, chairman of the Football Oversight Committee, called the reform “long overdue” legislation. Eichorst said Berry, a former head coach at Army and Louisiana-Monroe, helped get AFCA members on board.

“They tried to advance a lot of causes over the years that never got off the ground for one reason or another,” Eichorst said. “And I think everybody felt — the structure and the people were in place — that we might actually be able to get something done for the betterment of the game and for prospects, their families and coaches.”

Eichorst agreed reforms would be good for the team in red, too.

“I think they’re game-changers for a place like Nebraska,” Eichorst said.

Riley said he talked often with Eichorst about progress on reform. The two attended the AFCA’s annual board meeting in Phoenix last spring. Riley is on the AFCA board. Eichorst, who has worked in three Power Five conferences, also conducted monthly teleconferences with Big Ten coaches to keep them abreast of developments. Over two years, Eichorst said, he heard every perspective.

“Not everybody agreed,” Eichorst said. “There were times when we were floating ideas out there and certain coaches reacted, and they certainly have the right to do that.”

Changes to satellite camps might be the least controversial piece of the reform. A pioneer in using satellite camps to help recruit at Oregon State, Riley said he’d nevertheless grown concerned with their proliferation and new iterations. Though Riley didn’t mention Michigan, coach Jim Harbaugh’s monthlong satellite camp tour of the nation in 2016, which included a stop in Kansas City, set off alarm bells for many coaches.

Now, schools can only work 10 days’ worth of camps held at NCAA institutions, spread out over June and July. Third parties — such as high school coaches or personal trainers looking for a cash payout to assemble a slew of top-flight prospects at some rented field — have been cut out.

“It was out of control,” said Riley, who is still likely to team up with other schools outfitted by Adidas, such as Texas A&M and Miami, at some camps in June. “It’s a good step. It was crazy. There were a lot of people making money on it, teaming up with colleges. The colleges could help high schools make money. It wasn’t good. The regulation is smart.”

Eichorst and Riley agreed rule changes related to individuals associated with prospects were important, too. Although Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told USA Today that the change was “a death sentence to any high school coach wanting to coach college,” Bowlsby was forceful about needing to change football’s “IAWP” rule so it mirrored college basketball. Now, a high school coach cannot be hired as a football office worker, such as an analyst or player personnel director, for two years before or two years after an associated prospect signs with a school.

Bowlsby cited satellite camp “shenanigans” and “a quid pro quo” system in which high school coaches or family members were benefiting from being part of a prospect’s decision-making process.

“There isn’t anything in this piece of legislation that keeps people moving from one job to the other — either from a high school position or from one college position to another college position,” Bowlsby said. “What it does do, however, is put restrictions on a high school coach that would take a non-coaching position with a university and then bring two or three prospects with him.”

The change that gets the most attention, however, is the new spring official visit period and the likely December signing date. Both would go into effect for the 2019 recruiting cycle.

The Football Oversight Committee originally wanted a late June signing date, which would have been six months before the traditional February signing date. This proposal would have been similar to college basketball, where there is a signing period — Nebraska signed guard Nana Akenten in early November — before a prospect’s senior season begins. June would have functioned in the same way for college football.

But, in January, Berry said the AFCA had too many concerns, such as uncertainty about a prospect’s academic progress, to support a June signing date.

So the Football Oversight Committee supported the December date.

Riley would have preferred the June signing date if there’s any early signing date.

“If you’re going to have early visits, which were just passed, I think that you should have a real early signing date, June 30, so you could get your visits, get guys signed and see what you have to do during the season,” Riley said. “That would alleviate some of the juggling you have to do during the season with recruiting and football … a lot of people get on the bandwagon about an early signing period and when it actually comes up, they don’t know what that’s actually going to look like, so they’re nervous about it.”

Said Eichorst: “Maybe it’s just the unknown. But most of the data, most of the people I’ve talked to — particularly the prospects — would like an opportunity to say, ‘I’m out, I want to commit before I start my senior year. I want to go play ball.’ ”

The NCAA will “monitor” a December signing date for a few years, Eichorst said, as it examines whether a June date would work better.

In the meantime, spring official visits start in April 2018.

Bowlsby said 70 percent of prospects make their commitment decisions before the middle of their senior football seasons, which generally falls somewhere in October. For years — and again in 2017 — prospects basically won’t be able to take official visits until September, when the college football season begins.

In numerous recruiting interviews and conversations conducted by The World-Herald over several years, coaches and prospects alike have indicated a desire to make their college decisions before their senior years so they can focus on their senior seasons of high school football, even if some revisit the decision during or after the season.

But some prospects also can’t afford summer unofficial visits — the flights, the gas money, the food, the hotels.

“If I talked to three former players, I talked to 20 who’d say, ‘I would have liked to have taken that visit to Nebraska, Stanford or Michigan, but we didn’t have the money to do it,’” Eichorst said. “How many times have you heard that story? It’s common.”

Riley said spring official visits will be “a good thing for families.”

It now becomes a strategy session for Riley and his coaches. Without the June signing date, paying for players to officially visit in the spring — say, for a spring game — could come with risks.

“Do we really want a guy to visit in April and then not be able to see him again when we know he’s going to sign in December or February?” Riley asked rhetorically. “A regular-season game is a pretty good recruiting day. So there’s some strategy that’s going to be involved. If you think you can get a guy committed, bring ’em in early — April, May, June — get ’em committed and hang on. You’re going to have to know the player and know where you are.”

Eichorst is confident that Riley will make the best of those options. Allowing spring official visits benefits Nebraska — a school that lacks the in-state talent of a Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia or Tennessee, much less Texas and California.

“Mike, with his great vision and plan — and relationships he’s building with prospects — these rules will assist him in a more fair-balanced way to get things done,” Eichorst said. “The relationships he’s built are allowing him to recruit at the highest level. Now, the rules will actually match reality and should put folks like him in a better situation.”

Huskers sweep Colorado State, but show room for growth during exhibition match in Kearney

KEARNEY, Neb. — For the last several years, Nebraska has taken its annual spring volleyball exhibition match to different spots around the state, showing off a largely finished product in Ogallala, Grand Island and Wayne.

Saturday, the 2,040 fans who jammed the bleachers full at Kearney High School watched the Huskers pick up another exhibition win, but one that showed the team will go into the summer a work in progress after NU’s 25-17, 25-16, 25-17 sweep of Colorado State.

“I wanted us to play a little better than we played today, but again, I’m going to attribute it to the crowd, and nerves, and we’re trying to work on some things,” Nebraska coach John Cook said. “Some of it looked good at times and some of it didn’t.”

The positives were familiar. Nebraska rolled out an aggressive lineup of servers who racked up 11 aces and showed the sturdy defensive performance you might expect from an experienced core of back-row players.

But Nebraska’s offensive attack, which the Huskers were running at an experimental, faster pace this spring, often seemed to be running in place. Senior All-America setter Kelly Hunter had her ups and downs with location as Nebraska finished at .202 attacking on Saturday.

Her main targets, senior Annika Albrecht and junior Olivia Boender, who are auditioning to be Nebraska’s starting outside hitters, combined for 19 kills led by a match-high 11 from Albrecht.

Cook said getting comfortable with a faster speed might be essential for the Huskers to be successful this fall. Nebraska may not be physical enough to blast away against dynamic Big Ten blockers, so a faster set can help attackers beat a double block.

“I think it just puts us in a better situation,” Albrecht said. “We can hit the same shots but the blockers aren’t there.

“Well,” she added, “they were there today.”

Colorado State, which ranked No. 2 in the NCAA in blocking a year ago, showed how a good blocking team can still stymie a faster offense if the sets are imperfect. The Rams picked up 11 blocks, including seven by sophomore setter Katie Oleksak and six by 6-foot-6 middle Kirstie Hillyer.

The blocks kept any Nebraska attacker from achieving eye-popping numbers. Albrecht finished hitting .250 with five errors, and Boender had four errors on her 18 swings to finish at .222. Junior Mikaela Foecke, playing right-side hitter in this lineup, had five kills and hit .214.

“When they got the sets where they needed to be, they were great,” Cook said of his pin hitters, “but a lot of those balls they got blocked on were tight (to the net). Anni and Liv are not touching 10-6, so when you set them tight, they get blocked.

“We’ll need to evaluate that, but this team has got to stress teams with tempo.”

It was the first game-like situation where Nebraska has experimented with running the faster sets, Cook said, and it took until after the first set for both teams to burn off the nervous energy of playing in front of the full house. The Rams struggled plenty themselves on offense, never hitting better than .067 in any set.

Nebraska finished with eight blocks, led by four from redshirt freshman middle blocker Lauren Stivrins, who also added five kills.

“Our spring has been going really awesome so we were just ready to come out and show what we have,” Stivrins said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Albrecht and Foecke each had three aces for the Huskers with Albrecht knocking hers out on three consecutive serves midway through Game 3. Gretna’s Amanda Young, a sophomore defensive specialist for the Rams, also added an ace in the third set.

The lukewarm exhibition sends Nebraska into the offseason with plenty to work on, but also plenty to build on, Cook said. After not needing to make wholesale changes for the last two years, Cook seems to embrace the challenge of tinkering with lineups and style of play, and he has a positive, high-energy group with which to figure things out.

Adding to the calculus this fall will be a five-member freshman class that the coach believes will also have a say in helping the Huskers get an identity nailed down.

“Hopefully our freshmen come in and push these guys,” Cook said. “Competition is always good. The next goal is to get those guys on campus. We’ve got a couple that have got to come in and compete.”

Colorado State …… 17 16 17

Nebraska …………… 25 25 25

CSU (Kills-Aces-Blocks): Cizmic 7-1-3, Hillyer 4-1-6, Hougaard-Jensen 3-0-3, Runnels 3-0-2, Oleksak 2-0-7, Hanna 2-0-0, Young 0-1-0

NU: Albrecht 11-3-3, Boender 8-2-0, Foecke 5-3-3, Holman 5-0-2, Stivrins 5-0-4, Maloney 0-2-0, Townsend 0-1-0

Set Assists: CSU, 19 (Oleksak 15, Thornlow 2, Runnels 1, Green 1). NU, 32 (Hunter 23, Atherton 5, Boender 2, Maloney 2). Att: 2,040

Husker men finish with two All-Americans at NCAA gymnastics championships

WEST POINT, N.Y. — Nebraska’s Austin Epperson and Kyle King earned All-America honors at the NCAA men’s gymnastics championships on Saturday.

The Huskers finished sixth in the team race with a score of 412.900, their best finish at the NCAA championships since 1999. Oklahoma won its third straight team championship with a 431.950 score.

Epperson was named an All-American for the second time in his career after finishing as runner-up on the floor with a score of 14.60. King got his first All-America honor by finishing fifth on the floor with a 14.45.