LINCOLN — Nebraska fans came to the Big Red Bash on Thursday night to hear Mike Riley talk about the 2016 recruiting class, and the head coach repeated plenty of what he had said Wednesday about the Huskers' 21 signees.
But the nature of college recruiting is such that Riley reminded a crowd of about 600 at the Devaney Center that the heavy lifting on 2017 already starts Monday.
"We got this class, we're talking to you guys about 'em, but then tomorrow they are old news and we are on to the next group," Riley said. "We want to sit here next year and bring you another very good group of players."
Riley said the same factors that helped NU land a current No. 24 spot in the 247Sports composite team rankings for 2016 will serve it well again, mainly what the Huskers have to offer on campus and the recognition of their brand nationally.
Nebraska signed players from 14 states in its 2016 class.
"As you all know, the threads of Nebraska run far and wide," Riley said. "It's not hard to go anywhere in the country and not be known by the 'N' and the history that goes with all that. So that's pretty special."
Riley said the Nebraska staff studied the history of recruiting and the history of Husker rosters, "and tried to get a picture of what has made this place kick through the years." In particular, Riley said they looked at the makeup of the national championship teams in the 1990s.
They included a core of players from Nebraska and the Midwest — the 500-mile radius that Riley often mentions — but others who came "from coast to coast."
In referencing somebody like linebacker Quayshon Alexander out of Prospect Park, New Jersey, Riley noted that it was the same state that produced Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier.
"That's not new, but that's the way it'll be," he said. "And it's not hard for us to be able to do that."
Riley, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and defensive coordinator Mark Banker spoke in between video highlights and segments from the signing day show coverage on Huskers.com.
Several current Nebraska players mingled with fans and signed autographs, and senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong briefly held court with new com-er Patrick O'Brien. O'Brien and receiver Derrion Grim were early enrollees, allowing them to go through the Huskers' winter conditioning program and then spring practice.
Armstrong said he understood that he could be somebody who is able to help O'Brien as the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder starts working with the NU quarterbacks.
"He's a great kid," Armstrong said. "Got a lot to learn, but I think he's going to be a great player here.
You got to take the time to learn as much as you can, but I think he's willing to do that, and he's going to push this team to be a winning team in the future."
Some other comments from Thursday night:
Asked if there was any one thing that defined this class, Riley said: "I think if you summarized it, you would say versatile."
Riley acknowledged that it will be unique for Nebraska to have two punters on scholarship next season. Caleb Lightbourn likely redshirts as Sam Foltz plays his senior year, but Riley said of the 6-3, 220-pounder: "We think this guy talent-wise is special."
Langsdorf said David Engelhaupt of Norfolk Catholic can fill fullback, H-back or tight end duties. "I asked him, 'You see Andy Janovich play much?' And he kind of lit up," Langsdorf said.
Nebraska appeared to hit it big with its five signees in the secondary, led by highly ranked cornerbacks Lamar Jackson and Marquel Dismuke.
"That's big time for us," Banker said. "When you're able to have athletes in the back end that can take care of the other team's wideouts in the passing game, you can just hunker down a little bit better, make sure that you're snuffing out the run game."