Husker coach Mike Riley

Columbus was one of seven stops on Husker coach Mike Riley’s Nebraska tour. “I love talking to people who care,” he said.

Spring practice is over, finals completed and Nebraska football players have a few weeks to catch their breath.

Mike Riley said Friday that NU turns the players over to Mark Philipp and his weight staff June 1 with total confidence, but not without giving the summer program a thorough look in his second year as coach.

“We continue to study every part of it, and the weight training and the conditioning part is one of the most vital parts of this time of year,” Riley said. “So we’ve looked at and used all the resources that we have around Nebraska to tweak things a little bit, and to grow in that area.”

Riley works closely with Philipp, who oversees players during times such as the winter and summer programs. Riley also reached out this winter to Boyd Epley, the associate athletic director for strength and conditioning, to help study and monitor injury prevention.

It’s the work of the strength staff that will dictate where players are physically when the Huskers start preseason practice Aug. 4.

“I think our weight coaches do a terrific job,” Riley said. “Our players really, really respond to those weight coaches that we have. There’s a lot of energy there and a lot of great work going on.

“All we want to do is make sure that we’re always doing the right thing, and so we’re always studying how to do that maybe a little bit better.”

Riley was at the Durham Museum on Friday morning to speak before the Greater Omaha Chamber’s Business Owners Success Series (BOSS) and Prosper Omaha participants. It was one of the final stops on a four-day, seven-city tour this week to connect with Husker fans.

Riley talked football specifics, of course, but also told the crowd that this week on the road only reaffirmed the kind of support that he saw during his first year, even when Nebraska was struggling through a 6-7 season.

“One of the things I’ve found out — first year, first impressions — is everybody owns this program,” he said.

In an interview afterward, Riley said he feels good about the attitude that his players will take into the summer, helped by winning three of four to finish last season and then having a good spring practice.

“I really like this team,” Riley said. “I just interviewed all of them one-by-one, and I came away from those meetings just confirming and knowing that I have a great group of young men who are fun to go to work with every day. So we’ve got to help them, and our part of that is evaluating the best way to teach them football.

“I was proud of the last team for a lot of reasons. We’re disappointed in a lot of the results but proud of them for a lot of reasons and their perseverance — for how they kept going, how they played their best football at the end of the year.”

Evaluation has been a common word the last few months as Riley and his staff have tried to turn over every stone possible in a search of answers.

Evaluating schemes and coaching. Evaluating personnel. Evaluating spring practice and the summer program. Evaluating recruiting, which Riley said includes “a little buzz going” right now for the Huskers.

That hasn’t necessarily meant more hours in the office for the coach or his staff, however.

“I don’t try to change my habits because of the circumstance,” Riley said. “I always would like to think, regardless of the circumstance, that we are working the hardest that we can at our job and doing due diligence to our job, so we want to remain consistent like that so we don’t all of a sudden have to change.

“We’ve got a good work ethic within our staff. We’ve got great goals within our staff. We’re always trying to accomplish those goals, evaluate those plans that we have to get to those goals. That’s always a part of our life.”

Riley shook hands and thanked people for coming Friday morning. Then it was off to a radio interview, followed by a private event at First National Bank.

A long week, but Riley has been happy to spread the same message he passed along to the crowd at Durham: “We want to do it right for you.”

“I think that there is probably a major theme about this state, and the values in this state, and we want to emulate that all the time,” Riley said. “I’ve got personal beliefs and philosophies about a program and how it should look, and I think they match perfectly with what people of Nebraska want. So we’re going to build this in a way that represents this state.”

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