LINCOLN — College football recruiting never sleeps.
It doesn’t take a rain check, either.
Nebraska’s first Friday Night Lights of the year kicked off under the lights in Memorial Stadium. But within an hour, the coaching staff shifted the event inside before severe storms smacked the city.
Casual fans who had attended the two-hour outdoor Fan Fest — then walked into the stadium to watch the camp — couldn’t all fit into the Hawks Championship Center, so they had to head home. The parents of 150 or so campers crammed into the practice facility, which was packed to the gills in the balcony.
Parents pulled out fans to keep cool and peered down at the field, trying to locate their sons in the masses. Husker staffers turned on the stereos that pumped their usual loop of rap and hip-hop, and workers opened giant garage doors to ventilate the muggy facility. When rains washed over the outdoor fields in sheets — and some current NU players started taking phone videos of the downpour — the doors came down again.
As the camp ended, the southern part of Lancaster County went under a tornado warning. Instead of conducting a quick post-camp presser on the field, coach Mike Riley was asked to move his chat into a “tornado safe” hallway.
Meanwhile, the son of an All-America Husker wrestler was in the process of getting a scholarship offer from defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. And one of Nebraska’s top remaining targets in the 2018 recruiting class — defensive end Daniel Carson of Independence, Missouri — was milling around with current players.
Riley figured the weather might get dicey Friday night, and the staff discussed it in a Thursday meeting.
“Our operations guy, Dan Van De Riet, said, ‘I know you don’t want to hear this, but we have to have a contingency plan,’ ” Riley said. “And that was like what doomed it, right? But everybody adjusted easily. The only thing that was really disappointing is we had quite a few people who looked like they’d just come to watch these guys who were fans. And we weren’t able to accommodate them. That’s not necessarily good.
“But the rest of it I thought went good. Kids got a lot of work.”
One player — Scottsbluff defensive end Garrett Nelson — got a scholarship offer from Diaco. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound son of former NU wrestler Chris Nelson is the second in-state prospect to get an offer for the 2019 class.
Another 2019 prospect with an NU scholarship offer — Council Bluffs Lewis Central quarterback Max Duggan — got serious attention from the Husker staff.
Wearing Red No. 10 — the same number he wears at Lewis Central — Duggan impressed parents and reporters with a live arm and quick release. In one-on-one drills, his first throw — a 40-yard go route placed perfectly to receiver DeShawn Hanika of Topeka, Kansas — might have been his best. In another drill, quarterbacks had to throw looping fade patterns into a basket. Duggan hit the target.
Before drills, Duggan was consistently accompanied by NU staffers or players, including director of player personnel Billy Devaney, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and two current Husker quarterbacks, Patrick O’Brien and Tristan Gebbia. Both players, plus starter Tanner Lee, helped teach the camping quarterbacks Friday night.
“I like to see our players have to teach,” Riley said. “You kind of get a feel for how comfortable they are with what they know. That’s good.”
Riley, who loves recruiting and developing quarterbacks, said he looks for a few key things during evaluation.
“The very first thing I would look at would be accuracy, and the next thing would be getting the ball out of your hand quickly,” said Riley, who is forbidden by NCAA rules to talk about specific prospects. “And then athletic ability — how those feet work and how that all works together, getting the ball out with good accuracy. If I summed it all up, that would be it. Arm strength would be important — but it’s not the most important.”
Most of the campers, Riley said, were in-state prospects. The camp included coaches from South Dakota, South Dakota State and North Dakota, all of whom were having their own conversations with players. Nebraska sometimes competes with those schools for players NU targets as walk-ons, but Riley likes having them work the camps, too.
The first FNL camp is, in some ways, a dry run for next week, when many of the Huskers’ current 2018 commits will attend, including cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles. Other uncommitted prospects expected to attend include defensive tackle Judge Culpepper of Tampa, Florida.