LINCOLN — By the time he spoke with new Nebraska coach Mike Riley last weekend, Trent Bray already knew what to say if asked to tag along.
Bray had been thinking about it since the instant he found out the Huskers had hired Riley last Thursday morning.
So when Riley offered, Bray didn’t hesitate.
The “yes” came immediately — “right when he asked me,” Bray told The World-Herald Thursday night.
That’s coming from a former Oregon State linebacker who had been coaching at his alma mater since 2012 and whose dad, Craig, was once an OSU assistant as well.
Leaving wasn’t easy.
“The kids that you recruit up there,” Bray said, “and the friendships and the relationships that you made up there. The people. That’s the hard part.”
But the chance to continue working with Riley — at a place like Nebraska — was too good to pass up.
The three other former Oregon State assistants who were officially named to Riley’s new Husker staff Thursday presumably feel the same way.
Mark Banker, the Beavers’ 12-year defensive coordinator, joins Bray to coach on the defensive side of the ball. Mike Cavanaugh was announced as an offensive assistant. Special teams coordinator Bruce Read, who’s basically spent his entire 29 years of coaching focused on the kicking game, has joined Riley at NU as well.
No offensive or defensive coordinator designations have been made. Riley still has five more assistants to hire.
He’s yet to extensively meet with the assistants brought to NU by former coach Bo Pelini. That staff, under the leadership of interim coach Barney Cotton, still remains on campus, helping prepare the Huskers for the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl against USC.
Nebraska’s utilizing a relatively common NCAA waiver that temporarily allows Riley to hire new coaches for recruiting purposes while the old regime focuses solely on coaching.
“The waiver was submitted simultaneously while Coach Riley was being hired and was approved before any of his recently added staff members came aboard,” according to an email sent to The World-Herald on Thursday from the Nebraska athletic department.
The split-staff waiver has allowed Cavanaugh, Read, Banker and Bray — who’ve reportedly been working for NU all week — to make recruiting trips before the current prospect contact period ends this weekend. Riley’s been making in-home visits with Nebraska recruits since Monday.
“We’ve been all over the country,” Bray said.
Their familiarity with one another surely made the whirlwind week much easier to handle.
According to NU’s press release, the four assistants have logged a total of 45 seasons on staff with Riley, including stints with Oregon State and the San Diego Chargers. They’ve combined for 97 years of coaching experience.
“I am excited to have the first pieces in place regarding our staffing,” Riley said in a statement. “I’m very excited about the coaches that are on board right now. I’ve worked with them and trust them and know the kind of work they do. They are excited to represent the University of Nebraska and our football program, and we are fortunate to have them on staff.”
Riley knows them well.
» Before they teamed up for their most recent run at Oregon State, Banker and Riley were on staff together with the Chargers. Riley took over the OSU program for the first time in 1997 and hired Banker at that time, too — after both were assistants at USC together for one season.
While with the Beavers, Banker had position-specific coaching responsibilities until 2012. He’s coached defensive backs and linebackers. It’s unclear what his exact role will be at NU.
» Read started with Riley and Banker at Oregon State in 1997 and went with them to the NFL, but he stayed in the league until returning to Oregon State in 2004. He soon bounced back to the pros. Then he came back to OSU five years ago. He’s been a special teams guy that whole time.
» Cavanaugh was a small college offensive line coach (Ferris State, Sacred Heart, Murray State and others) before joining the Chargers. But that was two years before Riley took over. Cavanaugh went to coach the O-line at Hawaii and didn’t get hired by Riley until 2005.
» Bray, an all-conference first-teamer as a senior, played for Riley for three seasons, though Dennis Erickson was the one who recruited him to Oregon State. Bray’s dad coached for Erickson at Washington State (in the late ’80s), OSU and Arizona State. Bray was an ASU graduate assistant before taking over as linebackers coach. Then he landed a gig with Riley in 2012.
“I love working for him,” Bray said. “It’s so much more than football.”
Football, of course, is “No. 1” for Riley, Bray said. But there’s a reason Riley didn’t have to work too hard to try to sell Bray on taking a job at NU.
“If he called,” Bray said, “I already knew.”
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