Nebraska's 2016 class is the most highly regarded group of recruits that coach Mike Riley has ever assembled. At least according to the recruiting rankings.
Here's how this year's Huskers' haul compared to the rest of the nation, according to the four major recruiting services (as of Thursday morning):
Average out the four and you get: 25.8.
In 2004 — Riley's second year at Oregon State — he was credited with securing the country's No. 31 class in Rivals' rankings and the No. 34 class in the Scout rankings. His best.
Here's how the next 10 averaged out:
Rivals: 47.3 ... highest ranking: 39th (in 2013 and 2014)
Scout: 48.6 ... highest ranking: 40th (in 2007 and 2013)
Recruiting class rankings are a flawed measure of talent, yes — because they can't account for mental toughness, or injury potential, or the individual-specific circumstances that can trigger appropriate levels of development. But they're the most accurate and useful comparative tool in recruiting, so their relevance can't be ignored.
Bottom-line: At least in 2016, Riley recruited more highly regarded prospects to Nebraska than he ever did on an annual basis at Oregon State.
I asked Riley if he's had to adjust his approach now that he's trying to build relationships with more and more high schoolers who have developed their own brand, who have a legitimate national profile, who are getting attention from lots of top programs and whose egos are most likely inflated.
Maybe initially, Riley said. But ultimately all recruits — five starts to two stars — want the same thing.
"I think that you’ve got to get something that kind of gets a hook in there," Riley said. "But then I have found that — even though they have a lot of notoriety and they are being recruited by a lot of different people — the place and the people and the things that they’re considering come down to some real common denominators about finally making a choice. Because if it’s the wrong place, all the flash in the world and all the gimmicks in the world fade away fast, so they’re going to be searching for some of the things we’ve always talked about. And that’s substance in the program, and the right fit of the university for them and the right place."
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In case you're wondering, here's where Nebraska's 2015 recruiting class ranked:
And finally, here are the averaged Rivals and Scout rankings of Husker classes during the 10 years before Riley took over:
Rivals: 20.7 ... highest ranking: 5th (in 2005)
Scout: 25.4 ... highest ranking: 10th (in 2005)