OAK PARK, Calif. — Mike Riley couldn’t stand still.
The position groups were separated into segments across the turf, so Nebraska’s second-year coach was bouncing around them all — offering high-fives and back-slaps when he wasn’t sharing a helpful tidbit or two with the high school athletes working out.
There were hands to shake and photos to take, too. Riley, sporting a fan-designed red “Calibraska” T-shirt, even picked up empty bottles and stray scraps of paper before dragging a trash can off the playing surface after the event.
Riley, essentially, was the party host committed to ensuring all guests enjoyed their experience.
He didn’t seem to mind his role one bit.
Sunday’s much-anticipated satellite camp in a northwest suburb of Los Angeles, relocated because of a fire, featured detailed drill instruction and highlight-reel exhibitions of skill — all while giving Riley and his staff the chance to further expose the area’s top prospects to their Husker rebuilding plans. And NU accomplished what it hoped to.
“It was as productive a camp as we’ve ever had,” Riley said.
Riley would know. At Oregon State, he and his coaches were among the first college football staffs to annually travel across the country and serve as guest coaches at instructional camps. They participated in satellite camps during their first summer at Nebraska, too. Riley was vocal during the spring’s back-and-forth nationwide debate — which temporarily led to a ban before the most recent resolution granted coaches permission to train kids off campus.
“There’s a lot of things about a camp like this that can just provide and enhance opportunity in a lot of different ways,” Riley said. “Everybody is looking for the right fit.”
Players and coaches had a better idea after Sunday.
The NU staff offered tips, barked out critiques and celebrated big plays with the same enthusiasm they show each day at the Husker practices during the fall. The coaches were engaged throughout, ending Sunday’s event by breaking the campers up into position groups for a specific final message as the kids huddled around.
And there were a lot of kids. More than 160.
If not for a fire Saturday blocks away from Calabasas High School — the camp’s original site — the participation numbers likely would have been higher. Organizers woke up Sunday morning to find that the fire was 15 percent contained and that emergency personnel were still occupying the school’s parking lot. So they had to spread the word of a change in venue.
Several top-tier recruits still found their way to Oak Park High School, about 20 minutes away from Calabasas.
Nebraska pledges Tristan Gebbia and Keyshawn Johnson Jr. were on hand. The two Calabasas products didn’t disappoint, either — the quarterback (Gebbia) showed off his strong arm all day while the 6-foot-1 receiver (Johnson) proved he can catch almost any ball thrown in his radius.
Brendan Radley-Hiles, another Calabasas standout who’s a grade behind Gebbia and Johnson, made plays as a receiver and a defensive back. Calabasas defensive back Darnay Holmes, the No. 8 overall 2017 recruit on 247Sports’ composite rankings, showed up before the camp began, but didn’t participate.
Receiver Tyjon Lindsey, the 28th-ranked overall player, was there working out, though. He gushed about his visit to Lincoln a few months back and expressed gratitude for a growing relationship with receivers coach Keith Williams. He’s rethinking things because of NU’s push.
“It changed my whole process,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey announced Sunday that he plans to make a commitment Aug. 22. Nebraska is one of nine schools he’ll choose from.
The Huskers are among Jamire Calvin’s finalists, too. The three-star receiver from Los Angeles was taking reps alongside Lindsey and Johnson on Sunday. Two high-profile running backs also participated in the camp: Nathan Tilford (an Arizona commit from Upland, California, who is No. 181 overall) and T.J. Pledger (a 2018 prospect out of West Hills, California).
Said Riley: “The overall number of scholarship appearing players that were on this field was pretty high.”
That was the goal for Nebraska, which has increased its presence in the Los Angeles area since Riley took over as coach. He built countless contacts while intensely recruiting California at Oregon State, and has capitalized on a long-standing relationship with Keyshawn Johnson Sr. since coming to NU.
Johnson has said numerous times that he wouldn’t have introduced his son to the Huskers if Riley weren’t the man in charge.
Now Keyshawn Jr. is so pro-Nebraska that he’s helping to spearhead the Huskers’ recruiting efforts across the region. With so many local tournaments, camps and games — all of the elite prospects tend to keep in contact with one another.
Gebbia traded numbers with Tilford before leaving Sunday. Johnson was interacting with campers all day, too.
“Every single time I go (visit Nebraska), it gets better every time,” Johnson said. “Hopefully they believe what I’m talking about, they’re going to come visit and probably have the best experience of their life.”
The players in attendance Sunday got a taste. And that was the point, Riley said.
“You want as much information as you can get,” Riley said. “We need to know not only how good this player is but what kind of person is he? And they’d like to know — to see how we interact with people, to see how we interact with players, to see how we teach drills? I think it’s outstanding for them to be able to look at our staff and say, ‘Yeah, I’d like to play for this guy.’ ”
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