LINCOLN — It had hardly been an hour or two after Nebraska football announced the hiring of Mike Riley on Dec. 4, and Darin Boysen of the Nebraska Coaches Association already had an email from the Pacific Northwest.
Rob Younger, executive director of the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association, wanted to let Boysen know that the Huskers’ new boss would be a jackpot hire for Nebraska high school coaches.
“Mike and the high school coaches here in the state had an outstanding relationship through his entire time here,” Younger said. “We think the world of Mike.”
During his tenure at Oregon State, Younger said, Riley had an open-door policy for high school coaches that included watching practices and stopping by the football offices as they pleased. His assistants were regulars at OACA clinic sessions in Portland. And in financial support of the organization, Riley also had about 30 people from his staff register annually as members, at $90 per individual.
Being an Oregonian, Riley also was supportive of in-state players in recruiting, whether with scholarship or walk-on offers, Younger said. “He wants to help those kids.”
“Rob Younger said he was considered to be a great friend of their association and would be very good to work with,” Boysen said. “Not making any commentary on the past, because the past is the past, but we’re looking forward to the opportunity for an open dialogue and looking forward to working with Coach Riley and his staff.”
For the third time in 11 years, Nebraska high school coaches will get to know a new Husker head coach, with Riley following Bo Pelini and Bill Callahan. Several said this week that they look forward to starting new relationships.
“I have been nothing but excited about Mike Riley,” Elkhorn High coach Mark Wortman said. “I tell ya, I think it’s a great hire, and I like Bo. I wasn’t anti-Bo at all. But I’m impressed with Mike Riley and how he handles himself, and I think it’ll be awesome.”
It will be a new chapter, but with some of the same old priorities: scholarship offers, walk-ons, good relationships and communication.
The next step for Nebraska high school coaches will be to start from scratch with Riley. One thing Pelini did back in the winter of 2008 was speak at a Metro Football Coaches Association meeting, and Millard West coach Kirk Peterson said he still recalls a simple tackling concept that he picked up from Pelini during one clinic.
“It’s kind of an exciting time as a high school coach and a chance to learn from somebody new,” Peterson said. “It’ll be good to get down there and listen to some new things. I’m sure every coach in the state picked up something from Coach Pelini and his staff.”
It will take some patience first, because Riley is still putting together his first Husker staff and tending to the current recruiting class.
But Younger said Riley, once settled, will make the high school coaches feel welcome and part of the program.
“When I was still coaching in 2009, we were talking about adapting some things in our offense, and Oregon State had just gone to that with the Rodgers brothers (Jacquizz and James),” Younger said. “I called him about it, and he said, ‘Come on over.’ We ended up getting to spend about six hours breaking down film. Those things are very appreciated by coaches.”
Kearney High coach Brandon Cool said he always enjoyed reading Riley’s thoughts from manuals that came out after he spoke at clinics. Cool also said he “enjoyed watching his demeanor.”
“You talk about Nebraska and the state of Nebraska, you talk about the values and work ethic and character, and it sounds like the hire of Mike Riley fits the mold of how Nebraska operates,” Cool said.
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