Category Archives: Huskers News

Without Shields, Nebraska Falls Short Against Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. — The way Nebraska designed its defensive strategy against Wisconsin, collapsing its 2-3 zone to eliminate close-range looks, the Huskers knew they’d be giving up some open jump shots.

They just didn’t plan on Wisconsin making so many.

But the Badgers were more than comfortable shooting over NU’s zone all night Wednesday, connecting on 11 of their 18 3-pointers in a 72-61 win. They made their first four 3-pointers out of halftime and added two more in successive possessions five minutes later to effectively seal their sixth straight victory.

“We were getting them to take the shots we wanted,” coach Tim Miles said on the Husker Sports Network.

Miles conceded that perhaps some different tactics would have been more effective against Wisconsin, but his options were limited without senior Shavon Shields and freshman Ed Morrow. Shields missed the trip after suffering that scary head injury Saturday. Morrow, who didn’t play Wednesday, practiced for about 20 total minutes Monday and Tuesday, Miles said.

Plus, the Badgers (15-9, 7-4) came into the game shooting just 34.4 percent from 3-point range during league play, ranked 10th in the conference. Their last time out, they did make a season-high 13 3-pointers — but they’d been a combined 6-of-26 (23.1 percent) in the two games before that.

They changed Wednesday’s matchup with their sharpshooting, though. So much so, they practically gave up attacking inside the paint altogether.

Of Wisconsin’s final 10 field goal attempts in the first half, nine were either 3-pointers or midrange shots. The Badgers made seven.

They remained hot to begin the second half. They shot eight 3-pointers, a midrange jumper and a layup in the first nine minutes. They missed both attempts inside the arc — but connected on 6 of 8 beyond it.

By then, they had complete control of the game, leading 51-38. Nebraska (13-12, 5-7) never got closer than 10 after that.

“We kind of, I think, let the fact that the score wasn’t in our favor — or we weren’t as close as we had been — affect us, unnecessarily,” Miles said.

But it wasn’t easy for Nebraska to find much rhythm offensively without its best shot-maker. Shields averages 15.7 points per game and leads the team with 70 assists. He’d started 106 consecutive games before Wednesday.

Without him, the Huskers finished with their lowest point total in more than two months. They shot 40.7 percent from the field. They made just 4 of 13 3-point attempts. Miles said Nebraska finished 5-of-16 on its shots at the rim.

“We were soft inside,” Miles said. “You have to play with an enormous amount of force inside, and power, to play imbalanced, and to be able to finish through guys and over guys.”

Nebraska did pull within six points at the 13:33 mark in the second half, but after a Wisconsin made free throw, the Huskers turned the ball over on their next trip downcourt and misfired on a jump shot on the possession after that.

There were some positives, though.

“I think that our kids were closer to being a good team and having a way to win that game than maybe anybody realizes,” Miles said.

Notes

» Junior Andrew White played just 11 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. NU was outscored 19-10 when he went to the bench with two fouls at the 8:24 mark. White finished with 10 points.

» Sophomore Jake Hammond contributed two points, four rebounds and two blocks in nine minutes of action before halftime. But he had three fouls and two turnovers in six second-half minutes.

» Big Ten opponents are now shooting 41.4 percent from 3-point range against Nebraska. No other conference team is giving up a higher percentage in league action.

» There was no new report on Shavon Shields’ status Wednesday. Miles indicated that Shields is still progressing through Nebraska’s concussion protocol. It’s unknown how long Shields will be out. The Huskers return home to play Penn State on Saturday.

Husker Baseball Notes: Young Players Pushing for Starting Spots

LINCOLN — Nebraska’s less than two weeks away from the start of the 2016 season and its coach is indicating that several underclassmen are pushing unsuspecting veterans for their jobs.

Darin Erstad didn’t give a position-by-position report at a press conference Monday, but he did say that he’s not yet sure who’ll be starting — at any spot.

“I’ve seen some hunger in these younger guys and I’ve seen some coasting in our older guys,” Erstad said. “Our younger guys are flat-out beating them out of positions right now.”

Nebraska only has five seniors and seven juniors on its current roster, but almost all of them are expected to play key roles this year.

Erstad’s message Monday was that they better be ready to earn their innings and at-bats. They’re running out of time to do that, too, because the season begins on Feb. 19 with a weekend series at College of Charleston.

“If you think you’re going to come out and cruise through, and think you have something locked up — unfortunately, for those particular individuals, there are some young guys that are pretty good,” Erstad said.

Erstad said junior pitcher Derek Burkamper, who made 12 starts and recorded a 3.84 ERA last year, will be suspended for the season’s first two weekends because of a team rules violation. Senior Colton Howell, transitioning from a reliever to a starter, is still adjusting to extended work, according to Erstad.

“I have no problems starting two freshmen on the weekends, if that’s what it’s going to take,” Erstad said.

Working back to health

Erstad indicated that he plans to be cautious with a few players who spent the offseason getting back to full strength.

Shortstop Steven Reveles received a medical hardship waiver after a finger injury sidelined him last year — but he dealt with unrelated arm soreness during the summer and the fall. He said he feels fine. Erstad, though, plans to limit Reveles early.

Senior catcher Taylor Fish (hamstring) and sophomore Scott Schreiber (back) will also be monitored closely in February.

“I can anticipate seeing a bunch of different types of lineups,” Erstad said.

No predictions from Erstad

Erstad’s not exactly sure how the Big Ten race will shake out or how the league will build off its banner year in 2015. He’s focused on improving his team.

Like the Huskers, several teams in the conference have holes to fill, according to Erstad. A season after five Big Ten teams earned spots in the NCAA tournament, none were ranked in the D1Baseball.com preseason Top 25 poll.

But he hasn’t spent much time coming up with his own set of predictions.

“To say who’s going to take that next step — I don’t know,” Erstad said. “I know one thing, we’ve got to find out how good we’re going to be. I honestly couldn’t care less about anybody else right now.”

Perfect Game picked Nebraska to finish sixth in the league. D1Baseball.com had NU finishing fifth in its projections Monday.

The Huskers were eighth-place finishers in the league standings last season, their worst Big Ten showing under Erstad. They were second the two seasons before that, and fourth in 2012.

The top eight Big Ten teams will earn spots in the conference tournament in May. The event will be held at TD Ameritrade Park.

Nebraska’s Shavon Shields Resting Comfortably at Home; Game-Time Status Unclear

LINCOLN — Two days after Shavon Shields left the court on a gurney, the Nebraska senior forward was doing better as he rested at home, the team’s athletic trainer said Monday night.

But Shields’ status for Wednesday’s game at Wisconsin still remains unclear.

Nebraska athletic trainer R.J. Pietig, speaking on the men’s basketball weekly radio show on Husker Sports Network, said Shields’ health had improved by Monday. Shields will continue to be evaluated.

“We’ll look at things further (Tuesday) and decide what’s going to be the best thing for Shavon,” Pietig said.

Pietig said Shields is following Nebraska’s concussion protocol procedures, which serve as a gradual reintroduction to physical activity for athletes who suffer a head injury. Shields must be free of any concussion-related symptoms as he progresses through each step of the evaluation process.

Shields was injured in the second half of the Huskers’ 87-63 win over Rutgers Saturday. He fell awkwardly after attempting to block a shot. He landed hard and hit his head.

Shields was unconscious for about a minute — but by the time he left the arena, he was alert and had feeling in his extremities. He was hospitalized and released. He’s been recovering ever since.

NU assistant coach Jim Molinari said on the radio show Monday that seeing the Shields fall was an “emotional” moment for the team. He said the locker room was silent after the win and that Miles didn’t really address the actual action on the court during his post-game conversation with the players. They talked about Shields’ health and how they’d plan to visit him on Sunday, according to Molinari.

Shields, the three-year captain, ranks second on the team both at 15.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest. He has started 106 consecutive games. Dave Hoppen holds the NU record with 111 straight starts.

The Huskers are set to play Wisconsin at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Madison, Wisconsin. Coach Tim Miles is scheduled to address the media before the team leaves Lincoln on Tuesday afternoon.

Nebraska at Wisconsin

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Kohl Center, Madison, Wisconsin

Radio: Big Apple News Radio – 1600 AM, 105.5 FM

 

Turnovers Prove Costly for Huskers in Loss to Indiana

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Connie Yori didn’t try to sugarcoat Nebraska’s 59-47 loss to Indiana on Sunday.

How could she?

Her team committed 26 turnovers, missed its first 11 3-pointers and got all of two points from a starting backcourt that normally combines for 33 points.

“This was a game about who wanted it more, and Indiana must have taken the ball from us eight times, at least, when I go back and watch it on film,” Yori said on the postgame radio show from Assembly Hall. “I’ll probably keep the guns and knives away from me when I do watch it on film because this was one that’s going to be really bothersome.”

The Huskers (16-7, 7-5 Big Ten) were clearly bothered by Indiana’s zone, which successfully stole the ball 14 times.

Freshman center Jessica Shepard, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds, completed a bizarre triple-double with 11 turnovers by herself.

But Shepard was also NU’s lone consistent scoring threat. That’s because Natalie Romeo, Rachel Theriot and Kyndal Clark nearly posted a goose egg in points. Romeo scored two and made one shot. She also missed 11 shots.

Theriot missed all four of her shots. Clark missed her two. Combined, those three missed 11 3-pointers.

“It’s hard to have your starting backcourt score two points for you and think you’re going to get anywhere close to a win,” Yori said. “The funny thing is, we were still somewhat in the game.”

True enough. In winning its 11th straight game at home this season, Indiana (15-9, 7-5) struggled to put away the Huskers because it shot 31.9 percent from the floor. The Hoosiers’ big three — Tyra Buss, Amanda Cahill and Alexis Gassion — accounted for 48 points. Cahill scored six of Indiana’s first 11 points in the second half, helping the Hoosiers extend their 30-24 halftime lead to 41-28.

Nebraska never got closer than 11 after that. The Huskers missed a lot of shots they normally make, Yori said.

“We are also due for a bad shooting night,” Yori said.

It comes at a bad time, though. NU could have used a road win Sunday to help bolster NCAA tournament chances. The Huskers will get another shot Thursday at Minnesota. The Gophers won 112-106 over Northwestern Sunday in double overtime, getting 60 points from senior guard Rachel Banham.

Shavon Shields Released From Hospital After Being Carted Off on Stretcher During Rutgers Game

Husker forward Shavon Shields was injured while attempting to block a shot during Nebraska’s 87-63 win over Rutgers on Saturday, with the senior being knocked unconscious and eventually carried off the floor on a stretcher.

Shields — while jumping to swat a shot — had his feet taken out from under him before hitting the floor hard. He was not immediately moving following the injury, andremained on the floor for a total of nine minutes. It was later revealed that the Husker was knocked out after his upper body slammed into the floor on the play. After regaining consciousness, Shields was moving. Nebraska assistant athletic trainer RJ Pietig said Shields had full feeling and movement in his extremities.

“That’s a good sign,” Pietig said.

Shields, who was able to answer questions, was then sent to a hospital for further testing.

In an update at 5 p.m., Nebraska officials said Shields was dismissed from the hospital. The release said Shields underwent a CT scan, which was negative, and he will follow Nebraska’s concussion protocol.

After the game, coach Tim Miles told the Husker Sports Network that Shields was knocked out for “probably the longest period of time I’ve seen a player knocked out.” He said that after Shields regained consciousness, he didn’t remember what happened on the play, had “significant pain right under his hairline and in his neck,” and that the NU medical staff asked him not to move as a precautionary measure.

“We’re just praying for him and hoping for him,” said Miles, adding that he would be heading to the hospital soon to get more information. “It sounds like worst-case scenario is not there, at least.”

Husker Men Top Rutgers; Shavon Shields Injured, Carted Off Floor

LINCOLN — In the postgame press conference, Nebraska senior Andrew White said the analysis and examination of the errors can wait.

The most pressing concern for everyone following the Huskers’ 87-63 win over Rutgers Saturday afternoon was Shavon Shields. The NU senior was carted off in a gurney with 8:49 remaining in the second half after falling hard on his head.

Nebraska athletic trainer R.J. Pietig said Shields was unconscious for about a minute but was alert, awake and had feeling in his hands and feet by the time he left the court. Pietig said Shields was taken to the emergency room for further testing.

“It is as significant as event as I’ve been through during a game,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “It’s scary stuff.”

In an update at 5 p.m., Nebraska officials said Shields was dismissed from the hospital. The release said Shields underwent a CT scan, which was negative, and he will follow Nebraska’s concussion protocol.

Following the game, White said he knew as soon as Shields jumped to try to block a shot by Rutgers post D.J. Foreman, he knew it was going to be bad.

Shields fell onto Foreman’s back, flipped over and landed on his left shoulder, neck and head. Miles brought Shields’s mother, Senia Shields, onto the court. Eventually, Shields was carted off to a standing ovation after a nine-minute stoppage.

“It was really scary, just because I think most basketball players go through a fall like that, it’s just a matter of how serious it is when you land,” White said. “You can hit a back, you can hit a shoulder, head, neck, so it’s very serious just because that’s a player, he was doing his job, that’s just kind of the risk of it, but yeah a very scary moment.”

At the time of Shields’s injury, Nebraska led 72-55, and when play resumed an uneasy mood hung over the crowd of 12,981 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Miles said even he wasn’t completely focused on the action on the floor.

“Everyone was concerned,” Miles said. “The referees and officials were asking, the kids were worried and at that point you just try and get through the game as quick as you can. The game feels so unimportant.

“Even my mind would drift off. At the under-four timeout I was thinking ‘What am I doing?’ ‘How am I going to get there?’ and ‘How do we get our information to see how he’s doing and what can we do for him?’”

Miles said he kept fellow senior Benny Parker on the bench the remainder of the game because he didn’t think Parker was mentally ready to play.

Nebraska (13-11, 5-6) took control of the game with an 18-3 run to close out the first half.

With 7:35 left in the half, Rutgers (6-18, 0-11) led 33-27 and was shooting 60 percent shooting (12-for-20) from the floor. Freshman Corey Sanders had scored 10 of his game-high 28 points in the a four-minute span.

During a timeout, Miles switched to a 2-3 zone and held Rutgers without a field goal the rest of the half. The Scarlet Knights went 0-for-6 from the floor and committed four turnovers in the stretch.

“I think it just kind of breaks the rhythm of what’s going on,” White said about the change to zone. “They had a really good one-on-one player on their team (Sanders) and just by coming up the court and seeing a different look, it just helps to kind of changed the flow of the game.”

White led Nebraska with 21 points and eight rebounds.

But after the game, everyone’s focus was on Shields’s status.

“Our hearts and our concerns go out to Shavon Shields and his family and his health,” Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said. “…We hope he recovers very soon.”

Nebraska Coach Tim Miles Hopes Hard Stretch is a Learning Tool

LINCOLN — Coach Tim Miles said there is a lesson to be learned now that Nebraska’s taken the full tour of the Big Ten’s top half, competing well with the best but so often staggering just enough to leave with a loss.

The five teams sitting above the rest in the league standings have combined for a 41-10 conference record — and the Huskers have suffered through varying methods of failure against each one.

They turned it over too much and couldn’t stop Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell on Jan. 2. They had an extended scoring drought against Iowa. There were costly mental lapses on defense, allowing Michigan’s sharpshooters to get hot. Purdue drained NU of its fight and toughness. And just three days ago, Nebraska squandered routine fast-break opportunities and fell to Maryland.

“Just good enough to lose.” That’s how Miles summed it up in a press conference Friday.

But reviewing those disappointing results doesn’t have to leave the Huskers in a demoralizing state, Miles said.

The players — freshmen make up half of the regular rotation — have experienced first-hand the kinds of mistakes that can’t be made. They still have that 72-71 win at now-No. 10 Michigan State to reference, proving their full potential.

They just need to keep preparing as if they’ll soon put it all together, Miles said.

“You stick with the idea of just getting better,” Miles said. “I think what you’ve learned, what I’m trying to emphasize is, you can compete with anybody. But it’s going to take a full 40 minutes. It’s going to take excellent execution. And it’s going to take an effort like you wouldn’t believe.”

Any lapses — for an undersized and young NU team in a league this talented — and you’re trudging off the court with your head down, frustrated with yet another loss.

NU’s dropped three straight games now. To three probable NCAA tournament teams, but still …

“There’s no moral victory,” Miles said. “It’s just disappointing to lose.”

But now that the schedule lightens and Nebraska’s win probabilities increase, the Huskers (12-11, 4-6) have an opportunity to make the best of the near-misses.

Of those aforementioned five teams currently atop the Big Ten standings, NU plays just two of them (Indiana and Purdue) in its final eight league contests. The No. 18 Boilermakers have to come to Lincoln. There’s no rematch against Michigan State. The Huskers play Penn State (11-12, 2-8) twice and get Ohio State (14-10, 6-5) at home.

It could be a telling stretch run — starting with 13th-place Rutgers (6-17, 0-10) Saturday — for Nebraska’s developing roster and rebuilding program.

Junior Andrew White indicated that he and his teammates have to maintain a heightened level of urgency. It doesn’t matter if they’re playing a ranked opponent or a struggling team they previously blew out (NU waxed the Scarlet Knights 90-56 in January).

“There are definitely some winnable games,” White said. “But nothing is guaranteed in our conference. Just have to get back in the gym, fix some things, continue moving forward, and see where we can get toward the end of Big Ten play.”

Nebraska will spend portions of Saturday’s game honoring the 1990-91 Husker team, a squad that won 26 games, was ranked as high as No. 11 and reached the NCAA tournament.

The current NU team will wear throwback uniforms for the matchup against Rutgers. The first 500 students to arrive Saturday will get free T-shirts. Former players will be honored at halftime.

Nebraska’s branded the event as “Legends Weekend.” It’s the fourth straight year NU’s invited former players back to campus for an official gathering.

“Legends are important,” Miles said. “I think it’s important for the guys to get to know them and listen to these guys tell stories … what it means to them to have played at Nebraska. That’s always cool to hear.”

Miles said Friday that former Husker Beau Reid would speak to the team that night.

Notes

» The Scarlet Knights have lost 25 consecutive games against Big Ten opponents.

» Jonathan Laurent, a 6-foot-6 freshman, didn’t play in Rutgers’ first meeting with Nebraska one month ago. He’s expected to start Saturday.

» Nebraska is averaging just 9.6 turnovers per game in league action, which ranks second in the Big Ten.

» During conference play, Rutgers ranks last in scoring defense (89.4 points per game) and last in opponent field goal percentage (48.6 percent).

Rutgers at Nebraska

When: 1 p.m. Saturday (Coverage begins at noon)

Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena

Radio: Big Apple News Radio – 1600 AM & 105.5 FM

RUTGERS (6-17, 0-10)

F D.J. Foreman, 6-8, So., 7.5

F Greg Lewis, 6-9, Sr., 4.3

F Jonathan Laurent, 6-6, Fr., 6.9

G Mike Williams, 6-2, So., 12.3

G Corey Sanders, 6-2, Fr., 15.4

NEBRASKA (12-11, 4-6)

F Michael Jacobson, 6-8, Fr., 4.2

F Shavon Shields, 6-7, Sr., 15.6

G Andrew White, 6-7, Jr., 17.0

G Glynn Watson, 6-0, Fr., 8.6

G Benny Parker, 5-9, Sr., 4.8

 

Husker Assistant Hank Hughes Won’t Return in 2016; Mike Riley Targets ‘Great Coach, Teacher and Recruiter’

LINCOLN — Nebraska coach Mike Riley let go of Husker defensive line coach Hank Hughes on Friday. Riley announced the move in a late afternoon press release.

“I want to thank Hank for his hard work and contributions to our football program over the past year,” Riley said. “We continue to build our program with the pursuit of championships always at the forefront of everything we do, and we will look for a great coach, teacher and recruiter to enhance our defense.”

Hughes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On the advice of NU defensive coordinator Mark Banker — who played football with Hughes at Springfield (Mass.) College — Riley last January had hired Hughes away from Cincinnati to hire coach the Huskers’ defensive line. Hughes signed a two-year, $300,000-per-year contract at that time. Since the contract expires in Jan. 2017, Hughes would be owed the final year of his contract — minus whatever salary he might make at some other job — if he was fired without cause.

Previous to his short stint at Nebraska, Hughes had been defensive coordinator at Cincinnati for one season. Prior to that, he was a longtime position coach at Connecticut. He began his coaching career in 1979 after a collegiate playing career at Springfield (Mass.) College.

Because of injuries, inexperience and mediocre depth. Nebraska’s defensive line struggled to rush the passer in 2015. The Huskers lost two juniors — Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine — to the NFL Draft. Some players, such as defensive ends Ross Dzuris and Freedom Akinmoladun, did show improvement.

But despite needing high school and junior college pass rushers in the 2016 recruiting class, Hughes failed to close on any junior college pass rushers and landed only one true high school defensive end, Collin Miller, weeks before signing day. Hughes was also considered the primary recruiter for three-star Ashland-Greenwood product Ben Stille, but Nebraska otherwise missed on several talented pass rushers in the 500-mile radius, including Xavier Kelly (signed with Clemson) and Carlo Kemp (signed with Michigan).

Hughes was also an initial point of contact on the recruitment of Omaha South’s Noah Fant. Nebraska originally sought Fant as a defensive end. He signed with Iowa to play tight end.

Riley personally took over Fant’s recruitment at some point in the process.

“He’s really trying to salvage that relationship,” Fant said of Riley a week before signing day. “He’s doing his best to see if he can make anything happen, and I respect him a lot for that. I respect him as a head coach, and I like him a lot.”

NU would presumably want a line coach hired before March 5, when it opens spring camp.

The Husker defensive line showed some drop-off by various measurements in 2015. According to Nebraska’s official statistics, the D-line went from 22.5 sacks and 46 hurries in 2014 to 20 sacks and 25 hurries in 2015 despite facing 34 more pass attempts last season. The overall defense went from 29 sacks and 61 hurries in 2014 to 24 sacks and 35 hurries in 2015.

In 2016, four redshirt defensive linemen — defensive ends Alex Davis and DaiShon Neal and twin tackles Carlos and Khalil Davis — will be asked to have an impact.

After Recruiting Class Ranked 24th Nationally by One Service, Riley Says NU Pushes on to 2017

LINCOLN — Nebraska fans came to the Big Red Bash on Thursday night to hear Mike Riley talk about the 2016 recruiting class, and the head coach repeated plenty of what he had said Wednesday about the Huskers’ 21 signees.

But the nature of college recruiting is such that Riley reminded a crowd of about 600 at the Devaney Center that the heavy lifting on 2017 already starts Monday.

“We got this class, we’re talking to you guys about ’em, but then tomorrow they are old news and we are on to the next group,” Riley said. “We want to sit here next year and bring you another very good group of players.”

Riley said the same factors that helped NU land a current No. 24 spot in the 247Sports composite team rankings for 2016 will serve it well again, mainly what the Huskers have to offer on campus and the recognition of their brand nationally.

Nebraska signed players from 14 states in its 2016 class.

“As you all know, the threads of Nebraska run far and wide,” Riley said. “It’s not hard to go anywhere in the country and not be known by the ‘N’ and the history that goes with all that. So that’s pretty special.”

Riley said the Nebraska staff studied the history of recruiting and the history of Husker rosters, “and tried to get a picture of what has made this place kick through the years.” In particular, Riley said they looked at the makeup of the national championship teams in the 1990s.

They included a core of players from Nebraska and the Midwest — the 500-mile radius that Riley often mentions — but others who came “from coast to coast.”

In referencing somebody like linebacker Quayshon Alexander out of Prospect Park, New Jersey, Riley noted that it was the same state that produced Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier.

“That’s not new, but that’s the way it’ll be,” he said. “And it’s not hard for us to be able to do that.”

Riley, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and defensive coordinator Mark Banker spoke in between video highlights and segments from the signing day show coverage on Huskers.com.

Several current Nebraska players mingled with fans and signed autographs, and senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong briefly held court with newcomer Patrick O’Brien. O’Brien and receiver Derrion Grim were early enrollees, allowing them to go through the Huskers’ winter conditioning program and then spring practice.

Armstrong said he understood that he could be somebody who is able to help O’Brien as the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder starts working with the NU quarterbacks.

“He’s a great kid,” Armstrong said. “Got a lot to learn, but I think he’s going to be a great player here. You got to take the time to learn as much as you can, but I think he’s willing to do that, and he’s going to push this team to be a winning team in the future.”

Some other comments from Thursday night:

» Asked if there was any one thing that defined this class, Riley said: “I think if you summarized it, you would say versatile.”

» Riley acknowledged that it will be unique for Nebraska to have two punters on scholarship next season. Caleb Lightbourn likely redshirts as Sam Foltz plays his senior year, but Riley said of the 6-3, 220-pounder: “We think this guy talent-wise is special.”

» Langsdorf said David Engelhaupt of Norfolk Catholic can fill fullback, H-back or tight end duties. “I asked him, ‘You see Andy Janovich play much?’ And he kind of lit up,” Langsdorf said.

» Nebraska appeared to hit it big with its five signees in the secondary, led by highly ranked cornerbacks Lamar Jackson and Marquel Dismuke. “That’s big time for us,” Banker said. “When you’re able to have athletes in the back end that can take care of the other team’s wideouts in the passing game, you can just hunker down a little bit better, make sure that you’re snuffing out the run game.”

Mike Riley Pledges Earlier Recruiting Start, Better Readiness Next Year for Huskers

LINCOLN — Mike Riley wasn’t sick on signing day this time. Actually, he carried himself like a guy ready for another go.

The second-year Nebraska coach spoke highly of his 2016 recruiting class, a 21-member group announced Wednesday.

Just don’t expect him and his staff to celebrate for long.

They got their promising quarterback. They addressed depth concerns at linebacker and wide receiver and on the offensive line. They won some high-profile battles and secured enough talented prospects to finish inside the nation’s top 30, according to the ratings of all four major recruiting services.

But Riley, speaking to reporters for 45 minutes Wednesday, was clear that the Huskers aren’t yet where he wants them to be. They learned some tough lessons. The brainstorming and adjusting for 2017 has begun.

“We’re not done learning,” Riley said. “We’re learning about our process and we’re already talking about (next year). We’ve already tweaked it starting Monday, what we’re going to do different.”

He said Wednesday that he’d like to start evaluating future prospects sooner — beginning Monday, the coaches will use the next four weeks to study recruits’ game clips and develop a group of high-priority 2017 targets while compiling contingency plans.

Riley referenced the change of heart by Dez Fitzpatrick, the receiver from Michigan who announced three days ago that he planned to sign with Louisville. The Huskers thought they had him. And when they didn’t, there wasn’t enough time to lure their next option.

“Maybe should have had that other guy ready to go three weeks ago,” Riley said.

The more recruits Nebraska can build relationships with, Riley said, the better prepared NU will be down the stretch.

Some guys want to make their decisions before their senior seasons. Some wait until signing day. Either way is fine by Riley. He just wants the Huskers to be ready.

Nebraska received six of its 21 pledges during the last two weeks this year. Fitzpatrick, athlete Isaiah Simmons and tight end Chase Allen were all seriously considering NU down to the wire — but went elsewhere.

“If you know the plan, you know how that’s going to go,” Riley said. “But the thing is that by making early evaluations and knowing what you would like to do and giving yourself enough versatility with numbers that you feel good about, it gives you an opportunity to see what that individual wants to do.”

Having a full year this time did help.

Riley spent his first signing day press conference sniffling and coughing as he documented a whirlwind, eight-week scramble to assemble a class. He was upbeat and direct Wednesday, conveying details of NU’s recruiting blueprint.

He said he told offensive tackle Matt Farniok long ago that he wanted the last home visit, a living-room conversation that ultimately resulted in a commitment from the South Dakota product. The coach talked about the early identification process of quarterback Patrick O’Brien, who transformed into an elite prospect and had a big senior year. He described the reason behind a late scholarship offer to tight end David Engelhaupt, an in-state player who was always on NU’s radar.

Nebraska’s effort helped produce a class that was ranked as high as 23rd-best nationally by 247Sports as of Wednesday night. The Huskers ranked No. 25 according to Rivals, No. 26 with ESPN and No. 28 in the Scout top 30. Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State led NU in all four of those rankings. Scout had Wisconsin ranked three spots better.

The way Riley spoke Wednesday, he’s looking to be better a year from now.

Getting prospects on campus, particularly those who live within driving distance, will help. Riley wants more players to visit before their senior season begins.

He’d like to re-examine Nebraska’s in-state recruiting plan. He’ll be challenging his innovative staffers to keep finding ways to keep NU’s brand fresh and appealing.

“We’ve been here a year and found out even how much greater than we even knew this place is and the things that are available for kids and how good it is for young people,” Riley said. “We’ll tweak, and we’ll get back out there and go again. The greatest thing in the world for us in our business is to establish a program, to establish the values we want, to establish football that we want, and that takes time.”