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Friday Night Lights

Tate Wildeman (left) of Legend High School in Colorado chats with Mike Riley during Friday Night Lights camp on June 23 at Memorial Stadium.

Nebraska’s 2018 recruiting class had dwindled from 11 to nine verbal commitments before Mike Riley and most of his staff were fired Saturday morning.

Now interim head coach Trent Bray and a few remaining staffers will be tasked with trying to keep those players on board while athletic director Bill Moos searches for a permanent head coach.

“We’re good to keep one or two (employees) in regards to recruiting,” Moos said. “Trent needs to focus on the current players — academic situation, going to class, workouts, strength and conditioning, and of course, behavioral things, too. When you have this kind of transition where no one is manning the ship, things can go a little bit sideways.

“We will keep one or two operations people that will be primarily focused on the recruiting aspect. Making sure that those who are committed continue to have conversations so that we hang on to them until the new coaching staff can get here.”

Four-star defensive backs Brendan Radley-Hiles and Chase Williams decommitted last month and last week, respectively. Others weighed in on Twitter on Saturday, though none had officially decommitted as of press time.

Said four-star, Yoakum, Texas, wide receiver Joshua Moore, “You believed in me, and for that, I thank you. The most real, Genuine, person I’ve ever gotten the opportunity to meet. It was a pleasure Coach Riley. THANK YOU!”

Added Colorado defensive lineman Tate Wildeman, “Thank you Coach Riley for giving me an opportunity of a lifetime! You are an incredible man and an even better coach. Would have been a dream to play for you! God bless you and your family!” 

Moos said he took the unusual step of helping with recruiting in recent days and hours. Mostly, the veteran administrator takes a hands-off approach. In this situation, he said, that was not going to be enough.

“Within the rules, I’ll do whatever we need to do,” Moos said. “Sometimes just to calm prospects and their parents down. I’ve just (called) on occasion, not a lot, but the competitiveness in college football in recruiting is every bit as competitive as on the field itself. Believe me, when this press release went out, there are other schools going to our committed players or prospects right now and telling them all kinds of things that probably aren’t true, and so, any way I can assist in that regard, I will be available.”

With Bray focused primarily on the current players, Moos said the Huskers will not have any recruiting presence on the road until a permanent head coach is hired.

Minnesota defensive end/outside linebacker David Alston is the only one of the remaining verbal commitments who has been recruited primarily by Bray.

The early Dec. 20 signing day, in place for the first time this season, does play a role in the timeline for finding a coach, Moos said. He warned, though, that it cannot be the only factor.

“It would be nice, obviously, to have someone in place with a staff quite a ways prior to that in a perfect world,” he said, later adding, “The early signing period is a factor, but not to the degree that we should make a bad decision just so we make sure we sign one or two players early. I will say this, if we bump against that early signing period and we’re not there yet, the sky isn’t falling. It’s more important that this is a hire that provides stability and a true identity to our football program.”

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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