Nebraska football mailbag: What happens to the 2018 recruiting class if Mike Riley is fired?

Have Nebraska football questions? We’ve got answers. Join us every Wednesday for the Land of 10 Nebraska mailbag to talk all things Huskers. This week, we’ll discuss the impact of coach Mike Riley on the 2018 recruiting class, thoughts on the win/loss record so far and more.

I was asked so many variations of this question this week. I probably had a dozen questions on the topic of coach Mike Riley and his job. Should he keep it? Why hasn’t he been fired yet? You name it ,and it was probably in my mentions.

I chose to address this one specifically because it’s an important topic to address. With so many calling for Riley to be fired, a discussion needs to be had about the impact that this decision could have on the 2018 recruiting class.

If Riley were to be fired the weekend after the team’s final regular-season game against Iowa, you’d be looking at a Nov. 25 or 26 end date. Interim athletic director Dave Rimington’s stint ends around that time, too, and we already know he’s not interested in the permanent job. The early signing period runs from Dec. 20 through Dec. 22, and that group of signees is expected to include players such as  Brendan Radley-Hiles and Joshua Moore. You’d have less than a month before the early signing period after firing your coach and losing your interim athletic director to hire a replacement and try to convince the current class to remain committed. That’s not ideal to keep the wheels on the bus. In fact, it’d be more like trying to change the tires while barreling down Interstate 80 at 75 miles an hour.

Sure, many members of this 2018 recruiting class have connections at Nebraska with more than just Riley. Radley-Hiles is cousins with cornerbacks coach Donte Williams and wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey. ATH Chase Williams is also close with Williams, as are a few members of this class.

However, nothing is certain until that commit signs. Florida State commit Houston Griffith is trying to steal Moore away from Nebraska. If Riley is gone, that gives someone like Griffith (and the Florida State staff, of course) a lot of room to push Moore away from the Huskers. Commitment flips feed off of instability.

With all that said, here’s what I would do if I were the decision maker. Unless Nebraska doesn’t win another game at all and loses in spectacular fashion in every single game, I would retain Riley at the end of the season. A new athletic director should see the early signing period through and see what happens.

From there, that athletic director should evaluate. As some point in the spring, the new AD will say it makes sense to trust Riley through spring football and into the 2018 season. From there, the 2018 season becomes the last stand for Riley and his staff. Riley will have a roster of his players, which will show what Riley and his staff can accomplish.

That would keep the 2018 class intact and give Riley one more year to prove what he can or can’t do. To me, that seems like a much better option than blowing everything up now.

Piggy-backing off the topic above… If the nuclear option — firing Riley — is selected, then Nebraska must do all it can to retain coaches such as Donte Williams, John Parrella, etc. School officials must also try to keep wide receivers coach Keith Williams, but you asked about the defense.

A new coach typically wants to hire his own staff, so it would be tough to tell a new coach he can’t pick his defensive staff. Maybe if he understood the recruiting ties, he’d retain a coach or two but not a group of coaches. That’s not the best way to kick off a new coach’s career either.

There’s a reason you haven’t heard much from him. When Dave Rimington was hired as the interim athletic director, he said something that made his intentions very clear:

“I’m not here to fire anybody. I’m here to calm things down. I love this university. I will do anything I can to help make it better.”

Rimington is here to be a support system in the interim. He’s not going to make any big comments on how a coach is or is not performing. That will be for his successor to discuss.

I always thought Nebraska would be 4-1 heading into the Wisconsin matchup. Getting there at 3-2 is a little different, but I had suspected at least one nonconference loss. From there, I figured Nebraska could maybe split between Wisconsin and Ohio State, with the Badgers being the greater opportunity for a Huskers win.

At this point, I still see another 3 wins out there for Nebraska. It won’t be easy, but Minnesota, Northwestern and Iowa all looked beatable in Week 6. Purdue has looked really good to me this season, but that game also can be a winnable one for Nebraska. So even if you mark Ohio State and Penn State as automatic losses — but you should never do that, because that’s when Iowa State beats Oklahoma — then you have four games to get three wins.

If the Huskers can get this season to 6-6, or maybe even 7-5, they can stop the bleeding a bit, get to a bowl game and restore a little confidence for the future.

That’s hard to say. Devine Ozigbo has proved why he deserves to be on the field, which I addressed after the loss to Wisconsin on Saturday.

Even if Tre Bryant is out the rest of the season, I am curious to see what they do with Ozigbo and Mikale Wilbon. There is an “OR” between their names  on the latest depth chart, which tells me that they plan to use them both against Ohio State.

All in all, I think they planned to have one primary running back but injuries changed that. As for whether  Ozigbo should have been on the field earlier this season, that’s a bigger discussion for another day.

It builds character.

I can only speak for myself, but a Chipotle bar in the end zone would be perfect for me.

Have a question about Nebraska football? Tweet us  @Landof10Huskers and we’ll try to answer your question in a future mailbag. Check to see if your question already was answered by reading previous Nebraska football mailbags  here.

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