Nebraska football’s new head coach, Matt Rhule, has had a challenging start, getting familiar with the roster while managing significant roster turnover. However, Rhule’s experience in rebuilding programs at Temple and Baylor will come in handy as he looks to breathe new life into the Cornhuskers.
In his first recruiting class, Rhule secured 39 players, including 28 high school prospects and 11 transfers from high-major programs. While the reliance on the transfer portal reflects Rhule’s urgency to revamp the roster, it’s not intended as a long-term strategy. The incoming talent includes highly-rated transfers such as former Georgia tight end Arik Gilbert, ex-Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims, and former Florida defensive back Corey Collier.
Despite these significant gains, Nebraska also experienced losses. Rising sophomore linebacker Ernest Hausmann left for Michigan, freshman wideout Decoldest Crawford joined Louisiana Tech, and freshman defensive back Jaeden Gould signed with Syracuse.
Rhule believes the transfer portal is a useful tool for young players to control their destiny but acknowledges that it can be misused by adults. The Nebraska head coach prefers recruiting high school student-athletes and nurturing their development over four or five years.
As Rhule leads the team into spring practice, quarterback Casey Thompson’s announcement of his return to Nebraska for another season offers a silver lining. Though he’s expected to miss spring practice due to shoulder surgery, his competition with Jeff Sims is anticipated to continue into fall camp.
Another significant focus for Rhule’s recruitment has been speed. The new coaching staff emphasized athletes who excelled in high school track and field, offering quantifiable evidence of their athletic ability. Early enrollee Malachi Coleman, the highest-rated player in Nebraska and the No. 66 overall prospect in the country for the 2023 recruiting cycle, exemplifies this focus on speed. Coleman’s performance on the track and the field has piqued the interest of coaches projecting him as an elite deep-ball threat or an exceptional pass rusher.
Rhule’s focus on speed has led to several other prospects joining the team, such as Brice Turner, Jalen Lloyd, D’Andre Barnes, and Jaidyn Doss. The new head coach recognizes the importance of increasing team speed to elevate Nebraska football to the next level.
As the Cornhuskers begin a new era under Matt Rhule, patience will be crucial. With substantial roster changes, Rhule’s track record in rebuilding programs, and a clear emphasis on speed, Nebraska football has the potential to rise again.