With two commitments and many other prospects moving Nebraska up their list, the Husker coaching staff seems to be happy with their first Big Red Weekend.
“When kids visit our campus they are really surprised and enjoy it. Wet get good response, so the trick is just getting them here,” said Husker recruiting coordinator Ross Els.
It’s why Big Red Weekend was established. Nebraska needed to find a way to attract top talent to visit during the summer, instead of just telling prospects to show up whenever. Fox Sports recruiting analysts have raved how the idea could start a new trend in college football. While that remains to be seen, great recruiting programs find a way to set themselves apart.
“That is sort of the mentality right now in this football program, let's find unique ways to get them on campus and when we do, let's show them what we got,” said Els. “It was really great to see how the whole athletic department pulled together, like the facilities. This event was brand new and they were excited about it. They were so helpful and were giving us advice, 'have you thought about this,' so we were changing it everyday because we liked an idea.”
A special invite only event, when Big Red Weekend was first slated, Nebraska was hoping 12 to 15 prospects would show up – with no set goal number in mind. The coaching staff would have deemed the weekend a success even if two players who had not planned to visit Lincoln made the trip.
Instead the number was over 20 players - many of them surprised by how much they enjoyed their trip.
“We understand the reality of it. When you travel across the country and mention Nebraska, the look on their faces is there is nothing there. We have to dispel that myth,” said Els, who feels the coaching staff could do a better job educating recruits on what Lincoln has to offer.
“I'm including myself in this because I travel up and down the east coast. I have not done a good enough job showing them photos or educating them that we have close to 300,000 people in Lincoln, that it's a thriving community with a big downtown area. We need to do that before they get here better, so they are not surprised by it.”
So will Big Red Weekend turn into an annual event?
“If not more than that,” said Els. “We don't know yet. What we wanted to do was not make any decision until this one was over and we would then see what we can do from here.”
The event wasn’t just limited to scholarship undecided offerees. Six of Nebraska’s nine commitments coming in the weekend showed up as well, helping the coaching staff by also recruiting guys and establishing better relationships among each other.
“Coach Pelini preaches family. We have so many kids who are far away from home, they need family structure here,” said Els. “They want the Nebraska legacy to be a strong one. Everyone wants to continue to build the tradition here.”
* Junior college transfer Toby Johnson was slated to make Big Red Weekend, but at the very last minute couldn’t make it to Lincoln. According to a source, his ride fell through, but still plans to visit as soon as possible. An official visit down the road is likely in order.
* Nebraska commitment Greg Hart, who was one of the six commitments in Lincoln over the weekend, said he thought junior college tight end Beau Sandland might be close to pulling the trigger as well. More to come on Big Red Report.