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February 9, 2013

NU coaches examine ideas for recruiting change

As the nation reacts to all the NCAA's rulebook revisions regarding recruiting, several ideas have been thrown around in recent weeks. One of the common themes was the thought of an early signing period that would allow some prospects to end their recruiting process early and save themselves from endless calls and texts during their senior season.

Bo Pelini isn't sure if that's the way to go, but when he looks at the current model, he thinks some revising certainly needs to be done.

"I think the coaches, the administrators and the NCAA need to go sit in a room together. Until that happens and until there is a good deal of interaction one on one where we can all sit down and develop a good understanding… until that happens, it's not going to get fixed.

"When (high school) coaches are as concerned as they are right now with where the rules are heading and how it's going to impact their young men, it tells me it's probably not going down the right road."

One thing recruiting coordinator Ross Els would like to see is earlier official visits. With the Huskers' top notch facilities and rabid fan base, showing a prospect around campus is one of NU's best selling points (plus it dispels the notion that the university sits on a cornfield).

But with the current rules, Els said a great number of recruits are already committed by the time Nebraska can bring them in to visit, making the sell a much more difficult one.

"The biggest problem right now, and we addressed this over the summer, in the Big Ten, by the time we were able to bring in kids for an official visit, two-thirds of the kids had committed to Big Ten schools already," he said. "That hurts a school like ours in a small population. We'd love to be able to bring kids in earlier. We're kind of pushing toward that and I don't know if that will come about or not."

Earlier visits would help out the high school players and coaches as well. To take an official visit during the season, a prospect usually plays for his high school team Friday night before boarding a game either that night or Saturday morning. He then spends all Saturday on campus and at the game before flying home Sunday. The weary player then must return to practice immediately Monday, something high school coaches have told Els affects performance.

But wouldn't moving up the visits hurt Nebraska? Game day is widely regarded to be one of the highlights of visiting the campus, as recruits get to see the jam-packed stadium and go through the Tunnel Walk.

In reality, Els said the game day experience isn't quite as big of a draw as it is perceived.

"It's interesting - we go back every year and look at our stats," Els said. "When did we bring kids in and who committed? The gameday really isn't as high as people think. Every year, we say 'Do we want to push kids back and have them not come to the game and spend more time with them?' It's a great selling point, I know that. But it's also earlier in the recruiting process for some kids and they're more apt to take visits afterwards. If we wait to bring them in until the end of the season, they don't have as much time to decide."

But if the official visits were moved up, it could simply leave recruits more time between their commitment and signing day, which could very well lead to more decommitments. Pelini and his staff don't pretend to have all the answers. And in the end, Pelini said that if a recruit really wants to come to Nebraska, he can see it.

"At the end of the day, you have to keep recruiting them up to the end," Pelini said. "I know our coaches were on the phone with each and every recruit (Tuesday) night. There are some kids you know. They say yes and you look them in the eye and their family is all there - you know it's in a good direction. There are others where you don't pay much attention to the commitment. You know that you have to keep recruiting and have backup plans. Things change daily in this recruiting world and we have a pretty good understanding of that."


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