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John Cook discusses Kayla Caffey status, evolution of volleyball recruiting

The newest episode of “Kicking Back with the Cooks” was released on Wednesday for their monthly episode featuring Nebraska volleyball head coach John Cook along with his daughter and former player Lauren Cook West.

Kayla Caffey status

One of the biggest remaining question marks over the offseason for Nebraska has been the decision of All-American middle blocker Kayla Caffey and whether she will return for her last season of eligibility.

In his press conferences in the spring, Cook mentioned that he hoped to have an answer by August 1. That hope has changed.

“I guess we’ll see August 8 when we start,” Cook said on the podcast. “The ball is in Kayla’s court, so I don’t know if she’s going to do an announcement or what, but the ball is in her court, so we’ll see.”

Considering that Caffey has been present during team camp over the last two weeks, it certainly seems hopeful for the Huskers that she will return.

Evolution of volleyball recruiting

Volleyball, like many other collegiate sports, has undertaken a massive change in recruiting rules in the past couple years.

The big change was pushing back the date that college teams could start talking to recruits, which is now June 15 of their junior years – a change that is in its second year. That is why many top college teams around the country, Nebraska included, have their future recruiting classes settled by mid-July, if not earlier.

So, despite having some of the top freshman and sophomore high school players in the country coming to their camps, no recruiting talks are allowed to happen.

One of the reasons why the NCAA implemented those new rules would be to slow down the decision process for these players. Before this rule, you saw many of the top players committing during their freshman season.

However, all this has done is just push back the date when everyone commits.

“Well, it hasn’t changed anything,” Cook said. “What happens is day one, somebody commits, day two all of a sudden you got three or four committing and then it just creates a chain reaction by the end of the first week.”

Cook also mentioned the frenzy that happens when June 15 arrives as all college teams around the country start setting up Zoom calls to talk to the top recruits – including some that start right at midnight. One coach that Cook talked to did 40 Zoom calls in three days.

In that same span, Cook did four.

Big Ten expansion

Cook still has that fire in him to continue to coach. That’s obvious. But a new challenge is on the doorstep for Nebraska and that comes in the form of UCLA and USC joining the Big Ten in 2024.

Both bring rich histories that will add to the already top volleyball conference in the country. USC has won six national championships, including three of the first six beach volleyball championships that began in 2016. However, the Trojans have struggled in recent years in indoor going 15-15 in 2021, 7-8 in 2020 and 18-14 in 2019 when they lost to Baylor 3-0 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

UCLA has won four NCAA titles along with two AIAW national championships with its last title coming in 2011. The Bruins haven’t been truly great since their NCAA Regional Final appearance in 2016 when they went 27-7. They reached a regional semifinal in 2017 but haven’t advanced passed the second round since then.

With the recent emergence of Washington over the past couple seasons, both USC and UCLA have taken back seats in the Pac-12. But with the benefits of joining the Big Ten, that shouldn’t last too long.

Other Notes

>> Cook has always been an advocate for moving volleyball to the spring season to avoid the conflict with football games on Saturdays. As a result, the Big Ten formed the volleyball schedule to avoid those conflicts putting a lot of games on Sundays. For 2022, six of the Husker’s 29-match schedule feature Sunday matinee games with five of those being conference matchups. There were only three Sunday matches in 2021.

>> Tuesday marked the 13th and last day of summer team camp for Nebraska which also included a celebration at an undisclosed location. Assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Jaylen Reyes is back on the recruiting trail preparing for the Class of 2025.