LINCOLN — Mike Riley was one of college football’s pioneers in using satellite camps at Oregon State. He brought the practice to Nebraska, and worked several over the last two summers.
Still, Riley said Wednesday he was pleased the NCAA Division I Council voted last week to significantly regulate how many camps college coaches can work, and where those camps can be held. From now on, the camps must be conducted at NCAA-member schools. The days of working camps at a high school field in conjunction with a personal trainer or 7-on-7 coach are over.
“They had to regulate it,” Riley said of the council’s legislation, which limits institutions to 10 days of summer camps where coaches can work on various campuses. “It was out of control. It’s a good step. It was crazy. There were a lot of people making money on it, teaming up with colleges. The colleges could help high schools make money. It wasn’t good.”
Still, NU isn’t writing off working camps at other schools.
In fact, Riley said, Nebraska is looking to team with other FBS and FCS programs outfitted by Adidas, including Texas A&M, which signed a new deal with Adidas in 2015.
“I’m sure A&M will be one of them,” Riley said. “I think we’ll have one at A&M.”
Riley recently met A&M coach Kevin Sumlin on an Adidas-sponsored spring trip to Costa Rica. Riley and Sumlin hit it off. Riley said he liked talking to Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, too; Mullen worked closely with NU Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst on the Football Oversight Committee that helped draft the NCAA’s massive recruiting reform efforts.
Other camp possibilities include one at Texas-San Antonio, one at Miami (Florida) or Florida Atlantic, where Lane Kiffin is head coach, and one in Georgia at Kennesaw State, an FCS program 30 minutes north of downtown Atlanta. Riley said schools are “exploring” options in southern California, where UCLA recently switched from Adidas to Under Armour.
Adidas has lost some major college contracts in recent years — UCLA, Michigan, Notre Dame and Tennessee among them — but the smaller roster has further solidified NU as one of Adidas’ top clients. Nebraska has been with Adidas since 1995 and signed its most recent five-year, $15.53 million deal in 2013. That deal allows Adidas to have renewal negotiating rights starting 90 days before the fifth contract year.
At NU’s recent spring game, Adidas had at least two representatives on the sidelines, and Riley wore “Human Race” tennis shoes designed by musician Pharrell Williams. Adidas has also taken over sponsorship of the Rivals recruiting camps and is making a push to outfit more high school programs. Its Twitter tag line “#threestripelife” has become a recognizable catch phrase.
At Oregon State, Riley was a Nike guy. He liked working with the company a lot even if Nike’s CEO, Phil Knight, was an Oregon graduate and a major supporter of the Ducks.
The relationship with Adidas, Riley said, has been everything he’d hoped it would be.
“They’re working at this very hard,” Riley said. “Their product, and how they’ve better connected with kids over the course of the last three, four, five years, they’ve made a big move. Our relationship and service with Adidas, I think, is outstanding. I’ve enjoyed it. It was new territory for me — and concerning, because I’d been with Nike for so long and appreciated that relationship. But I’ve been really been pleased with Adidas, and I’ve liked working with them.
“They’re forward-thinking. They’re aggressive. They’re thoughtful.”
More recruiting news and notes:
» Barring unusual attrition, Riley said, Nebraska’s 2018 class will have 15-18 signees in it. NU has 12 seniors on scholarship, plus three open scholarships for the 2017 season. It’s possible that at least one of those three open scholarships will be filled by a non-senior walk-on — Cole Conrad or Bryan Reimers could be likely recipients. The Big Ten allows teams to oversign by just three scholarships each season, so NU would have to have 15 available scholarships to sign 18 players. The Huskers sit at seven commits heading into Friday.
» Riley would be open to kicking the tires on the right graduate transfer or late junior college prospect, but Riley said he and his staff prefer high school players and “development.” Nebraska has not signed a junior college prospect during Riley’s tenure, nor has NU made a significant push into the junior college ranks despite having coaches — John Parrella and Donte Williams among them — with junior college coaching experience. From 2010-2014, Nebraska signed 13 junior college players, eight of whom became starters and four of whom were selected in the NFL draft. One of them, Lavonte David, was an All-American.
» Nebraska won’t send out too many of its position coaches at one time to work camps because Riley wants the bulk of them working with current players in June during the NCAA-allotted instruction time. Riley said Husker players were helped by the change last summer.
“We have a juggling act within this thing because we want to be here in June to work with our players,” Riley said. “We had a great June working with our players and I don’t want to change that. I don’t want to be on the road every day. I want a core of guys here working with our team.”
NU players may be able to avoid certain injuries, Riley said, because of that work in June with position coaches.
“The weight coaches do great but when you have football coaches doing it, you have a chance at more football-applicable movement and position-specific drills,” Riley said. “They’re trained that way so that, when you get to fall camp, you alleviate the hamstrings and groins and all the soft tissue stuff that’s involved there.”
» Two-a-days were common for Riley at Oregon State, which, because it operated on the quarter system, started football season well before school did.
At Nebraska, Riley had fewer two-a-days — just four last training camp. And now, he doesn’t plan to have any.
The NCAA last Friday banned traditional two-a-day practices. Now, if a school wants to have a second workout during training camp, it has to be conducted without helmets or pads, and also not involve conditioning exercises. Essentially, the second practice is a glorified walkthrough.
The Huskers, like all college teams, have 29 available practices for training. Riley had planned on NU starting camp on Aug. 4. He’s now looking at July 29, a week earlier, just after Big Ten media days.
Riley said he’s OK with that.
“Eventually, you’re going to get diminishing returns with players with muscle pulls,” Riley said. “Football two times a day — you do that long enough and something’s going to break. I kind of like spreading out the football practices a little more. The two-a-days — I don’t think it has to be like that anymore. When the NFL banned two-a-days, I knew it wasn’t going to be long before it came to college.”
Riley said he wouldn’t be surprised if Big Ten media days were earlier next season to accommodate for the shift in earlier training camp schedules.
On Wednesday, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz told reporters that he didn’t like the two-a-day ban because it shortened the summer for players. That it might, depending on how players report.
“It’s interesting, if you talk to some of our players and apparently some of our players have talked to players at other schools, very prominent schools,” Ferentz said Wednesday. “The players are not in favor of it. I can tell you that right now, an informal survey of our veteran guys, they actually prefer the two-a-days because they’re shorter times on the field. We’re on the field, we’re off the field, they go back and rest and it’s the same thing.”
Ferentz said the NCAA passed the emergency legislation with “zero dialogue of people who work in football, out in the field.”
» As of Thursday afternoon, the Big Ten had eight teams — No. 2 Penn State, No. 5 Ohio State, No. 8 Minnesota, No. 9 Northwestern, No. 11 Nebraska, No. 17 Wisconsin, No. 18 Michigan and No. 24 Michigan State — in the top 25 of 247Sports’ Composite team recruiting rankings for the 2018 class. Northwestern (13 commits) and Minnesota (11 commits) have those rankings based largely on the size of their current classes.
» ESPN released its list of the top 300 high school recruits on Thursday. Nebraska has four players — wideout Manuel Allen at No. 167, athlete Eric Fuller at No. 174, cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles at No. 187 and tight end Cameron Jurgens at No. 230 — in the list, and none in the top 100. ESPN is the only service not to rank Radley-Hiles inside the national top 50. Scout has Fuller at No. 71 nationally, while Rivals has Jurgens, a Beatrice prospect, at No. 82 nationally.