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Huskers QB recruitment shows Riley more versatile than reputation suggests

When most people think of Nebraska head coach Mike Riley and the type of quarterback that fits his offensive system, most believe it’s the classic drop-back passer and that guy only. However, Riley is quickly putting that reputation — deserved or not — to rest.

On Thursday the Huskers added a second commitment at the position, pulling in a verbal pledge from three-star quarterback Patrick O’Brien.

 

He joins three-star Terry Wilson, who committed to the Huskers earlier this month.

With the commitment of two quarterbacks Riley is signaling two messages. One, he’s looking to get guys he feels comfortable with in to the program and do so quickly. Two, he’s looking to find the best fit for what this team is capable of doing above and beyond and scheme he would supposedly favor.

How so?

Wilson, the first of the two commits is a dual-threat quarterback standing barely over 6-2 and weighing 187 pounds. O’Brien, well he’s more of the classic build one thinks of with Riley-coached quarterbacks. He stands 6-4 and is 225 pounds and has a nice looking arm on him.

Those two players couldn’t be more diametrically opposed if you tried, both physically and in terms of what skill sets they bring to the table. Yet, it’s telling that Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf went out and specifically targeted these two kids as scholarship-worthy players.

Often times a tone is set and a message sent with whom and how a coaching staff recruits. In this case, Riley and his coaching staff are showing the rest of the college football world that pigeon-holing a style of quarterback to a system won’t be the case at Nebraska.

Another clue exists in the history of Riley and recruiting quarterbacks. In his time at Oregon State, Riley recruited 15 players at the position and 12 of them were pro-style quarterbacks. Riley also made a statement with his first few recruits at the position in his second stint at the school, with the first three quarterbacks (over the 2003 and 2004 recruiting classes) all being pro-style quarterbacks.

Let’s just say he loved a good pro-style quarterback at Oregon State.

Yet, in moving to Nebraska, his first target and first pull at the quarterback position came from a dual-threat QB. It should be very telling that Riley sees Nebraska in the light of needing versatility at quarterback.

One thing appears to be the case for the Huskers in the Riley era — he won’t be afraid to go after players that can make this team better, regardless of stereotypes or perceived scheme fit.

Good coaches find ways to let players dictate scheme that fits them best, and Riley is one of the best at doing just that. Look for this type of QB recruiting to allow his offense to be way more multiple than ever before, and that should also be music to the ears of Huskers fans.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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