LINCOLN — Mike Riley 2, Jim Harbaugh 1.
It’s all of three recruiting battles between two brand new Big Ten coaches who may not face each other on the field until 2018, but Nebraska’s Riley more than held his own against Michigan’s Harbaugh in the 2015 recruiting cycle.
Harbaugh, the ballyhooed coach who has returning to his alma mater, pursued three NU commits over the last month. One, defensive end Reuben Jones, committed to the Wolverines. A second, Omaha Central defensive end DaiShon Neal, stuck with the Huskers this week.
And at a position of great need for both teams, a third, tight end Matt Snyder of San Ramon, California, announced Friday on Twitter he was sticking with the Huskers as well. Snyder posted a picture of himself on Nebraska’s HuskerVision board.
In a phone interview with the World-Herald, Snyder said there were two big reasons he picked the Huskers over the Wolverines.
» A long-standing relationship with Riley, who got Snyder to commit to Oregon State and has been recruiting him for more than a year.
» Nebraska’s fan base — specifically on his official visit — was on “another level” from Michigan’s.
“All the fans are crazy — in a good way,” Snyder said. “Both schools are good, but Nebraska is on another level. They were really nice to me and my family.”
The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder, who caught 17 passes for 408 yards and four touchdowns as a senior, is a three-star prospect according to all major recruiting services. He committed to Oregon State when Riley was coach there and followed him to Nebraska less than a month after Riley had taken the job.
But Harbaugh, who like Riley is a noted connoisseur of tight ends, made Snyder one of his top targets, wooing him to Ann Arbor for an official visit last weekend. Jones, a three-star defensive end who had committed to Nebraska the day the Huskers were blasted 59-24 at Wisconsin, was on the same visit, and flipped to UM. Snyder waited.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Neal — the All-Nebraska defender who entertained several offers in the final month — chose to stay with Nebraska rather than visit Michigan, which, according to Neal’s comments to 1620 The Zone, botched its in-home visit with Neal by intimating he couldn’t have attended the school if he hadn’t been a football player. Neal has not responded to numerous interview requests from the World-Herald since those comments.
But he did talk to Snyder during the week. Neal sold NU over the phone.
“He felt pretty strongly about Nebraska,” Snyder said. “He talked about all the positives, and it ended up helping out.”
Snyder hosted Harbaugh on Monday. He sensed Harbaugh wanted a commitment, but Snyder chose to delay his decision until Riley’s in-home visit — which included offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf — on Friday. Jim Harbaugh’s son, tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh, wrote Snyder listing a variety of reasons Snyder should pick the Wolverines. Riley’s message was simpler.
“He told me they really wanted me and I was the No. 1 tight end on their list,” Snyder said. “And they’re going to use tight ends the way they used them at Oregon State.”
Snyder went to school, decided on the Huskers, and told his parents when he got home. He called Riley not long after that, ending a whirlwind month of recruiting.
“I’m thankful Coach Riley and Coach (Jim) Harbaugh wanted me to play tight end for them,” Snyder said. “Not everybody gets that chance.”
This weekend, Riley will be in Lincoln, as will all the other coaches. NU’s support staff over the last two weeks has been making digital maps — which show where Riley and his assistants are recruiting throughout the country — and posting those maps on Twitter. And in that final map Friday, all the arrows point back to the block red N in Lincoln. The coaches are coming home in preparation for signing day Wednesday.
The Huskers are hosting seven official visitors with scholarship offers this weekend. They are wide receiver Lavan Alston, defensive end Alex Davis, linebacker Angelo Garbutt, linebacker Terez Hall, long snapper Jordan Ober, offensive tackle Darrin Paulo and defensive end Antonio Reed. Also, one junior college defensive end without any more official visits to take — Hinds (Mississippi) Community College defensive end Peter Bailey — mulls a Husker offer against his commitment to Middle Tennessee State.
Riley and his assistants were in nine different locations around the nation on Friday; only one assistant, defensive line coach Hank Hughes, was in the state of Nebraska.
— Riley and Langsdorf were in California, to meet with Snyder.
— Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh was in Sacramento. Paulo, the offensive tackle, is from Grant High School in that city.
n Wide receivers coach Keith Williams was in Los Angeles. Alston, the wide receiver visiting Lincoln this weekend, is from Ventura.
— Special teams coordinator Bruce Read returned from Las Vegas. Ober, the second long snapper the Huskers offered in this recruiting cycle, was the long snapper at high school football power Las Vegas Bishop Gorman.
n Running backs coach Reggie Davis returned from a long stint in Houston, where he helped scout for 2016 prospects.
— Linebackers coach Trent Bray, fresh off a big recruiting win with the commitment of Mohamed Barry, was in Denver on Friday. One of Nebraska’s 2016 targets at linebacker, JoJo Domann, plays at Colorado Springs Pine Creek.
— Defensive coordinator Mark Banker returned from Chicago.
— Defensive backs coach Charlton Warren returned from Atlanta, his recruiting stomping grounds for the last two seasons at NU. His efforts not only landed quarterback A.J. Bush in the 2014 class, but safety Aaron Williams and Barry in the 2015 class. Barry picked NU over Kansas State and Miami. Hall, a linebacker choosing from among Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Indiana, is also from the Atlanta area.
NU could eventually sign anywhere between 19 and 23 prospects on signing day. Although Husker recruiting officials had previously reported only 19 players would sign, visits and offers indicate the Huskers are willing to surpass those numbers if need be.
The Huskers also continued work on their walk-on class by adding two in-state athletes — Ogallala linebacker Brody Cleveland and Boone Central/Newman Grove athlete Wyatt Mazour. Mazour, who accounted for six touchdowns and amassed 378 total yards during Boone Central/Newman Grove’s victory in the Class C-1 state title game, announced his decision Friday.
A 5-foot-9, 186-pounder who played quarterback for BC/NG, Mazour was the All-Nebraska quarterback according to The World-Herald.
Mazour led the Cardinals by rushing for 1,625 yards, throwing for 1,869 and accounting for 51 total touchdowns.
“I really think he’ll do well,” BC/NG coach Arnie Johnson said Friday night. “He’s good. He has all the skills you need to be successful at that level.”
Johnson said Mazour was heavily pursued by the University of Nebraska at Kearney before Nebraska made the walk-on offer. Mazour was NU’s first walk-on offer.
His choice of NU was “kind of what I thought would happen,” Johnson said. “He said, ‘when I was a little kid growing up, I dreamed of playing for Nebraska.’”
Mazour announced his plans via Twitter on Friday afternoon.