The last few weeks, I focused on where Nebraska is recruiting its 2020 class across the United States. Now, I want to look at where Nebraska has built its team from in the past. I used data from huskers.com for this exercise. This means that all walk-ons are included in the dataset showing Nebraska as the top source of players on the roster. To account for changing roster sizes over the last 50 years, I’m focusing on the percent of players from each state for each season.
Which Nebraska coach since 1970 was responsible for the smallest percentage of Nebraska players on its roster? Callahan? Riley? Bo? The answer is actually the 1970 team itself led by Husker legend Bob Devaney. Only 36% of the 85 players on the team were from Nebraska. Devaney relied on his home state of Michigan for talent on this squad. Nearly 12% of the team was from Michigan.
Tom Osborne’s teams were littered with players from Nebraska. From 1979 to 1985, over 3/5 of the roster were in-state players. This trend peaked in 1983 with the offensive explosion team that came within one play of winning the National Title. During the late 1980s, the roster relied less on players from Nebraska and turned its sights on Texas. However, from 1994 through 1997 the Huskers had over 55% of its roster from Nebraska.
During Bill Callahan’s inaugural season, 55% of the roster were Nebraskan players. By his second season this number would drop to just 40% while falling to 37% for his final two years. Callahan shifted the Husker’s recruiting focus West with Californian’s making up a record high percent of the roster with over 16% in 2006. Texas also returned as a major supplier of Husker talent with 9% of the roster comprising of Lone Star State players for the first time since 1990.
When Bo arrived in 2008, he continued to make Texas a priority with over 15% of the roster from Texas by 2011. However, with the move to the Big Ten, Texas became a smaller part of the Husker’s roster. Bo looked to his roots and added a new state to the Huskers recruiting mix – Ohio. From 2012-2014, over 5% of the Huskers roster were players from Ohio.
The percentage of players from Nebraska only hit 50% once under Bo but dropped even more during the Riley era. Despite the hype of the “Calibraska” movement, the Huskers roster was made up of fewer California players than during the Callahan era. Riley was able to build a recruiting base in Florida having over 5% of his roster from the Sunshine State each year he was here.
Going into the 2019 season, Frost has the highest percentage of in state players since 2012. Frost continues to have a strong presence in Florida while also building a roster foothold in Georgia with players like Caleb Tannor, Dedrick Mills, and Ronald Thompkins. Luke McCaffrey is also part of a growing number of players from Colorado on the roster.
With Frost’s goal of 150 players on the roster, the walk-on program will have to grow. Many of these guys will be kids who grew up watching the Huskers play from across the state of Nebraska. As these players become contributors success should follow for the Big Red.