Husker is part of the class mix as Rhule talks about the importance of winning at home

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Matt Rhule was a linebacker at Penn State at one time. Specifically, he was a college freshman when Nebraska and the Nittany Lions collided in the polls 28 years ago.

A former Penn State teammate Brandon Noble, who coached the defensive line at Temple in 2013 for Rhule, once told NJ.com🇧🇷 “Matt always had a chip on his shoulder. I think you do, to be a college football player, especially on a big program. You’re always trying to prove people wrong.”

Noble goes into much more detail about the characteristics of Rhule that helped make him a hit on the previous college head coaching charts, Temple and Baylor.

But we’ve highlighted that quote in this space for good reason. Because along with this week’s scholarship and portal additions, Nebraska has also announced four direct commitments.

All the names have been reported but are now officially on the list: Elkhorn South running back Cole Ballard, Gretna linebacker Korver Demma, Bellevue West tight end Cayden Echternach and Oakland-Craig forward Grant Seagren.

It came on a Wednesday when Nebraska’s new head football coach, Rhule, emphasized the importance of always starting at home in building a program. It’s something he supported his first week on the job when he jumped out of state, making local prospects a priority. And before his Wednesday signing day press conference ended, he made sure to wish those in the state who didn’t pick the Huskers good luck, while also congratulating those who signed in lower divisions than the FBS.

Whatever level you play at, “college football is amazing,” he said, recalling that one of his favorite years was coaching at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Everyone can agree on that, though Husker fans can attest that it’s especially awesome when you’re on top.

A few weekends before signing day, Rhule told the Husker fan base during halftime of a basketball game at Pinnacle Bank Arena that his goal was to build a Nebraska program that had kids looking up to the state team as being special. .

“Knowing as a child, even in New York City, even in Pennsylvania, that This one ‘N’ or that helmet was the best of the best of the best,” Rhule said at the time. “And for every 9-year-old, 10-year-old, 11-year-old in the state of Nebraska and across the country, we’re not going to rest until it means that to you.”

Aside from the W’s, how do you make in-state recruiting look like this?

“The best thing I can do, our team can do, is every player that comes in here and plays for us, walks out here and says, ‘You know what? That was amazing. I developed,'” Rhule said. “They’re going to go back to their hometowns and they’re going to tell people, ‘You know what, what they’re saying is true and right.’ That’s the best resume we have. That’s our business book. All the high school coaches say, ‘I want my players to go out there and play for that team because they do things right.’

A way to make things right?

“We’re not going to play, ‘Hey, you’re good enough for a scholarship, but we really don’t want to give (a)…’ We’re going to give scholarships when they’re good enough and we’re going to bring them here and train them.”

As time goes on, we’ll see more of what Rhule envisions for the ideal setup in Nebraska, but the four commits announced on Wednesday kick things off on that front.

Cole Ballard: The 6-0, 190-pound running back from Elkhorn South rushed for 1,491 yards and had 275 receiving yards last season. He scored 38 touchdowns, including a state record seven in a game. He was also a second-team all-stater as a junior when he rushed for 1,208 yards at the time.

Korver Dema: The 6-2, 230-pound linebacker had 132 tackles during his high school career, including 23 sacks and 44 tackles for loss. He also had six pass breakups, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two blocked punts. In addition to helping Gretna compete for the state title the past two years, he also wrestles and is involved in track and field.

Cayden Echternach: The 6-3, 250-pound tight end had 17 receptions for more than 200 yards and two touchdowns last year at Bellevue West after being with the Omaha Burke program his first three years. He had 190 receiving yards as a junior at Burke.

Grant Seagren: The 6-6, 250-pound forward played both sides of the ball for Oakland-Craig as a tight end and defensive lineman. His team won the Class C-2 state title while he was there in 2019 and are two-time district champions. Also competing in basketball and track, he had 186 yards and four touchdowns as a senior with 27 tackles and four TFLs on defense.

Substitute or fellow, Rhule spoke Wednesday about wanting the state’s youth to dream of playing for Nebraska. And, yes, obviously getting the Huskers back on a bigger stage is a major ingredient in that.

“You grow up and your fondest memories are coming here and watching the big games,” said Rhule. “But the way you win is just dealing with it on a day-to-day basis. We’ll get there. But it’s important to me that kids know it’s a possibility.”

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