LINCOLN — Matt Rhule is just over 2 months into his tenure as Nebraska’s head football coach. The former Baylor and Carolina Panthers coach hit the ground running and hasn’t wasted any time working to reconnect with the many in-state high school coaches and recruits.

Rhule hired Ed Foley as his special teams coach at NU. But Foley’s biggest asset thus far is logging abundant miles visiting a plethora of Nebraska high schools and their coaches. Something that former coach Scott Frost and staff failed to do on a regular basis.

Foley’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Rhule has made a point to utilize social media to communicate with the hungry fan base. Foley, in a whirlwind tour across the state during January, posted pics of each day’s stops on Twitter. He posed with coaches all across the state in an obvious attempt to win some of the goodwill back that was lost under previous NU head-coaching regimes.

Rebuilding the roster

Spring practice will be a tell-tale time for roster management in Lincoln. With scholarships limited to 85, Nebraska currently sits well above that number. The Huskers were busy scouring the transfer portal as well as signing a full class. Nebraska’s 2023 class currently ranks around 25th nationally.

Rhule has made a point to say spring practice will be a chance for players to get accustomed to the new staff’s coaching style and whether or not they fit in. Trimming the roster looks to be a process over several months prior to fall camp.

“We are obviously over on scholarships right now,” Rhule said during his Signing Day press conference. “There are so many new rules now that allow you to do things to get there, so we will work on that as we go.”

Nebraska used the transfer portal to bring in several new faces. Three ex-Georgia Bulldogs will join the team. Jacob Hood (OL), Arik Gilbert (TE) and MJ Sherman (LB) all signed with the Huskers in February and should add depth at key spots.

Finding the in-state diamonds in the rough

Part of the future roster makeup is sure to involve the walk-on program. The once storied program under Tom Osborne isn’t what is was. But Rhule — and Foley, hope to resurrect it, and make it a vital part of recruiting once again.

Foley has coached with Rhule at almost every stop and has embraced the role as Nebraska’s new in-state liaison. He’s visited more than 75 high schools during his first 2 months on the job and finds time to hit a local food establishment while on the road.

Bob’s Bar and Grill in Martinsburg and Chances R in York are just 2 of the many places Foley sampled the local grub.

“It’s my job,” Foley stated recently about his frenzied tour. “I’d like to fill in that whole day with seeing and meeting as many people as we can. I don’t miss many meals!”

Shaking hands with coaches, administrators and fans across the state is all part of the plan. The plan to lock down the borders and keep Nebraska’s top recruits at home. One notable recruit — Oklahoma State QB pledge, Zane Flores from Gretna, Nebraska — is an example the type of kid Rhule and Foley don’t want to slip away in future years. Pierce tight end Ben Brahmer — a former NU pledge who flipped to Iowa State before Signing Day — is another.

They also want to find in-state guys who fly under the radar. Nebraska used to build its offensive lines on homegrown kids with strong work ethic and a weight room transition. Rebuilding those relationships with high school coaches is a top priority.

Not just for show

Critics will say Foley’s tour of the state is just for show. That it’s not really genuine. Hogwash, says Foley.

He calls it an “amazing opportunity to build relationships.” And repping the Nebraska “N” around the state means something.

“When you wear the ‘N’ around town or into the schools, people know you’re there,” Foley said. “I’m not really used to having that happen … but that’s been fantastic.”

Sure, Nebraska is not Texas, Florida or California in terms of finding prospects. Heck, it’s not even Missouri or Illinois. But there’s still good players out there. Omaha Westside kicker Tristan Alvano is just 1 example. His remarkable effort — nailing 5 FGs in the Class A state championship game, including the game-winning 45-yarder — helped him land a scholarship from the Huskers following the game.

Nebraska kids still have big dreams of playing for the Huskers. Many from smaller high schools. Schools that a Nebraska coach hasn’t visited in years. Several high school coaches mentioned if anything, Foley’s visits have helped repair damaged PR between the University and the high schools. One coach, who wished not to be identified, said Nebraska hadn’t visited his school in the 18 years he has been there. Credit Rhule and Foley for breaking the ice.

It’s all part of Rhule’s master plan. He knows how to rebuild. He’s done it before and plans to do it again in Lincoln.

With anything, it starts at home. Rhule and Foley sprinted out of the gate and are off to a splendid start.