Mike Riley remains grateful he got to coach ‘at such a special place’ like Nebraska

Mike Riley remains grateful he got to coach ‘at such a special place’ like Nebraska
Mike Riley went 19-19 during his three seasons as the coach at Nebraska. BRENDAN SULLIVAN/THE WORLD-HERALD

There may be some things Mike Riley regrets about his time at Nebraska, but he tries not to dwell on them.

The former Husker coach went 19-19 over three seasons before getting fired in 2017. He’ll admit that record falls far short of expectations, but there are positives he takes from that experience.

“I’m just generally very happy that I got to do that at such a special place,” Riley said Tuesday during an appearance on “The Bottom Line.” “I met so many good people. It was fun to get to be a part of.”

Riley is now head coach of the San Antonio Commanders in the Alliance of American Football. He said he’s “just glad to be coaching still.” And he hopes his time at Nebraska taught him how to be a better coach.

“If you can reflect on it,” Riley said, “you can maybe get better from the experience when you didn’t exactly do as well as you wanted to. I hope it was helpful in that regard. And yes I have reflected on some things I would’ve done differently probably, but at the same time I try to just be thankful for it.”

Riley does have some regrets regarding the change he made at defensive coordinator following the 2016 season. He fired his longtime assistant, Mark Banker, and replaced him with Bob Diaco.

The Huskers switched to a 3-4 scheme, then had one of the worst defensive seasons in program history.

“It was too big of a change for our people to go from the 4-3 to the 3-4 in one year,” Riley said, “and expect us to function as well as we had instead of just taking what we had and improving it.”

Watch the video at the top of the page for Riley’s full thoughts on his time at Nebraska. You can check out the videos below, too, for his thoughts on Stanley Morgan’s pro potential and coaching in the AAF.

And here is a transcript of select excerpts from the interview:

On Stanley Morgan’s pro potential:

“I think Stanley’s got a great opportunity at the next level. He’s physical, competitive. He will go up and catch the ball. The other part of him is, he is a tough guy. When you get to that fifth receiver spot on a team, you need that guy to be versatile, because they’re dealing with the roster size that is way less than at Nebraska, but Stanley could go out there and be on special teams and be an effective player because he’s tough. And he’ll go down there and make a play if he needs to on a special team, and then he’ll be ready to play receiver, and the guy can make plays. Whatever he might lack, he makes up with with being smart, competitive, tough and a play maker. You can’t have enough play makers on your team. I think he’s got a great opportunity.”

On former Husker Alonzo Moore, who plays for Riley’s AAF team:

I don’t know if people know this, he spent quite a bit of time with the Chiefs before he hurt his shoulder again. He had a shoulder problem at Nebraska, and it popped up at a real bad time during the training camp he was in with the Chiefs. … He came in and he was only with us a week and ended up playing a lot in both of our first games. He’s a tough guy, and he has done very well in the two games.”

On Aaron Green, a former Husker who transferred to TCU. Green also plays for the San Antonio Commanders:

“I’d forgotten about Aaron having been at Nebraska for a while. I really like him. He’s a versatile back. … Aaron is particularly good out of the backfield catching the ball. He’s doing a nice job.”

On coaching in the AAF:

“I’m really thankful for that. It just worked out so well in a lot of ways. Bill Polian called me last spring about it. They didn’t know for sure whether there was going to be a team in San Antonio. And I said ‘Well, if there is, please save it for me.’ Because we do love it down here, and I’ve got a bonus that my son and his wife live in Austin, so we’ve got family down here and we get to coach in a city that we’ve enjoyed in our lives. So we’re thankful for it. This city I knew would embrace this league, and we’ve had two games where we’ve had really good crowds and a great vibe.”

On the players:

“Most of our guys have been either on practice squads in the NFL, some of them have played games in the NFL, some of them have been in camps in the NFL. They have been through pro ball in some fashion before. I don’t know that it’s necessarily different, but what I’ve noticed is that these guys are really hungry. They want to continue playing football. Some of them are motivated by wanting to get another shot at the NFL. Some of them are motivated by the fact they just want to keep playing football and make some money at it.”