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Steven M. Sipple: NU's ingenuity in recruiting Joseph; Adrian visits K-State; and Fred's issues
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Steven M. Sipple: NU's ingenuity in recruiting Joseph; Adrian visits K-State; and Fred's issues

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Steven M. Sipple, Parker Gabriel and Chris Basnett talk through the ever-evolving coaching searches that Nebraska football and head coach Scott Frost are currently conducting in this episode.

Things I know, and things I think I know: 

Try telling Jack Pierce it's overly difficult to recruit great football players to Lincoln.

"That's bullsh--," he told me a few years ago.

The Nebraska program has everything a kid wants, he says. The objective is to convince players that's the case, and Pierce was exceptional in that regard.

As the Huskers' chief off-campus recruiter from 1985 to 1992 (when there was such a thing), Pierce played a lead role in Nebraska landing Neil Smith, Broderick Thomas, Reggie Cooper and Mickey Joseph, among other prominent names.

Pierce, now retired, has a zillion recruiting stories, and the Joseph story is a good one. 

"We covered bases in those days, I guarantee you," Pierce told me Saturday, recalling the ingenuity Nebraska used on National Signing Day in 1987 to close the deal on Joseph — who last week became the Huskers' newest assistant coach under Scott Frost.

You probably already know this, but sometimes a chain-link fence can come in awfully handy. Stay with me here.

During the late 1980s, college football coaches could go to high schools to attend players' signing day ceremonies. Nebraska, though, had a small problem in 1987 on the day Joseph, the Gatorade National Player of the Year as a shifty option quarterback, was ready to sign his letter of intent. The problem: Schools were allowed only so many visits to high schools, and NU already had reached its limit with Joseph at Archbishop Shaw in Marrero, Louisiana. 

This is where the fence comes in. Archbishop Shaw's head coach at the time, Hank Tierney, had a chain-link fence erected on the edge of the high school grounds separating Joseph from Pierce and former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne.

"We set up tables on both sides, and handed the letter over to Mickey," Pierce recalls with a chuckle. 

Get this: Nebraska in 1987 actually signed the No. 1 offensive and defensive players in Louisiana. Reggie Cooper, a rangy defensive back from Slidell, Louisiana, also chose the Huskers.  

"The next day, there was a photo in the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune newspaper showing 'Coop' signing his letter of intent on the hood of my rental car," Pierce recalls. "I couldn't go in the school parking lot, so I parked it in the street in front of the school."

He rented a Cadillac, by the way. 

"Anything to make people wonder, you know what I mean?" Pierce recalls with a laugh.  

As for Joseph, 53, he takes over as Nebraska's wide receivers coach, passing game coordinator and associate head coach after spending the previous five seasons at LSU. 

"Mickey's become a very good recruiter," Osborne told me last week. "I can see why. I can see him as a guy who relates very well to young people. He's a pretty outgoing guy — probably has a fairly good gift of gab.

"So, I'm really glad he's coming back here." 

* Along those lines, Osborne pays close attention to Frost's current plight. 

"Well, I really can't say much," the Hall of Famer said. "I just hope for the best. I do think these next few weeks will be very important because of transfers either way — people who come in and people who leave. And getting a good staff hired will be critical.

"I know Scott's got a lot on his plate, and I try not to bother him." 

Osborne, 84, pays close attention to college football in general. Always has. So he understands the potential impact the transfer portal can have on a team. 

"Six or seven of the right transfers can make a huge difference," he said. "If you make six or seven mistakes, that also can make a huge difference." 

Six or seven seems like a realistic number of transfers that Frost will try to take from the portal, and maybe more.

One will be a quarterback. Would he take two? 

* Sophomore-to-be Logan Smothers seems like the type to embrace competition in the quarterback room. He's all-in at Nebraska, by the way, and the race for the starting job in 2022 has begun. I'm guessing he'll operate with urgency throughout the offseason. Same goes for freshman Heinrich Haarberg. 

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Smothers runs the ball well and showed strong command of the offense against Iowa, but he needs to add strength and get more zip on the ball. 

Husker spring football with a wide-open QB race? That's always fun. 

* Although former Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez visited Kansas State over the weekend, his transfer-portal tour may not be finished. Rivals.com reports that several schools have reached out to Martinez, including Cal, UCF and Louisville. UCLA also is one to watch. Martinez in Westwood is certainly intriguing.

His girlfriend is a K-State soccer player, which may make the Wildcats the favorite in this race. 

* Both Frost and Nebraska men's basketball coach Fred Hoiberg were hired largely for their offensive acumen. 

So, of course, Frost is now looking for an offensive coordinator — keep a close eye on Graham Harrell of USC and perhaps Zak Hill of ASU — and Fred's team is shooting 27.2% from three-point range, which ranks 333rd nationally in Division I (out of 350 teams). 

Meanwhile, Nebraska (5-4, 0-1 Big Ten) ranks 325th in offensive rebounds, averaging 7.67 per game. 

Hoiberg is 19-49 at NU, and just 6-42 against Power-6 competition. 

If nothing else, the Huskers' struggles in the top two men's sports are fascinating to contemplate. 

My unsolicited advice: Maintain a sense of humor, no matter what.

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