Bond between Evan Cooper, Matt Rhule already paying off at Nebraska

Robin Washut profile picby:Robin Washut12/25/22

RobinWashut

When Matt Rhule first arrived for his introductory press conference as Nebraska’s new head football coach, there were only a handful of people on the plane with him.

Along with his wife and children, there was Evan Cooper.

Before Rhule even accepted the Huskers job, he knew that Cooper would be on his staff. A former player at Temple when Rhule was an assistant with the Owls, the secondary coach has served on Rhule’s staff for 10 consecutive seasons. 

Cooper’s coaching and relationships with players were big reasons why he followed Rhule to Temple, Baylor, the Carolina Panthers, and now NU. But maybe his greatest strength is his ability to find exactly what Rhule is looking for on the recruiting trail.

“Evan Cooper is the absolute best I’ve ever been around,” Rhule said. “If we ever offer a guy that no one’s heard of, it’s Evan. Because he stays up at night and texts me at three o’clock in the morning, watching this guy, watching that guy. I think what you’ll start to see is that we’ll offer guys no one has heard of, then they’ll start getting 10, 11, 12 offers, and their stars will bump up.”

“I like to think creatively,” Rhule added. “Having Evan Cooper on our staff makes me think creatively.”

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Cooper knows what Rhule wants in recruiting

Cooper’s approach isn’t just about evaluating as much highlight film as possible in hopes of discovering under-the-radar talent. His decade of experience coaching with Rhule has given him a clear picture of the kinds of players Rhule wants.

A self-described “film junkie,” Cooper said he looks for specific traits from prospects off the field just as much does on it.

“I’ve been with him for a long time,” Cooper told the Huskers Radio Network. “He has a type. I understand his type, and I try to find those guys that he’ll like, and he usually does. We just have pretty good chemistry. Along with the rest of the recruiting staff, we just kind of know what he wants.”

The first offer Rhule extended after taking over at Nebraska was to Omaha Westside wide receiver Jaylen Lloyd. That’s because Cooper told him to do it before he even accepted the job. Rhule emphasized Cooper’s importance in the work NU accomplished in the 24 days leading up to the Early Signing Day.

“Before I took the job, I kept calling him, like, ‘Do you think this is the right fit for us?’” Rhule said. “And he was like, ‘Coach, take the job, then call Jaylen Lloyd.’ He knew this class.”

For Cooper, he said recruiting to Rhule’s programs had always been easy. That’s because of his genuine belief in everything Rhule was about as a coach and a leader.

“I believe in Coach,” Cooper said. “I believe in his message; I believe in his actions. I’ve seen it done. He’s proven to me over and over that he’s the real deal. You kind of want to attach yourself to greatness, and he’s given me the opportunity to. I’m grateful for that.”

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