Spring Practice 2016 Press Conference

Billy Devaney is in his second year as Nebraska's executive director of player personnel.

MATT RYERSON, Journal Star file photo

Billy Devaney was hard at work Monday, trying to operate as usual, trying hard to keep Nebraska's nine verbal commitments for 2018 in the fold.

The Huskers' executive director of player personnel, Devaney wasn't among members of Mike Riley's staff who were fired Saturday. Devaney is among staff members whose contracts aren't tied to a head coach.

Another part of Devaney's title is special assistant to the head coach. Even though the program operates without a full-time head coach, Devaney keeps plugging away.

"My job, for the most part, is trying to find players — good players — for Nebraska," he said from his office at Memorial Stadium. "I'm still at it until somebody tells me otherwise. That's my plan, to keep on going. Obviously, the next guy coming in as head coach, it will be his call on how he wants to structure the staff — who he wants to bring in and who he wants to retain."

Devaney, in his second year at Nebraska, hasn't talked about his future at the school with new Husker athletic director Bill Moos. But Devaney said he would like to remain in his current role, if the opportunity presents itself. 

"I love it here," he said. "The juice of getting this thing going, that hasn't changed. It still excites me. I know what the expectations are, and I've heard people say, 'Do you think that's a problem, the expectations at Nebraska?' I'm like, are you out of your mind? Of course, it's not a problem. There should be great expectations. That's part of the fun, to try to meet those expectations. That hasn't changed."

He made clear it's a challenge to maintain the class of 2018. Some prospects are waiting to see what the new staff looks like and if any of Riley's former staff will be hired by the new head coach. Trent Bray is serving as interim head coach but was the only assistant retained. However, he's not going out on the road to recruit, according to Moos.

Around the nation, FBS coaches started hitting the road Sunday night in anticipation of the Dec. 20 signing day. Meanwhile, Devaney moves forward with Nebraska's recruiting plan along with Bray, associate director of player personnel Todd McShane, director of football and recruiting operations Andy Vaughn and director of high school relations Kenny Wilhite, among others.

"All the non-coaching staff is here," Devaney said. "We already had a meeting this morning and started to lay out a plan. Trent's been in contact with a bunch of our recruits. We're going to be looking at tape because we know we're going to lose some players. We've already lost some (Brendan Radley-Hiles and Chase Williams) and we have some positions opened up now. We're going to go back and revisit some guys we liked but we didn't think we'd have room for.

"We'll try to keep preparing for whatever staff comes in and be ready to answer any questions they have — which prospects they need to see immediately, get them up to speed with where we are. There's a ton of work to be done. It's a great environment that Mike created. There's nobody walking around like woe is me or we got screwed. It's, 'Man, let's go until somebody tells us otherwise.'"

Devaney came to Nebraska following a long career as an NFL executive, including a four-year stint as general manager of the St. Louis Rams (2008-11). Although his experience in the NFL can be an effective recruiting tool, his thinking in that regard has evolved since being on campus.

"It's fine when I'm talking to a recruit that he's interested, after he's finished playing at Nebraska, in a career in professional football — that's well and fine," Devaney said. "What I figured early during this process, first and foremost, is we have to impress upon the kid, 'You're coming here to win championships for Nebraska. If that's not your No. 1 goal, then it's probably not a good fit.'

"We want kids first and foremost now who are committed to No. 1, win championships for Nebraska, and then anything I can do along the way in a secondary role to help them achieve their goals, I'd be happy to do that. It's not a shift (in thinking), but it's got to be a point of emphasis, that's for sure."

Devaney didn't want to go into details as far as why he thought Nebraska slid this season to 4-8 overall and 3-6 in the Big Ten. As for the roster, he said, "There are areas where we obviously have to get better, but I'd rather not go there."

Some folks wonder how influential a role Devaney played in Riley's staff decisions, including the January 2016 firing of defensive coordinator Mark Banker and hiring of Bob Diaco.

"My role was to do research for Mike," Devaney said. "Mike would tell me what he was thinking about doing and positions he was looking at — and I'd get as much information as possible. That, in its simplistic form, is what I was charged to do."

He mostly wants to look forward now.

"I do believe we had this thing going, with the way the 2018 class was shaping up," he said. "We had it going in the right direction. It was going to take a little more time. But by the same token, you've got to win games along the way. That's true with anyplace I've been. You have to justify what you're doing. And at the end of the day, we didn't win enough games. It's as simple as that."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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