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It's not as though they're about to stop mining for gold out west.

But if you listened closely to Mike Riley on Wednesday, you heard the Husker head coach bring up the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City, and the need for NU recruiting to hit just as hard those major targets within driving distance as those tied to this staff's California connections.

Riley felt Nebraska did well in California in the 2017 class (four high-profile signees), and in Texas (three linemen), and Florida (a linebacker and a versatile defensive end).

"But I don't want us to forget that we can get guys here," Riley said. "So I really want to hit that radius hard. I want to make sure that every guy who might be a prospect in Kansas City is on our campus in a couple of months."

There's good reason Riley would specifically bring up a couple of cities in the Show-Me State.

Josh Helmholdt, who covers Midwest recruiting for Rivals.com, pointed out a headline just this week asking if the 2018 recruiting class in the state of Missouri was the best the region has ever had.

"That's a very legitimate question," Helmholdt said. "It's that impressive, that deep — particularly the St. Louis area, where right now we have three players in the state of Missouri who are ranked among the top 100 players in the entire country."

One of those is four-star wide receiver Kamryn Babb, out of the same Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis that produced Husker running back Tre Bryant. "He's a guy that is just a physical freak, but also has the football IQ," said the analyst.

Other top talents include St. Louis products such as four-star defensive tackle Trevor Trout out of Chaminade High and offensive lineman/defensive tackle Michael Thompson out of Parkway North. Nebraska has offered all these guys. So have a lot of people.

But it goes beyond the headliners. The pool is deep there at a time when Missouri football hardly has in-state recruits locked down post-Gary Pinkel. Fun fact: The Tigers signed just one player from Missouri in the 2017 class.

It's not like the Huskers haven't had some recent success in the state, either. Bryant and Boe Wilson were big additions in the 2016 class. Defensive linemen twins Carlos and Khalil Davis, out of Blue Springs, were as significant as any Husker signees in 2015.

"They do a good job in Missouri," Helmholdt said of Nebraska's presence. "You have to have a backyard place you can go to where you're going to be the big dog. I mean, look, you go to California and recruit, even with the success they've had, they're still not the big dog. You've still got the USCs and UCLAs, not to mention every other blue-blood program in the country going out there to recruit."

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And for as many words as the "Calibraska" movement received this past recruiting cycle, Riley said Wednesday four recruits out of California "might be high end" for what he expects out of that state each year. He thinks two or three California kids would be all right. (NU already has one commit from the state in the 2018 class in Eric Fuller Jr. out of Hawkins High School in Los Angeles.)

Nebraska recruiting will always have to have dots from all over the map. It's just about being efficient in picking up those dots.

"I think the question is a good one because I think it is always about where you put your manpower and where you're going to put your time," Riley said. "You want to be fruitful in that."

It helps, he's sure, that NU coaches now have the earliest start on the next recruiting class that they've had since being in Lincoln.

"We are getting a better picture earlier of where to really pinpoint. 'Is this guy an explorer? Does he want to reach out and try something new?' The more we can find that out earlier, the better," Riley said.

Mike Farrell, national recruiting analyst for Rivals, agrees a state like Missouri could be beneficial to the Huskers in this class, though he still sees it as a place where Nebraska will generally take just a couple of kids each cycle.

"It's not where you're going to be able to fill your team," Farrell said. "You can spot-recruit Missouri, and you have to, and maybe hope to grab a couple guys out there. What Nebraska needs to do, though, I think, is continue the Calibraska movement, get back into Texas, and then pull from those states while spot-recruiting Florida."

He mentions the state of Texas specifically. The Longhorns aren't rolling. Kevin Sumlin's future seems in constant speculation at Texas A&M. Baylor has a new coach and off-the-field problems. TCU took a step back this year.

It's why, in Farrell's mind, Texas belongs right there with California and Florida when you talk about states outside the 500-mile radius where NU can attack with success.

"There's a lot of talent from those three states that would be willing to go to a Power Five program with a great fan base that are being overlooked by some of the local programs," he added.

That's fair. Yet you also understand why Riley this week spoke first of recruiting "from the inside out." You know, first reaching those guys who can get to Lincoln with just a tank of gas and a bag of beef jerky.

"We have to do a good job from right here in our radius," Riley said, "because those are the guys that we can actually get here first."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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