John Cook discusses Kayla Caffey’s status and the evolution of volleyball recruiting

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The final episode of “Kicking Back with the Cooks” was released Wednesday for their monthly episode featuring the Nebraska volleyball head coach John Cook with his daughter and former player Lauren Cook West.

Kayla Caffey Status

One of the biggest question marks remaining in the offseason for Nebraska was the All-American middle tackle decision. Kayla Caffey and whether she will return for her final season of eligibility.

During his press conferences in the spring, Cook mentioned that he hoped to have an answer by August 1. That hope has changed.

“I guess we’ll see August 8 when we start,” Cook said on the podcast. “The ball is in Kayla’s court, so I don’t know if she’s going to make an announcement or what, but the ball is in her court, so we’ll see.”

Considering Caffey has been around at team camp for the past two weeks, it certainly seems encouraging for the Huskers to have her back.

Volleyball Recruiting Evolution

Volleyball, like many other college sports, has undergone a massive change in recruiting rules over the past two years.

The big change was pushing back the date varsity teams could start talking to rookies, which is now June 15 of their junior years — a change now in its second year. That’s why many top varsity teams across the country, including Nebraska, have their future recruiting classes set for mid-July, if not sooner.

So despite having some of the best freshmen and sophomores in the country come to their camps, no recruiting talks are allowed.

One of the reasons the NCAA put these new rules in place would be to slow down the decision-making process for these players. Before this rule, you saw many of the best players signing up in their first season.

However, all of this has only pushed back the date that everyone is committing to.

“Well, it didn’t change anything,” Cook said. “What happens is day one someone engages, day two all of a sudden you have three or four engaging, and then it creates a chain reaction to the end of the first week.”

Cook also mentioned the frenzy that occurs when June 15 rolls around as college teams across the country begin hosting Zoom calls to talk to top recruits — including some who start just at midnight. A coach Cook spoke to made 40 Zoom calls in three days.

During the same period, Cook made four.

Big Ten Expansion

Cook still has that fire in him to keep coaching. This is obvious. But a new challenge is upon us for Nebraska and it comes in the form of UCLA and USC joining the Big Ten in 2024.

Both bring rich stories that will add to the already top volleyball conference in the nation. USC has won six national championships, including three of the first six beach volleyball championships that began in 2016. However, the Trojans have struggled in recent years indoors at 15-15 in 2021, 7-8 in 2020 and 18-14 in 2019. when they lost to Baylor 3-0 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

UCLA has won four NCAA titles as well as two AIAW national championships with its last title in 2011. The Bruins haven’t been exactly great since appearing at the NCAA Regional Finals in 2016 when they went 27-7. They reached a regional semi-final in 2017 but haven’t made it past the second round since then.

With Washington’s recent emergence over the past two seasons, USC and UCLA have regained seats in the Pac-12. But with the perks of joining the Big Ten, that shouldn’t last too long.

Other ratings

>> Cook has always advocated moving volleyball to the spring to avoid conflict with Saturday football matches. As a result, the Big Ten shaped the volleyball schedule to prevent these disputes from putting a lot of games on Sundays. For 2022, six of the 29 games on the Husker schedule feature Sunday morning games, five of which are conference games. There have only been three Sunday games in 2021.

>> Tuesday marked the 13th and final day of summer team camp for Nebraska, which also included a celebration at an undisclosed location. Assistant Coach and Recruitment Coordinator Jaylen Reyes is back on the recruitment track to prepare for the class of 2025.

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