Practice, day two and ho-hum, there's a game yet to be played. Hard to imagine that the Colorado game for the second year in a row is the second most interesting story in Lincoln.
Two years consecutively now the Husker world has been "treated" to coaching controversies, apparent situations yet to be resolved and with so much on the line for the future, it's the immediate future for the entire team that has lost a little focus.
Head coach, Frank Solich is doing his best though as he recapped yesterday's practice, one that he said was a definite positive as the trip to Boulder looms just a few days away. "(it was) A very energized practice today." Solich stated. "The contact was really good (and) very spirited, so we felt good about what we got done today."
Aside from the current situation stemming from the story by the Lincoln Journal Star, much concern at least from the coaches has been solely on the Colorado Buffaloes. Nebraska faces a team that has beaten them twice in a row now, that obviously accentuated with the 62-36 victory CU put on Nebraska the last time Nebraska made the trip into Colorado.
If Nebraska were to lose this game, it would mark only the second time NU has lost three in a row to the Buffs', the only other time being 1956 thru 1958.
Altitude is always an issue with this game when it is occurring down at Boulder and of course, it's a concern for the staff as they have been planning their practice schedule somewhat around what they are hearing it will be like come game day. "There's not much you can do unless you get up in the higher altitudes and work out in it." Solich stated. "We are in very good physical shape and we have football teams that we have taken there, played there before and it's not that big of a deal."
Another aspect that sometimes rears it's ugly head is of course, the weather. That to is not much of a concern as coach Solich took a "been there, done that" approach, but is preparing the team accordingly. "We've been outside when at times we've been caught when the weather has not been ridiculously cold, but it's been cold." he said. "They've (the players) come through an awful lot in terms of the weather and the heat and we've pushed them hard regardless of what the weather has been and they have always responded well."
Coach Solich also said that the team is preparing to practice outside the last two days before traveling to Boulder but they would be watching the long-term forecast and possibly make adjustments according to that if it's thought necessary.
While CU does loom, it would seem as I am sure it will be all this week that the post-practice session would be remiss if it didn't include some inquiries about the current situation, again stemming from the Lincoln Journal Star story. The story that now has fans in an a frenzy has coaches a little distracted, if for one thing and that's the lifeblood of future Nebraska teams, recruiting.
With so many questions and answers few and far between along with Athletic Director, Steve Pederson choosing to remain silent at least early on, recruits around the country are already asking just what is going on. It's something that coach Solich says he and his staff are addressing. "You are always concerned with recruiting." Solich stated. "That's the bloodline of what any athletic program's about."
"Our coaches have done a great job of getting a recruiting class established and we are continuing to work to fill that out. We have been on the phone and will continue to be on the phone and in touch with these guys and I don't see a problem if we continue to press hard."
"Pressing" might be an apt. word as no doubt the coaches have been scurrying in "damage control" mode trying to minimize the effect that the story from the Star has had. Kids with questions, coaches who probably don't have a lot of answers, something still has to be said and as coach Solich stated, the message is to those committed and still possible commits, the focus at NU isn't any different than it has been. "Our commitment to all those guys is very much the same." he said. "It will be for everyone that signs up with us."
"We are anxious to put together a great class (and) we have the basis for a great class. We have had two classes back to back, these previous two that we think are very good. We have a number of young players in the system that are playing right now for us and doing extremely well and will be part of some great football teams."
You can imagine the concern of the entire coaching staff about any effect anything has on recruiting, that again being vital to any program's success, but it was the comments of one, Tom Osborne that just made the point hit home that as a former coach, he knew all too well what this kind of situation could do for luring or driving away some of the best prep-players in the country. It's experience that coach Solich has and continues to value, maybe especially at such a tumultuous time and it certainly didn't hurt with Osborne didn't just argue what could happen about the situation, but argued against the situation itself, vocally supporting the coach he selected to take his place.
. "Tom is certainly a great ally for anybody involved in athletics." Coach Solich said. "He's been through it and knows what this is all about. He's been through a lot of good and great times here at the University of Nebraska and he's been through a few low moments, so I think that anybody that's in the coaching profession understands how that can work and you better be a pretty even-keel person to make it work."
"There can be ups and there can be downs, but right now, we're up about getting a chance to play Colorado."
When it comes to ups and downs, you could call the head coach a professor as Frank Solich has seen the gamut since he took over for Osborne. A conference title, a national title and even being the 6th winningest coach in Division 1-A for coaches in their first five years, well, that hasn't been enough to save Solich from various criticisms, especially since the last away game against the Buffaloes.
It's criticism that he has perhaps gotten numb to, but as Solich stated, it's part of the game and your skin better be thick if you want to survive. "I don't think that you are ever going to coach in this business and please everybody." he said. "I don't care how it works. The thing you have to understand is that you don't try to please everybody. You just try to make sure you do the best job you can, that your players are responding well to you, that your coaches are responding well, then you are getting some things done."
"You don't worry about what's surrounding you with some negativity, because there is going some of that in this game and if you can't handle that you are in the wrong business."
Nebraska will practice two more days here in Lincoln and then head out to Boulder. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 11:10 A.M. CST and will be broadcast on national TV by ABC with Keith Jackson calling the game.
NU is currently a 1 point favorite.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619