One In A Series
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ Nebraska’s soft schedule is the talk of the town, more so than the end of the Tom Osborne-Barry Switzer showdowns or the Huskers’ prospects under a new quarterback.
″I can’t change the schedule. I can’t really do anything about the way the fans or the press preceive it,″ Osborne said. ″The important thing is the players don’t preceive it that way because if they do we’ll probably have a hard time.
″If you look at the history book and look at the personnel, we probably should be favored in each of those games, but sometimes the favored team doesn’t win,″ he said.
It’s unlikely the 1989 Huskers would end the school’s string of 27 consecutive winning seasons (an NCAA record), 20 straight bowl appearances or 20 seasons of nine or more victories with a schedule that includes non- conference foes Northern Illinois, Utah, Minnesota and Oregon State.
Nebraska also has been picked by the media to repeat as Big Eight champion.
Osborne, in his 17th season with a career record of 158-36-2, became the winningest active NCAA Division I coach when Switzer resigned at Oklahoma in June.
The Huskers ended 11-2 last year and 10th in the final Associated Press poll after a 23-3 Orange Bowl loss to Miami.
Twelve of last year’s starters are gone, including 11 All-Big Eight players.
″As compared to other years I think this team is talented enough to be good,″ Osborne said. ″We’re not overwhelming. This is probably not a team that maybe has the offensive talent of the 1983 team, but I think we can be a good team.″
Quarterback is the biggest question mark with three-year starter Steve Taylor completing his eligibility. Senior Gerry Gdowski is in a battle to hold off talented sophomores Mickey Joseph and Mike Grant for the spot.
Ken Clark heads a squad of quality backs that includes last year’s top three fullbacks, wingbacks Richard Bell and Nate Turner, backup I-backs Leodis Flowers and Terry Rodgers, and veteran receivers Morgan Gregory at split end and Monte Kratzenstein at tight end.
Clark’s 1,497 yards and 13 touchdowns last fall led a Husker offense that was tops in the nation in rushing, was seventh in total offense and sixth in scoring offense.
Center Jake Young and 295-pound tackle Doug Glaser are the only returning starters in a reloaded Husker line of giant lettermen.
″It’s going to be a typical Nebraska line,″ Young said. ″I think we’ll be fine. But we can’t take the attitude that we can use the non-conference schedule for development and getting ready for the Big Eight.
″If you look at the teams we play, they don’t have a lot of exposure. They’ve been good teams in their conferences. ... So we’ve got to assume that they’re going to play us well,″ he said.
The defense returns only four starters: strong safety Reggie Cooper, linebacker Chris Caliendo, tackle Kent Wells and outside linebacker Jeff Mills. Gone is outside linebacker Broderick Thomas. Mills will fill his spot and Mike Croel goes to the right side.
Joe Sims, Paul Brungardt, Mike Murray and Pat Engelbert will try to fill the line holes with Wells.
″We’ve got a lot of people coming back so we will be OK,″ Wells said. ″Most of these guys played a lot last year anyway.″
Cooper heads a secondary that saw five of the top six players use up their eligibility. But he said newcomers Bruce Pickens, Tahaun Lewis, Marvin Sanders and their backups will be faster and could improve what last year’s secondary coaches called the school’s best ever.
″Overall I think everybody is confident,″ Cooper said. ″With the schedule, you never know. On any given day anybody could be beaten. It’s not likely we’re going to be taking anybody lightly because we wouldn’t be playing them if they weren’t any good.″