Nebraska fans had better hope that an offseason filled with negative news is not foreshadowing for the upcoming season.
Coach Mike Riley announced Saturday that senior cornerback Chris Jones recently underwent surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee. Recovery time for that surgery is typically four to six months, which means it’s unlikely Jones will play this season.
The school’s football website had a lead story Friday that Jones had been named to the Jim Thorpe Award watch list. Twenty-four hours later, the Huskers and their fans are pondering how the team will fare without one of its best defenders.
Less than a month ago, Nebraska announced a defensive staff change. Bob Elliott, hired by new coordinator Bob Diaco to coach safeties, stepped down and took an analyst position. That decision was based on his health, and Elliott passed away July 8 at the age of 64.
About the same time that Riley announced his staff shuffling, freshman wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr. – the son of the NFL standout and counted on to be in the receiving rotation this season – announced he would take a leave of absence after being arrested on a charge of marijuana possession.
Most prognosticators have Nebraska pegged to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten West Division. With new starters at quarterback and running back plus questions regarding depth at wide receiver, the Huskers’ defense needs to be on its game.
#Huskers Big Ten West chances took huge hit with announcement CB Chris Jones could miss most of 2017 (knee)
— Rich Cirminiello (@RichCirminiello) July 15, 2017
Riley hired Diaco, who is installing a new 3-4 scheme. The secondary was considered to be a strength of the defense. Jones, a 6-foot, 195-pounder, had 37 tackles, three interceptions and 10 pass breakups last season. He’s the kind of player a defensive coordinator doesn’t stay awake at night worrying about.
“Right now, to me, he’s laser-beam, locked in,” Diaco said in late June. “He’s focused on what he wants to do, what he wants to get done, what he wants for this defense and what he wants for this team, and he’s attacking that — in a real way each day. It’s not pretend.”
Preseason magazine previews don’t offer much hope for Nebraska fans
A new defensive scheme plus the loss of a lock-down cornerback only adds to the list of concerns for Nebraska. Perhaps the only good news of late is that Oregon, the Huskers’ opponent in Week Two, has lost its top receiver. New Ducks coach Willie Taggart dismissed senior Darren Carrington following the player’s arrest on a DUI charge.
Shawn Eichorst reports on Friday night games
When Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst met with the school’s Faculty Senate recently, a number of topics were discussed but one of the highlights involved the Big Ten’s new television contract with Fox and ESPN and how it includes six Friday night telecasts.
Playing a Friday night game in Lincoln with school in session and during high school football season would be a major disruption. Eichorst said that the Huskers are scheduled to have at least one Friday night home game every third year. One way to avoid the on-campus and prep conflicts is playing that game on “Black Friday” – the day after Thanksgiving. That’s when Nebraska has faced Iowa in recent seasons.
Nebraska is playing at Illinois on Friday, Sept. 29. Playing a home game the Friday before Labor Day also would be a possibility for the Huskers.
Eichorst also informed the faculty senate that Nebraska would now be receiving a full revenue share from the Big Ten. The school has not been fully vested in its first six seasons as a member, and Eichorst said the school missed out on about $60 million. With the new television contracts plus the success of the Big Ten Network, schools are expected to receive about $50 million each in revenue next year.
- Jones was scheduled to be one of three Nebraska players attending Big Ten media days in Chicago July 24-25. Junior safety Aaron Williams will replace Jones. Quarterback Tanner Lee and linebacker Chris Weber will also be in Chicago.
- Recruiting and verbal commitments is more liquid than water. But if you believe in momentum – and you put stock in the commitments and the rankings – then Nebraska is trending in the wrong direction. In early June, Rivals ranked the Huskers’ class at No. 7 and 247Sports.com had it at No. 8. In the latest team rankings, Rivals has Nebraska at No. 23, 247Sports has the Huskers at No. 22.
- Junior offensive linemen Nick Gates and senior kicker Drew Brown have been named to preseason watch lists for awards. Gates is on the list for the Outland Trophy while Brown is on the list for the Lou Groza Award.
- Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles, a Nebraska commit, was named the defensive back most valuable player and first-team defense during The Opening in Oregon. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder from IMG Academy is rated as a four-star by 247Sports.com.
When Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf saw Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch on campus, the coach took advantage of the opportunity and had Crouch talk to the Huskers’ quarterbacks:
“Eric told them a story about his battle with (Bobby Newcombe) and how it didn’t always go his way early on. It was a great story about continuing to help out and be a great teammate. That was how Eric said he became a better leader by having a good attitude and continuing to work. As he eventually took over the team, his leadership became even stronger. It’s neat having a guy here who played the position and went through something similar to what our guys went through even this last spring. I thought our guys got something out of the talk.”
- Addition of elite athlete Joshua Moore will boost Huskers offense
- Preseason magazine previews don’t offer much hope for Huskers fans