Category Archives: Huskers News

Frank Solich will return to Nebraska to accept Tom Osborne Legacy Award

Former Nebraska football coach Frank Solich will accept the Tom Osborne Legacy Award at the Outland Trophy Award Dinner on Jan. 9.

Solich notified Bob Mancuso, director of the Outland Dinner committee, on Friday that he would be able to attend. It’s believed to be the first time Solich has returned to Nebraska to be honored or recognized since he was fired in 2003.

Solich, who has been head coach at Ohio University since 2005, followed Osborne in 1998 and led NU to bowl games in all six seasons, including the national championship game in 2001. His 1999 team is the last Nebraska team to win a conference championship.

Previous winners of the Osborne Legacy Award include Milt Tenopir, Barry Switzer and Bobby Bowden. Ticket information will be released at a later date.

Why Husker QB coach Mario Verduzco has no problem recruiting ‘athletes’ as quarterbacks

LINCOLN — Nebraska has 11 offers out to quarterbacks in the 2019 class.

Some of those include pro-style quarterbacks Mike Riley’s staff offered. But that doesn’t include prospects labeled as “athletes” by recruiting services that Nebraska is pursuing as quarterbacks — like four-star Luke McCaffrey and three-star Peyton Powell.

Powell received an offer from Nebraska and quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco on Wednesday night. He’s from Odessa, Texas, and attends Permian High School, famous for its portrayal in the “Friday Night Lights” book and movie.

Powell is the No. 41 athlete in the 2019 class and has 19 offers. He’s also being recruited as a wide receiver and safety.

Which begs the question: Why does Nebraska recruit guys who sometimes aren’t traditional quarterbacks?

Verduzco said Thursday it’s a mix between a gut feeling and the quarterbacks “stroke” or throwing motion.

“You watch a guy and you ask yourself, ‘Is he athletic? Can he do the things Coach (Scott) Frost and Coach (Troy) Walters expect a quarterback to be able to do in our offense, a la, Marcus Mariota, Vernon Adams, McKenzie Milton, so on and so forth,'” Verduzco said.

Some guys, he said, are so dynamic you have to take a good look at them, despite maybe not having a perfect throwing motion. That was the case when Verduzco was recruiting Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton, who on some recruiting sites was technically considered an athlete.

When watching tape, sometimes you can see a throwing motion that’s salvageable. Sometimes it takes a trip out to see a recruit to diagnose the stroke, Verduzco said, which is what he’s been doing the past few weeks on the recruiting trail.

“Coach Frost and I feel like if a guy has some issues — (Milton) had some issues when he first came — we’ll get them corrected,” Verduzco said. “We have the drill work that is designed to first diagnose the problem, then you got drills that are designed to medicate, train and polish his stroke. (Milton) went through that process with us.”

Verduzco flew out to Hawaii to watch Milton throw, thought his “stroke” was close enough, malleable enough, and Milton got the offer. Milton started as a true freshman, and as a sophomore in 2017 threw for 3,795 yards, completing 69 percent of his passes with 35 touchdowns. He finished eighth in Heisman Trophy voting.

“What ends up happening for us is the pool of quarterbacks that are available to us is bigger,” Verduzco said.

So Nebraska has no issue taking chances on a kid at quarterback even if other schools aren’t, such as Powell or three-star George Johnson III, who is being recruited by schools as a wide receiver.

Nebraska is also in the hunt for four-star Jayden Daniels out of San Bernardino, California. Daniels recently put Nebraska in his top eight schools and is the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 class. Nebraska is also high on the list for four-star Michael Johnson Jr. from Eugene, Oregon. He’s the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback and plans to visit Lincoln sometime this summer. Nebraska received a visit from Luke McCaffrey, brother of NFL running back Christian McCaffrey, in the spring.

Nebraska has three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster right now with Adrian Martinez, Tristan Gebbia and Noah Vedral. Andrew Bunch remains a walk-on. Nebraska does, however, want a 2019 quarterback to fill out the room.

There is not a pecking order. At this point, it’s first come, first serve for the 2019 quarterbacks, Verduzco said Thursday.

“We’ll take any of them,” he said. “We like all of them.”

Former Husker Richie Incognito allegedly threw weights at gym employees, said government was spying on him

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Police took veteran NFL guard and former Husker Richie Incognito to a mental hospital after he allegedly threw weights and tennis balls at gym employees and another patron and told officers the government is spying on him, according to a report released Thursday.

Boca Raton police say a patron at Life Time Athletic, Mark O’Brien, told officers James Brown and Dave Rosenthal he was jogging on the outdoor track when he saw Incognito acting angry. O’Brien said he tried to calm Incognito, but as he walked away, the former Buffalo Bill threw a tennis ball at his foot, tried to run him over with a weighted pushing sled and then threw two weights — one into the pool and another at him, which missed. He said Incognito, 34, then cursed at him, telling him to get out of his “playground.”

O’Brien called 911 and in a recording released Thursday a voice identified as Incognito’s can be heard in the background yelling and cursing at him. He told the dispatcher Incognito, who was dressed in shorts and no shirt, was trying to hit him as they talked. He told the dispatcher the 6-foot-4, 322-pound Incognito is “huge” but a “little overweight.”

O’Brien told The Associated Press on Thursday that Incognito also ripped apart a boxing mannequin and slammed his knee into its head, and feared Incognito might do the same to him. He said he didn’t know Incognito, who also played for the St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins, where he was suspended in 2013 for the racial bullying of a teammate, Jonathan Martin.

“I can fully appreciate and understand people going through tough times and mental illness but his behavior was irrational. I hope he gets help,” O’Brien said.

Officer Brown wrote that when he and Rosenthal arrived at the gym, a staff member handed them Incognito’s concealed weapons permit and told them he had thrown objects at the staff. No gun was found on Incognito and it is unexplained why the employee would have his permit.

Brown said that when he approached Incognito, he said he was under contract for the National Security Agency, a top U.S. spy agency, and that another patron was wearing headphones nearby.

“I’m running NSA class level 3 documents through my phone,” Incognito told Brown, saying he couldn’t have anyone with Bluetooth capability near him.

Brown said that when he asked Incognito why the government would be watching him, he replied that Brown didn’t have a high enough security clearance to discuss it with him.

He said Incognito’s hands were shaking and he would suddenly jump and move without warning. Incognito told the officers he was taking a dietary supplement and denied throwing objects at people.

Brown said that when he told Incognito he was worried he was going to hurt himself or others, Incognito yelled at a woman in the pool to call the FBI.

Brown and Rosenthal took Incognito into custody under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows for people to be hospitalized for 72 hours if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Incognito’s lawyer, Mark Schamel, did not immediately return an email Thursday seeking comment. Incognito has not been charged with a crime as police say in his mental condition he could not form intent.

Incognito announced earlier this year that he was retiring from football after 11 seasons, the last three with Buffalo. The Bills released him from their reserved/retired list Monday, leaving open the possibility he could sign with another team.

He has been on a downward spiral for much of this offseason.

His closest friend on the Bills, center Eric Wood, is being forced into retirement after being diagnosed with a career-ending neck injury in January.

The Bills also asked Incognito to take a pay cut in restructuring the final year of his contract. Incognito initially backed the agreement by posting a note on Twitter saying he was “thrilled to be returning this season and fired up to get back to work with my Buffalo Bills brothers.” However, he had a change of heart weeks later and abruptly fired agent David Dunn in a post on Twitter.

Nebraska baseball’s Scott Schreiber, Jesse Wilkening make All-Big Ten second team

Nebraska landed a pair of honorees on the All-Big Ten second team and had five players recognized overall as part of the league baseball awards released Tuesday morning.

Scott Schreiber — in contention for Big Ten Player of the Year until the final weekend — and Jesse Wilkening were both named to the second team after pacing Nebraska’s offense this spring. All-Freshman nods went to catcher Gunner Hellstrom and outfielder Jaxon Hallmark, while the school’s Sportsmanship Award winner was sophomore outfielder Mojo Hagge.

Big Ten champion Minnesota claimed three of the four major awards: Pitcher of the Year (Patrick Fredrickson), Freshman of the Year (Fredrickson) and Coach of the Year (John Anderson). Illinois first baseman Bren Spillane earned Player of the Year.

Nebraska, which missed the postseason for the first time as a Big Ten member, also had its lowest number of all-conference selections. It had four last year following its regular-season title, and its highest was seven in 2012.

Schreiber was a first-team member the last two seasons and had a strong case to make it a three-peat. The Wisconsin native was top seven among Big Ten hitters in slugging percentage (.692), on-base percentage (.446), runs scored (62), hits (79), RBIs (48), home runs (18) and total bases (148).

Wilkening, a junior, led NU in RBIs (56) and batting average (.372) while splitting time between catcher and designated hitter. This marks his first All-Big Ten honor.

Iowa secured three All-Big Ten first-team spots: catcher Tyler Cropley, outfielder Robert Neustrom and starting pitcher Nick Allgeyer. DH Chris Whelan landed on the third team.​

Click here to see the complete list of All-Big Ten baseball teams.

Binder finishes prep career at state meet, turns focus to running for the Huskers

AUBURN, Neb. – Allie Binder stepped onto the Auburn High School track earlier this month and took her mark, but she wasn’t getting ready to race. Instead, she was making her mark on her letter of intent to run track and cross country at the University of Nebraska.

The senior flipped her commitment from the University of South Dakota and became a Cornhusker by signing her signature on a table draped in a red table cloth and a Nebraska banner draped over the front, all in the middle of the track.

Binder loved South Dakota, but Nebraska is home to her and UNL was always her first choice.

“When they did a late recruitment about a month ago, it was a no-brainer to me. The day that I received the call that they wanted to recruit me, a couple hours before my mom and I were just talking about ‘wouldn’t it be really crazy if Nebraska just called you out of no where?’ So, when I got the call a couple hours later I was like, ‘hmm…this is probably fate.'”

Binder says she was a big fan of everything about the Huskers track and field program, including the athletes, facilities and distance coach David Harris.

Binder competed in her fourth-straight Nebraska School Activities Association State Track and Field Championships at Burke Stadium in Omaha last week.

Auburn senior and Husker track and field recruit Allie Binder finished second in the girls 3200 meter run Friday.

She ran to a runner-up finish in the Class B girls 3200 meter run on Friday with a time of 11:45. It was her career best finish in the race at state. She finished third the last two seasons (sophomore year with HTRS and junior year with Auburn). She was ninth in her freshman season with HTRS.

She also had her best finish in the 1600 meter run at the state meet on Saturday. Binder crossed the finish line in 5:20.45 to end third and set a new personal best. Her previous best was a fifth-place finish during her sophomore year with the Titans. She was sixth last spring and seventh her freshman year.

Binder was “pretty happy” with her finish in the 1600 meter run, but says it really wasn’t the ending she wanted and it will only motivate her as she makes the jump to college running.

“I never thought it would come to an end like it did. I’m really thankful for everything my parents have done for me and for all my coaches for all the hard work we put in through practice.”

Binder ran to a seventh place finish in her lone appearance at the NSAA State Cross Country Championships last fall. She played volleyball at HTRS prior to running cross country at Auburn.

She was a guard for the girls basketball team, which qualified for the NSAA Girls State Basketball Championships in March for the first time since 1978. Only the second time ever the Bulldogs have been to the state tournament.

Binder plans to major in elementary education at UNL and eventually earn her masters in guidance counseling. She does want to coach in the future.

Follow Hunter on Twitter: @TheBurnRadio

Nebraska-Iowa game on Black Friday will return for good after 2021, Bill Moos says

When Nebraska Athletic Director  Bill Moos was hired in October 2017, one of the first messes he tried to clean up was the Black Friday debacle.

That seems to be coming to a close.

Moos, talking on the Husker Sports Network on Monday evening, said the Nebraska vs. Iowa matchup  on the day after Thanksgiving is going to return and will be scheduled for “long after” he is gone.

“When I got here there were a couple things that I went right, straight to and that was Black Friday and to secure the rivalry with Iowa,” Moos said. “That will be scheduled long after I’m gone. And I mean, on the face of the Earth.”

The previous athletic director, Shawn Eichorst, was fired soon after Nebraska’s loss to Northern Illinois in September 2017, which followed a week full of controversy about the Black Friday game. Eichorst and the athletic department announced Nebraska would no longer play on the day after Thanksgiving and would finish its seasons in 2020 and 2021 against Minnesota, not Iowa. Eichorst later reversed his position in a press conference but was fired less than a week later.

Moos said he couldn’t reverse the scheduling of Minnesota, but those games will be played on Black Friday.

“And then we go into the Iowa series from then on out,” Moos said.

The reason why this is such a big deal, Moos said, is not only does Nebraska need a rival, but it needs exposure. And what’s better than being the main show the day after Thanksgiving, he said.

“It’s not like a typical Friday night game, Friday afternoon game, because people aren’t at work and so they’re watching our brand. And that’s a whole, big key of getting ourselves in that national picture.”

Moos then teased that the athletic department could announce some games on the schedule after the 2022 season to bolster Nebraska’s strength of schedule moving forward.

Injuries, defense and in-state recruiting to blame for Nebraska baseball’s struggles

Members of the Kansas State radio broadcast team stormed into the Haymarket Park press box.

A play that went as a Nebraska hit needs to be changed to an error, they told the NU scorekeeper. Most Division I infielders would get an out on that particular ground ball, they said. And it isn’t fair to the Kansas State pitcher whose ERA would take a hit.

The argument lasted a few minutes, with both sides eventually walking away in frustration. The scoring decision stood.

That scene — a fight between two sub-.500 baseball teams following a 4-3 Wildcat win in mid-April — captures the mood that surrounded Nebraska’ second-worst baseball season by winning percentage since 1975. Nitpicking the small stuff because the big picture was too unseemly to focus on. Identifying a problem but being unable to do anything about it.

One year after claiming the Big Ten regular-season title, the Huskers aren’t part of this week’s eight-team league tournament, which happens to be at at TD Ameritrade Park, just 60 miles from Haymarket Park.

At 24-28 (8-14), NU finished the most games under .500 since 1997, the last year of the John Sanders era.

A lagging recent postseason record — a combined 1-11 in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments since 2015 — won’t get any worse because Nebraska didn’t qualify for either event for the first time under seventh-year coach Darin Erstad.

So what happened?

Injuries

There is a not-so-far-fetched alternate reality in which Nebraska’s weekend rotation is entirely different than the one that navigated most of this spring.

Imagine Chad Luensmann, Jake McSteen and Jake Meyers as the Big Ten hurlers for the Huskers.

But Luensmann, a junior right-hander, underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in January. Junior lefty McSteen went down with an arm ailment early in the spring and briefly attempted a comeback before being shut down. Meyers, NU’s ace in 2017, opted to turn pro instead of returning for his senior year.

Those changes had a ripple effect on the roster. Luis Alvarado, a senior in his first season pitching as a college starter, struggled to a 7.75 ERA in league play and was eventually demoted from the Friday role. Nate Fisher (9.39 Big Ten ERA) didn’t stick as a weekend starter, and Nebraska skipped senior Matt Warren (4.91) for one Sunday start as it searched for more reliable options.

Junior righty Matt Waldron developed into NU’s best starting pitcher, but his overall ERA of 4.26 didn’t come close to cracking the Big Ten’s top 15.

Injuries also ravaged the bullpen. Offseason Tommy John surgery claimed all of 2018 for redshirt freshman southpaw Connor Curry, while junior Robbie Palkert had  the same procedure after just a few games. Junior Reece Eddins returned from injury to pitch in eight games — with a 9.00 ERA, he clearly wasn’t 100 percent — and power-throwing righty Zack Engelken (arm discomfort) shut himself down after throwing just 11⅔ innings.

Junior Ethan Frazier, redshirt freshman Paul Tillotson and true freshman Andrew Abrahamowicz each pitched with sporadic results after enduring long-term injuries or illnesses in 2017.

It all added up to a team ERA of 5.70, which ranks 232nd out of 297 Division I teams. It’s the worst ranking under Erstad and pitching coach Ted Silva, whose previous  four teams were 40th, 68th, 24th and 79th.

Erstad and his support staff have said they plan to reevaluate their throwing program going forward. In what areas and how drastically remain to be seen.

Defense

Statistics don’t bear out how poorly Nebraska fielders played this year. Bad bunt coverage, for example, turned multiple would-be sacrifices into base hits as parts of big innings. Inexperienced outfielders often took longer routes to fly balls that were  outs last year and  extra bases this season .

NU never ranked below 37th nationally in fielding percentage under Erstad until coming in 149th (.969) this year. It’s probably the most frustrating part of the Huskers’ struggles because it is something they can control.

Position flexibility — touted as an advantage before the season — hurt the Huskers here. Luke Roskam committed a team-high 11 errors playing third base (29 games), first base (10) and catcher (13). Freshman Jaxon Hallmark made eight errors while starting at all three outfield spots, shortstop and third base across 50 games. Angelo Altavilla and Zac Luckey also combined for nine errors while bouncing around the left side of the diamond.

Nine players started in the outfield. Rhythm was hard to come by.

Recruiting

While many of Nebraska’s best pitchers missed time with injuries, NU’s best hitters turned in All-Big Ten types of seasons.

But the overall depth of the roster was sorely lacking. For pitching, that manifested into a 3-7 midweek record that included an 0-4 mark against Creighton and UNO. For hitting, NU’s “open competition” approach that produced walk-on Mojo Hagge’s breakout 2017 campaign turned into the team simply rotating outfield starters in the hopes that someone would stick.

The Huskers’ situation looks all the worse when checking some of the in-state talent that got away. Wichita State infielder Alec Bohm (Omaha Roncalli) is a projected first-round draft pick in June who was lightly recruited by NU. Two of the most reliable bullpen arms for Big Ten regular-season champion Minnesota are Joshua Culliver (Creighton Prep) and Jackson Rose (Omaha Westside). Gareth Stroh (Gibbon) is a weekend starter for league runner-up Purdue.

Texas A&M has three Lincoln products  thriving on its roster. Michael Helman (Pius X) is second in the SEC with a .365 batting average and Logan Foster (Southwest) leads the Aggies with eight home runs. Nolan Hoffman (Southeast) paces the league with 12 saves.

Recruiting has been a contentious point among fans for a few years, and some national outlets confirm the sentiment. Perfect Game, which ranks its top-100 college baseball recruiting classes, pegged Nebraska in the following order since 2011: 47th, 100-plus, 29th, 25th, 100th, 73rd and 100-plus. The 2018 class is 44th and the 2019 group is 51st.

Erstad has said many times the Big Ten’s rules against “oversigning” recruiting classes put its teams at a competitive disadvantage compared to other schools that can more easily fill roster gaps created by players’ early departure via the draft.

Weather

Baseball is hard enough with a routine. But conditions kept Nebraska from finding a groove all spring.

Yes, all northern teams deal with weather. No Big Ten team, though, had more league games canceled because of conditions. Many of the games the Huskers did play pushed the limit of the league’s “RealFeel” rule, which requires the  temperature to feel at least 28 degrees at first pitch.

Cold and wet conditions also conspired to help minimize Nebraska’s considerable home-field advantage by keeping crowds away for much of the year. The Huskers’ 13-12 home mark is its worst in the 17-year history of Haymarket Park. The Huskers had been 339-121-1 previously.

Former Husker Richie Incognito released from Bills’ retired list, may continue NFL career

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Richie Incognito’s playing days might not be over after all.

The veteran guard and former Husker is free to resume his career after the Buffalo Bills released him from their reserve/retired list on Monday. The move came six weeks after Incognito abruptly announced he was retiring on his Twitter account.

The NFL Players Association confirmed Incognito’s intentions by announcing he had contacted the union of his plans to retire. Incognito cited health concerns as one of the reasons he was retiring. He was also unhappy with taking a pay cut in restructuring the final year of his contract with Buffalo this offseason.

Incognito immediately becomes a free agent available to sign with any team. The 34-year-old Incognito has 11 seasons of NFL experience, including the past three with Buffalo.

The Bills provided Incognito a second chance at resuming his career after he spent 18 months out of football following his role in the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal.

Huskers have options at center after Michael Decker announces retirement from football

LINCOLN — Michael Decker wrote that he did not come at the decision lightly, but the “future career goals” of the junior Husker center outweighed his desire to play football at Nebraska.

So the Omaha North graduate announced Saturday on Twitter that he’s giving up football.  He thanked coaches, teammates and administrators at Nebraska.

A  starter for five games last season before suffering a severe knee injury, Decker sat out this spring. He chose to go no further in his preparation for the 2018 season.

Also Saturday, linebacker Andrew Ward announced on Twitter that he was leaving the NU program after one season.

During spring practices, three Huskers — seniors Tanner Farmer and Cole Conrad and redshirt freshman Hunter Miller — played center, with Farmer sliding over from his starting right guard spot. Decker, sometimes on crutches, watched the action. Now he will walk away from it.

“Over the past 6 months, I have taken a step back and looked at my future career goals and decided that I can no longer accommodate football’s commitments,” Decker wrote. “It was finally time to see that these aspirations outweighed the lacking desire to continue playing the game. Which, given the team’s goals, would only hurt them by my participation.”

He didn’t immediately respond to a request from The World-Herald for additional comment.

Decker said his teammates “kept me in it for so long.” He told The World-Herald in October — just before his knee injury at Purdue, the last game of his Husker career — that he had suffered a concussion as a freshman, which caused him to gauge his priorities for the first time. Once he had ascended to the starting job in 2017 — taking over for a then-injured Conrad — he said the sacrifices were “worth it.”

“So far this year I’ve been able to enjoy the experience with my friends, and I think I’ve really valued that and been waiting for something like that ever since I got here,” Decker said in October. “These past couple of games have really made the experience, I think, worth it. So far, I have kind of decided that the experiences of playing outweigh the consequences.”

A political science major, Decker is an honor roll student at Nebraska. His dad, Chris, is an economics professor at UNO. Michael Decker’s intellect helped him to identify defenses in the games he started.

His departure leaves Conrad, Farmer and Miller as the three favorites to play center. True freshman Will Farniok from Sioux Falls, South Dakota — who enrolled early but appeared headed for a redshirt season — may get a look, too.

Farmer is a two-year starter at right guard, but Nebraska’s best backup lineman may be sophomore right guard Boe Wilson. A move by Farmer to center would allow both to be on the field at the same time. If Farmer stays at guard, Conrad — the Fremont Bergan graduate who started seven games at center last year — becomes a key option. He missed some of spring practice  and the spring game while rehabbing a right shoulder injury. That opened the door for Miller, a walk-on from Cross County High School near Stromsburg who missed last fall with a shoulder injury of his own.

“It’s by committee,” offensive line coach Greg Austin said of Nebraska’s approach in the spring. “I’m actually glad it’s happening that way because you always want to build depth, especially at such a crucial position like center, the guy that has to communicate.”

Ward, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound scholarship player from Muskegon, Michigan, redshirted during his one year at NU. He saw time in the spring game but was not considered among the top candidates to play at either inside or outside linebacker.

Ward’s and Decker’s announcements come before the Huskers begin their summer conditioning program next week and ostensibly put Nebraska at 84 scholarships, accounting for the presumed departure of offensive lineman Bryan Brokop, who refers to himself as a “former” lineman on Twitter but hasn’t officially announced his departure. NU coach Scott Frost said Thursday his official policy  is not to comment on the departure of any players until they announce it.

Seventh-inning rally helps Huskers claim victory over Illinois in season finale

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Zac Repinski and Keegan Watson homered during a six-run seventh as Nebraska snapped a four-game skid and finished its season with an 11-8 win at Illinois on Saturday.

Angelo Altavilla was 4 for 5 with three stolen bases, two RBIs and two runs scored. Jesse Wilkening added three hits, including two doubles.

The Huskers trailed 7-5 after a four-run sixth by the Illini (31-18, 15-9). But with no outs in the seventh, Repinski smacked a two-run homer.

After a pair of singles, Watson hit a three-run blast to right-center to put Nebraska ahead 10-7.

Matt Warren allowed three runs in five innings, and Jake Hohensee pitched a pair of scoreless innings for his 13th save.

The Huskers finish 24-28, including 8-14 in the Big Ten. For the first time since joining the Big Ten, NU will miss the eight-team conference tournament after finishing 10th.