Lincoln, Neb. -- The Nebraska football team practiced for just over two hours on Tuesday inside the Hawks Championship Center in full pads and helmets.
Defensive Coordinator Erik Chinander addressed the media after practice, elaborating on the defensive side of the depth chart and some of the starting spot battles.
“A lot of the evaluations have been made, but the final evaluation will be how they perform under the lights,” Chinander said. "Sometimes we keep the ‘ors’ on to keep people happy, sometimes it's to out scheme people. Most of these really are ‘ors’ that we should be able to figure out by the end of this week or early next week."
Chinander was also asked about the work ethic and growth of junior outside linebacker Tyrin Ferguson, who is projected to start on Saturday night against Akron.
“You always hear a lot about guys when you get here, but with him the slate was wiped clean and he's just put his nose to the grindstone and got to work," Chinander said. ”He's done a great job. He's a really good practice player and he tries to get the guys fired up. I love his attitude."
Graduate transfer safety Tre Neal has also been a great addition to the team this summer and Chinander talked about what he brings to the defense.
“Some guys, they want to be with the coaches and hear them," Chinander said. "When you have a player that really knows what's going on, he can sit in a room with other players without a lot of pressure and teach them what's going on. Then out on the field, he can help the other guys out and make the call, just because he knows what's going on in the system. He's done a great job and he fits our system. I think the other guys really respect him."
When asked about Saturday's opponent, Akron, Chinander talked about the long hours in the film room the staff has spent to prepare for opening night.
“You have a year's worth of film to look at,” Chinander said. "Whether they do the same things they've done or change it up, I don't know. They got a really good quarterback that's going to run around and throw it, a really good receiver who can take the top off [of the defense] and a running back who is pretty good too. When you're playing a spread team, for us, there's not a lot people can do that we haven't seen. I think we'll be able to adjust pretty well just from going against our offense everyday in practice."
Chinander then commented on the Blackshirts tradition.
“We do have a little bit of a plan with those," Chinander said. "We talked about it as a staff. There's two contributing factors right now, number one being the ‘ors’ and the ‘ands’ on the depth chart. Some of those battles aren't won yet and are still being fought. We didn't feel like handing out Blackshirts to one of those guys who is an ‘or’ or an ‘and’ would be fair until we get a live evaluation. The other thing is, the last time we took the field, and I say ‘we’ because I am a part of this, was not a very great performance for the Blackshirts. So, we don't feel like anyone deserves one yet until we see what they do at Memorial Stadium."
With just three days left until game day, Chinander mentioned that he will only feel completely ready right before opening kickoff.
"I think for me, the hay is really never in the barn," Chinander said. "The kids will say, ‘Coach are you ready?’ and I'll say, ‘No.’ About five minutes before kickoff, I'll be ready. That doesn't mean we'll be installing any more stuff. I want these guys to play fast. As a play caller, you never feel ready, you're always watching more tape. At night, you're watching more film, you're trying to make sure your call sheet is right. You want to know the call sheet without looking at it. Do I feel like the staff and team is ready? I would say yes. But I won't be ready until a few minutes before kickoff.
The Huskers will be back on the practice field on Wednesday morning. Nebraska kicks off its season on Saturday, Sept. 1 against Akron at Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m., with FOX providing national TV coverage.
GAME 1: NEBRASKA vs. AKRON
SEPT. 1, 2018 | MEMORIAL STADIUM
LINCOLN, NEB. | 7 P.M. (CT)
TV - FOX (Tim Brando, Spencer Tillman, Holly Sonders)
RADIO - Husker Sports Network (Greg Sharpe, Matt Davison, Ben McLaughlin)
SATELLITE RADIO - Sirius Channel 83, XM 83
INTERNET RADIO - Huskers.com
APP AUDIO - Official Huskers App
2017 Record: 4-8, 3-6 Big Ten
Coach: Scott Frost
Career/NU Record: 19-7 (3rd Year)/0-0 (1st Year)
vs. Akron: 0-0
2017 Record: 7-7, 6-2 MAC
Coach: Terry Bowden
Career/Akron Record: 171-106-2 (25th Year)/31-44 (7th Year)
vs. Nebraska: 3-5
Nebraska ushers in a new era on Saturday night when it plays host to Akron in a 7 p.m. CT contest at a sold-out Memorial Stadium. The prime-time matchup in Lincoln will be televised nationally on FOX and available on the IMG Husker Sports Network.
The game will mark the Cornhuskers' first under Head Coach Scott Frost, the consensus National Coach of the Year in 2017. Frost came to Nebraska after a remarkable turnaround at UCF, where he guided the Knights to a perfect 2017 season. Frost has a championship pedigree as a player and a coach, quarterbacking the 1997 Huskers to a perfect 13-0 record and Big 12 and national titles.
The matchup between the Huskers and the Zips is the second all-time between the two schools. Ironically, the only other meeting occurred to open the 1997 season when Frost guided a Husker offense that amassed 644 yards of total offense en route to a 59-14 victory.
Akron is in its seventh season under Head Coach Terry Bowden, who is in his 25th season overall as a collegiate head coach. Last season the Zips posted a 7-7 overall record and captured the Mid-American Conference Eastern Division crown.
This Week's Numbers
13 - Scott Frost and his 10 assistant coaches - all of whom followed Frost from Central Florida to Nebraska - have won 13 consecutive games, the longest current winning streak of any head coach or coaching staff.
1 - Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez will make his first career start in Saturday's game. Martinez is the first true freshman to start the season opener at quarterback for Nebraska and just the second freshman ever to start the season opener, joining Taylor Martinez in 2010.
129 - Saturday's game will kick off the 129th season in the history of the Nebraska Football program. The Huskers rank among the top five in all-time victories, conference championships and bowl appearances.
Saturday's meeting is the second matchup between Nebraska and Akron. The Huskers also opened their 1997 season against the Zips, winning 59-14 at Memorial Stadium.
Martinez Set for Historic Start
True freshman Adrian Martinez is expected to start Saturday's season opener with Akron.
Frost Set for First Season
Scott Frost will lead his first Nebraska team as head coach this fall. Frost is in his third season overall as a head coach after guiding Central Florida to a 19-7 record the past two seasons.
• Before becoming UCF’s head coach in 2016, Frost spent seven seasons at Oregon (2009-15) and two years at Northern Iowa (2007-08). Included in those stops were stints as the Ducks’ offensive coordinator from 2013 to 2015 and as the Panthers’ defensive coordinator in 2008.
Staff has Familiar, Fresh Faces
All 11 members of Nebraska’s 2018 coaching staff are in their first season with the Huskers. None of the 11 had ever been a full-time coach at Nebraska before, but the staff still has plenty of Husker ties.
Head Coach Scott Frost played for Nebraska from 1995 to 1997 and served as a graduate assistant coach during the Huskers’ preparations for the 2002 Independence Bowl. Running backs coach Ryan Held also played for Nebraska (1993-96) and was an undergraduate coach on Nebraska’s 1997 national championship team. Barrett Ruud (2001-04) and Greg Austin (2003-06) are also former Huskers, although neither had ever coached at Nebraska prior to this season.
The fresh faces on staff are seven assistants who are Nebraska newcomers: defensive coordinator Erik Chinander, offensive coordinator Troy Walters, special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach Jovan Dewitt, tight ends coach Sean Beckton, defensive line coach Mike Dawson, defensive backs coach Travis Fisher and quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco.
Although all 11 members of the staff will be coaching in the Big Ten for the first time this fall, the staff boasts plenty of big-time experience. The staff owns a collective 25 years of coaching experience at nine different Power Five programs. Austin, Chinander and Dawson also spent a combined five seasons coaching in the National Football League.
FORMER HUSKERS ON 2018 STAFF
• Scott Frost, Head Coach (1995-97)
• Greg Austin, Assistant Coach (2003-06)
• Ryan Held, Assistant Coach (1993-96)
• Barrett Ruud, Assistant Coach (2001-04)
Staff Aims for Another Offensive Turnaround
Nebraska aims for an improved offense in Scott Frost's first season, after Frost and his staff orchestrated the greatest two-year offensive turnaround in NCAA history at Central Florida.
Staff Also Seeks Another Defensive TurnaroundNebraska's defense struggled in 2017, but hope that the Blackshirts can show dramatic improvement lies in the immediate turnaround Erik Chinander and his fellow defensive assistants orchestrated at UCF in 2016.
Nebraska to FaceTough Schedule
Nebraska will face one of the nation’s toughest schedules in 2018. The Huskers’ 2018 opponents combined for a 98-58 record in 2017.
- Tue. 8/28 Scottsbluff @ Chadron Softball 6pm on Wild Country 106.9 or khyyfm.com with Keaton Monier
- Tue. 8/28 Gering @ Alliance Softball 6pm on Sunny 99.3 or khyyfm.com with Trevor Bentley
- Fri. 8/31 Hastings @ Scottsbluff Football 6pm pregame 7pm kickoff on Wild Country 106.9 or khyyfm.com with Marcus Lind
- Fri. 8/31 Seward @ Gering Football on Sunny 99.3 or kettfm.com with Trevor Bentley
- Wed. 8/29 Laramie County @ WNCC Volleyball on KOZY 101.3 or kozyfm.com 6:25pm Pregame 7 First serve with Keaton Monier.
- Fri. 8/31-Sat. 9/1 Salt Lake Classic Volleyball
- Mon. 8/27 Colorado Rockies @ Los Angeles Angles 7:25pm on 1320 am KOLT
- Tue. 8/28 Colorado Rockies @ Los Angeles Angles 7:25pm on 1320 am KOLT
- Thur. 8/30 Colorado Rockies @ San Diego Padres 7:30pm on 1320 am KOLT
- Fri. 8/31 Colorado Rockies @ San Diego Padres 7:30pm on 1320 am KOLT
- Sat. 9/01 Colorado Rockies @ San Diego Padres 6:00pm on 1320 am KOLT
- Thur. 8/30 Denver Broncos @ Arizona Cardinals 8pm on NFLN
The second-ranked Nebraska volleyball team opens the 2018 season with a pair of top-20 matches this weekend at the VERT Challenge at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. The Huskers host No. 7 Florida on Friday at 6 p.m. in a rematch of the 2017 NCAA Championship match. On Saturday, Nebraska will face No. 18 Oregon at 6 p.m. The VERT Challenge is in its fourth year of its cycle. Texas will also play in the tournament this weekend.
Friday’s match will be televised on BTN and streamed at BTN2GO.com. If the 3:30 p.m. match between Texas and Oregon goes long, the Huskers and Gators will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first match, but no earlier than 6 p.m. Saturday’s match, which will be streamed at BTN2GO.com with a BTN Plus subscription, will also begin at either 6 p.m. or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Florida-Texas match.
Both Husker matches this weekend will be on Husker Sports Network radio affiliates, including 107.3 FM in Lincoln and AM 590 in Omaha. A live audio stream will be provided at Huskers.com, on the official Huskers app and the TuneIn app. John Baylor is in his 25th season doing play-by-play for the Husker volleyball program. Lauren (Cook) West, a former All-America setter for the Huskers, will provide color commentary.
About the Huskers
• The Huskers are 3-3 all-time in the VERT Challenge. Nebraska lost both matches last season in Gainesville, Florida, 3-1 to Oregon and 3-2 to Florida. The Gators are 5-1 all-time in the tournament, while Texas is 3-3 and Oregon is 1-5.
• Nebraska is no stranger to national title rematches early the next season. After Nebraska beat Texas in the 2015 national title match, the teams had a rematch at the VERT Challenge in Eugene, Oregon in 2016. Nebraska won the rematch, 3-0, the same result as the 2015 championship match. Last season, Nebraska beat Florida, 3-1, to win the NCAA crown in Kansas City, Missouri.
• The second-ranked Huskers won the 2017 NCAA title, their second national championship in three years. NU finished 32-4 overall and also won a second straight Big Ten title, sharing top honors with Penn State.
• This year’s NU squad will aim to reach the final four for a fourth consecutive year, which would be a first in program history. NU also hasn’t won three straight conference titles since 2006-08 in the Big 12.
• Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney were preseason All-Big Ten selections. Foecke is a two-time NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player and led Nebraska in kills last year with 3.53 per set. Maloney was an NCAA All-Tournament team selection and led NU in digs last year with 3.62 per set.
• John Cook, Nebraska: 19th year at Nebraska (531-69); 26th year overall (692-142)
• Mary Wise, Florida: 28th year at Florida (824-101); 32nd year overall (905-164)
• Matt Ulmer, Oregon: 2nd year at Oregon (18-12)
• Nebraska is 9-3 all-time against Florida with the teams meeting twice last season and splitting the matches. Florida beat NU, 3-2, in the second match of the season at the VERT Challenge in Gainesville. The Huskers earned a 3-1 win in the national championship match on Dec. 16 in Kansas City.
• Nebraska is 4-2 all-time against Oregon, but the Ducks beat the Huskers, 3-1, last August in Gainesville. The Huskers beat Oregon in the first year of the VERT Challenge, 3-2, in Austin, Texas.
• Florida is coming off a 30-2 season and an NCAA runner-up finish last year. The Gators are ranked seventh in the preseason AVCA Coaches Poll. Florida returns three starters from last year’s squad.
• Middle blocker Rachael Kramer is the top returning Gator. The 6-8 Phoenix, Arizona native averaged 2.66 kills and 1.03 blocks per set last season. She was a third-team AVCA All-American and an All-SEC selection.
• Oregon is coming off an 18-12 season in Matt Ulmer’s first year as head coach. The Ducks reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2017.
• The Ducks, who are ranked 18th in the preseason AVCA Coaches Poll, return four starters, led by 6-2 middle blocker Ronika Stone, who was an All-Pac-12 selection last year after averaging 2.14 kills and 1.14 blocks per set. Senior outside hitter Lindsey Vander Weide put up 2.48 kills and 2.70 digs per set in 2017.
Foecke, Maloney Captain Young Husker Squad
• Seniors Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney are co-captaining the 2018 Husker squad. Foecke and Maloney are the lone players on the team who have been part of both the 2015 and 2017 NCAA Championship teams, and the duo will look to become the first in program history to appear in four straight final fours and win three national championships.
• Foecke, an outside hitter from West Point, Iowa, was selected the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championship in both 2015 and 2017 after leading the Huskers to their fourth and fifth NCAA titles all-time.
• Foecke became the fourth player in NCAA history to twice be named the MOP - as she also earned the honor in 2015 - and she was the first to earn the honor in non-consecutive years.
• Foecke was named an AVCA second-team All-American and was unanimously selected to the All-Big Ten team and was an AVCA All-North Region pick for the third straight year in 2017. She was named a unanimous preseason All-Big Ten team selection entering her senior season.
• Foecke averaged a team-high 3.53 kills per set on .290 hitting with 2.36 digs per set in 2017. She also had a team-high 39 aces.
• Foecke ranks 16th on Nebraska’s career kills list with 1,170, which ranks seventh in the rally-scoring era (2001 to present).
• Maloney, a libero from Louisville, Kentucky, was named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament team in 2017 and was a PrepVolleyball.com first-team All-American after serving a school-record 13 aces during the NCAA Tournament.
• In her first season as NU’s libero, Maloney played all 125 sets and averaged 3.62 digs per set and 0.95 aces per set with season totals of 452 digs and 37 aces, second-most on the team.
• Maloney was named to the preseason All-Big Ten team this year.
Stivrins, Sweet Set for Sophomore Seasons
• After earning All-Big Ten Freshman team honors in 2017, middle blocker Lauren Stivrins and opposite hitter Jazz Sweet will both aim to play even bigger roles in 2018.
• Stivrins finished the 2017 season with 2.07 kills per set on .309 hitting and 1.02 blocks per set while playing all 125 sets. She tallied nine kills on .316 hitting against Florida in the NCAA Championship match and had seven kills and a career-high nine blocks in the NCAA Semifinal vs. Penn State.
• Sweet also played in all 125 sets last season and had 2.22 kills per set on .273 hitting in her first year as a Husker. Sweet posted 12 kills on .375 hitting against Penn State in the NCAA Semifinal.
New Huskers Have Big Roles to Play
• Eight of the 15 Huskers on the roster are new to the team this season, and at least a few will have to play a major role for the Huskers early on. With starting setter Kelly Hunter, middle blocker Briana Holman and outside hitter Annika Albrecht all graduating last year, as well as defensive specialist Sydney Townsend, NU will rely on its newcomers to make an immediate impact.
• Three of the eight newcomers are setters who will look to replace Hunter, the two-time AVCA All-American and 2017 Big Ten Setter of the Year. Freshman Nicklin Hames was ranked the top setter recruit in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com, while junior transfer Mari Kurkova has experience playing on the highest international stage with the Czech Republic. Senior Brooke Smith, who began her career at Nebraska in 2015, rejoins the squad after playing one season at Kansas State.
• Nebraska also added sophomore outside hitter Lexi Sun to its attack in the offseason. The University of Texas transfer was a 2017 first-team All-Big 12 selection and received All-America honorable mention in her freshman season with the Longhorns. A native of Encinitas, California, Sun was the PrepVolleyball.com National Player of the Year, the Gatorade Player of the Year and the All-USA Volleyball Player of the Year as a senior at Santa Fe Christian.
Huskers Will Play School-Record 19 Home Matches
• Nebraska will play a school-record 19 regular-season home matches in 2018.
• Nine of the Huskers’ 10 non-conference matches will be played at the Devaney Center this season. The only road trip will be up the road to Omaha where NU will face Creighton on Thursday, Sept. 6. The teams took a year off from the series last season after playing each other from 2014-16.
• The 2018 season marks the first time the Huskers won’t play a non-conference match outside of Nebraska since 2007.
Huskers Aiming for 250th Consecutive Regular-Season Sellout
• Nebraska enters the season with an NCAA women’s record 234 consecutive regular-season sellouts. Should the Huskers continue to sell out, their 250th straight sellout would be on Friday, Nov. 2 against Penn State.
Cook Closing in on 700 Career Wins
• Nebraska head coach John Cook has a 692-142 career record entering the 2018 season and will become the 10th active Division I head coach to reach 700 career wins with the Huskers’ eighth win of the season.
• A total of 26 Division I coaches all-time have reached the 700-win mark. Former Husker head coach Terry Pettit is currently tied for 27th on the all-time victories list with 694.
NCAA Tournament Format Stays the Same
• For the third straight year, the top remaining seed in each quadrant of the bracket after the second round will have the chance to host one of the four regionals. The Huskers were one of the four teams to host a regional in 2016, as they beat Penn State and Washington to advance to the NCAA Semifinals for the second straight year. Nebraska went on the road in 2017 to play in a regional at Lexington, Kentucky.
• The 2018 NCAA Championship will be played Dec. 13-15 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It will be the second appearance of the finals in Minnesota. The last time Minnesota hosted was 1988.
Huskers Ranked No. 2 in AVCA Coaches Poll
• Nebraska was ranked No. 2 in the AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll.
• The Huskers have been ranked No. 1 in 99 all-time polls, the most in NCAA history.
• The Huskers have been ranked in the top 10 a total of 471 times, which is also the most in NCAA history.
• Nebraska has appeared in all 526 AVCA Coaches Polls since it was established in 1982. Nebraska and Stanford are the only two programs to be ranked in every poll all-time.
Cook Adds to Legacy; Joins AVCA Hall of Fame
• Nebraska head coach John Cook is in his 19th season as the Nebraska volleyball head coach in 2018. He has led the Huskers to four national championships, eight final fours, 12 conference championships and 16 top-10 final rankings since 2000. Cook has 692 career wins and is one of the all-time winningest coaches in NCAA history.
• Since taking over the program in 2000, Cook has led the Huskers to a nation-leading .885 win percentage in that time (531-69).
• Under Cook, the Huskers have achieved 52 AVCA All-Americans and 19 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, both among the best in the nation. He is a two-time AVCA National Coach of the Year, earning the prestigious honor in 2000 and 2005, and a seven-time conference coach of the year, including Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2016 and 2017, his first and second Big Ten honors with the Huskers in their Big Ten era (2011-present).
• Cook was named the AVCA North Region Coach of the Year in 2016, his fifth career regional coaching honor and fourth while at Nebraska.
• Cook is one of only four active coaches - and one of six all-time - to be a two-time AVCA National Coach of the Year and was honored in 2008 by USA Volleyball, receiving its All-Time Great Coach Award.
• Cook was inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame in 2017, joining former Husker volleyball coach Terry Pettit in the hall.
Husker Fans Set Attendance Standard Once Again
• Nebraska fans led the nation in attendance for a fifth straight season in 2017, averaging 8,202 fans per match, nearly 2,000 more than any other school.
• In 2016, the Huskers also led the nation with an average attendance of 8,210 fans per match, a new NCAA attendance record.
• In 2013, the Huskers led the nation in attendance (8,175) for the first time since 1992, ending Hawaii’s 21-year reign as the national leader.
• The Huskers repeated as attendance champions in 2014 with 8,083 fans per match, which included a school-record 8,585 fans at the Oct. 3 win against Penn State.
• Nebraska has ranked in the top three nationally in attendance every season since 1990 (27 straight seasons).
• The Huskers have sold out every regular-season match since 2001, a streak of 234 consecutive matches, the longest sellout streak in the history of NCAA women’s athletics.
Cook’s Coaching Tree Continues to Grow
• Nebraska head coach John Cook’s assistant coaches have a great track record of moving on to become head coaches.
• Following the 2017 season, Husker assistant Tyler Hildebrand was named the Director of Coaching, Beach Volleyball for USA Volleyball in his home state of California.
• After the 2016 season, Nebraska assistants Chris Tamas and Dani Busboom Kelly both accepted high-level Division I head coaching jobs. Busboom Kelly became the head coach at Louisville, while Tamas accepted the head coaching job at Big Ten foe Illinois. Tamas led his Fighting Illini squad to the Sweet 16 in his first year, while Busboom Kelly made the NCAA Tournament with Louisville and was named the AVCA East Region Coach of the Year.
• Seven assistants under Cook have become head coaches following their time on Cook’s Nebraska staff: Craig Skinner (Kentucky), Lee Maes (Virginia), Lizzy Stemke (Georgia), Dan Conners (UC Davis), Dan Meske (Augustana, Associate Head Coach at Louisville), Busboom Kelly and Tamas.
• In the last eight years, five of Cook’s Husker assistants have become head coaches.
Sarah Pavan’s Jersey to be Retired on Sept. 9
• Nebraska will retire the jersey of one of the most decorated players in NCAA history, Sarah Pavan, on Sunday, Sept. 9 at the Huskers’ match against Iowa State. Pavan will also be inducted into the Nebraska Athletic Hall of Fame that weekend.
• The Kitchener, Ontario native is NU’s all-time leader in kills (2,008) and kills per match (4.56). She is one of five players in NCAA history to be named a four-time first-team AVCA All-American, and she helped lead the Huskers to the 2006 NCAA Championship.
• Pavan will be the ninth volleyball player in school history to have her jersey retired.