Mike Riley is scheduled to take to the podium today and talk all things spring football. He will do so as one of a handful of year-three head coaches in need of a “breakthrough” season in 2017.
At least according to Sports Illustrated. From the story by Gabriel Baumgaertner:
Nebraska remains one of the most confounding jobs in 21st century college football, and Riley may (again) not be the coach the fans want. After struggling to a historically unlucky 6–7 season in his opening year, Riley led the Cornhuskers to seven consecutive wins to start the 2016 season to, briefly, assuage a nervous and delusional fan base. Nebraska’s fans expect to contend for national titles because of their historical dominance in the Tom Osborne era, but recruits and all of the current players weren’t cognitively developed to remember when Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch led the last great Nebraska team—which was routed by Miami in the 2001 Rose Bowl. Add in the fact that the Big Ten has two perennial powerhouses (Ohio State and Michigan), one usually in the hunt for a conference title (Wisconsin) and a re-emerging threat (Penn State), and there’s no clear path for Nebraska to return to any kind of glory.
I don’t think many Husker fans will disagree with this assessment in principle. Nebraska does need to show some sort of upward trajectory soon. The “delusional” tag, however, will probably fire some people up. Baumgaerntner later uses “forever demanding” to describe Husker fans.
That’s feels pretty close to the standard national view on Nebraska’s place in modern college football. Talk about all of the challenges inherent to Nebraska — challenges few Husker fans dispute — and pit that against championship aspirations based on past glory and it’s pretty easy to paint a sad picture.
But the thing I never understand about this view is that the aspirations (or delusions if you prefer) are really what maintain a program’s standing. Lose an expectation of excellence and then something really is lost.
The other thing that always confuses me about this argument: Is it even possible for a fan base to have perfectly reasonable expectations? Is there a fan base out there that deserves the title “most realistic?” What would that look like?
Maybe we should poll Ohio football fans. The Bobcats have been playing football since 1894 and are two games over .500 over that span (and were exactly .500 entering the 2016 season). It’s as middle-of-the-road as you can get. Do Bobcat fans prepare for a new season by saying “We’ve got to win six games. That’s our lot in life.”? Of course they don’t. Those fans want their team to win the way any fans do, but that wouldn’t be delusional based on the past.
Anyway, Riley needs to get Nebraska trending upwards. That much we can all agree on. So do Jim McElwain at Florida, Gary Andersen at Oregon State, Patt Narduzzi at Pittsburgh and Chad Morris at SMU according to Baumgaertner.
Former Husker Commit Arrested
Jenks, Oklahoma, tight end Reese Leitao was committed to Nebraska for a long stretch of the 2017 recruiting cycle before he flipped to Texas in December. On Tuesday, Leitao was arrested at his high school:
According to his arrest report, a Xanax pill was found in Leitao’s backpack during an administrative search by the school’s principal. Leitao then admitted to distributing the pills for money. In his wallet, he had $1,289 and another $20 was found in the side zipper of his backpack.
During booking, Leitao admitted to having more Xanax in his underwear. He stood up and shook until a prescription bottle fell out containing 19 more Xanax pills, the report stated. The bottle displayed Leitao’s name but was a prescription for Amoxicillin.
Leitao is the son of DePaul men’s basketball coach Dave Leitao.
The Grab Bag
- Brian Rosenthal talks with Patrick O’Brien about his redshirt year (that almost wasn’t) and the quarterback battle to come.
- Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com looks at offensive trends in college football and what they could mean for potential rule changes.
- YouTube announced a $35/month streaming service that will include just about every major sports network you need to watch college football (ESPN, FS1, BTN, SEC Network). Consider me intrigued.
- Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio made his first public statement on sexual assault allegations involving three of his players.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.