Tommie Frazier or Brook Berringer? Who would emerge atop the depth chart at quarterback? That had been the first-asked question in the spring of 1995, and technically it probably wouldn’t be answered until the opening game in the fall at Oklahoma State. Probably.
The names were connected by “or” in the post-spring depth chart. But Frazier’s was listed first—Tom Osborne said Frazier had graded slightly higher in the spring.
There was still fall camp, but it appeared if healthy, Frazier, who also came back to start the 1995 Orange Bowl against Miami, would be the starter and Berringer would return to the top back-up role after leading the Huskers to the Big Eight championship and the bowl, while Frazier was sidelined by blood clots four games in.
Though at the forefront, the quarterback question or controversy—the May 1, 1995, issue of Sports Illustrated quoted Frazier as saying everyone on the team knew “we don’t get along”—hadn’t been the only replacement of significance in the spring, far from it.
Four-of-five starters were gone from the offensive line, the only returnee center Aaron Graham. Think about that. Nebraska had to replace four starters in the “Pipeline” if it was to win a second-consecutive national championship, something that hadn’t happened since 1978-79.
Bear Bryant had coached Alabama to back-to-back titles.
With a line, left to right, of Rob Zatechka, Joel Wilks, Graham, Brenden Stai and Outland Trophy winner Zach Wiegert, unbeaten Nebraska ranked fifth nationally in total offense, sixth in scoring and first in rushing, averaging 340 yards per game on the ground.
Fullback Cory Schlesinger and wingback Abdul Muhammad also had to be replaced on offense.
The Huskers had ranked in the top 10 nationally in total defense (fourth), rushing defense (fourth), pass defense (10th) and scoring defense (second). And seven defensive starters were gone: outside linebackers Dwayne Harris and Donta Jones, tackle Terry Connealy, linebackers Troy Dumas and Ed Stewart, cornerback Barron Miles and rover Kareem Moss.
Plus, punter Darin Erstad and place-kicker Tom Sieler, who shared duties with Erstad, were gone. There had been hope Erstad would return. He was listed on the spring roster, though he spent all his time with the baseball team. He was the first pick in the 1995 MLB draft by the California Angels. So much for that.
Even the coaching staff was slightly different with the departure of linebackers coach Kevin Steele, who took the same job with the Carolina Panthers. He was replaced by former Husker Craig Bohl, the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach at Duke the previous season.
Bohl had begun his coaching career as a Nebraska graduate assistant, 1981-83. He was the fourth former Husker player on Osborne’s staff. The others were Turner Gill, Tony Samuel and Frank Solich.
Nebraska was the first college football team to be featured on a commemorative Wheaties box because of the 1994 national championship. The Huskers were clearly on top.
Because of player losses, perhaps, Nebraska opened the 1995 season ranked second, however, to Florida State, which finished the 1994 season 10-1-1 and ranked fourth.
To quote Bob Dylan, the times they were “a changin’.” The Big Eight Skywriters Tour, which included group media travel and stops at every conference school over a 10-day period at the beginning of fall camp, was replaced, after 32 years, by the two-day Big Eight Football Kickoff in Kansas City.
At that event, Osborne said there was no quarterback controversy, that practice would decide.
After the Sports Illustrated issue came out, Frazier said the “we don’t get along” quote hadn’t come out as he intended. In Kansas City, he reaffirmed that.
Still, the “non” controversy would persist.
Next up: Nebraska’s national title defense begins in Stillwater, on a Thursday night.
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.