|Recruits of ex-Nebraska coach Frank Solich still play big roles for Huskers|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 25 August 2007 10:27|
Four years after his firing, Frank Solich is far from forgotten. Off the field, fans continue to argue the merits of Solich's dismissal. On the field, players recruited by Solich remain major contributors.
Anywhere from six to 10 Solich recruits - including team captains Bo Ruud and Brett Byford - will be in the starting lineup when Nevada visits to open Bill Callahan's fourth season as Nebraska coach.
As the last of Solich's players finish their careers, more is expected of the Callahan recruits who have been in the program two or three years.
Callahan has earned praise for his recruiting prowess. Now it's time to find out if he lives up the hype, said Jeremy Crabtree, national recruiting editor for Rivals.com.
``We'll know a whole lot more after this season,'' Crabtree said. ``These are his guys now. He had a hand in picking the quarterback, the star running back, the receivers. They've been making steady progress, consistent steps up. Now it's time for the next step.''
If the Huskers do make another run at playing in the Big 12 championship game, it won't be without the help of some of Solich's boys. Last year, three Solich holdovers made All-Big 12 first team and another made the second team.
``I don't discriminate,'' Callahan said. ``They're our kids. We love them. They're ours and we embrace that.''
In all, 14 scholarship and walk-on players who entered the program in 2003 are still on the roster, as are eight scholarship players from the recruiting class of 2004 whose initial contact with Nebraska was through Solich's staff.
They are a close-knit bunch who have been overlooked by fans caught up in Callahan's pursuit of top recruits, according to linebacker Corey McKeon.
``When it comes down to it, we're still the guys busting our (butts) out there playing ball,'' McKeon said.
When athletic director Steve Pederson fired Solich after the Huskers went 9-3 during the 2003 regular season, he lamented that the program was underachieving on the field and in recruiting.
Pederson said Friday that Callahan has done a good job of blending the old with the new. He said his main concern with Solich was a number of standouts but not enough depth.
Pederson used the mid-1990s, when Tom Osborne was coach, as the ideal for the stocking of talent. The '94 national championship team lost all but one starter on the offensive line and was able to repeat in '95 with linemen who previously were not well-known, he said.
``We want to get to the point where we can reload,'' Pederson said. ``We're making progress. We're excited about what's going on here.''
Callahan has lost no fewer than four games in a season, but optimism is high because of the influx of players who bring in glossy credentials but are mostly unproven in Division I-A.
Solich, now head coach at Ohio University, said the impact of his final Nebraska recruits shows he and his staff knew how to assemble talent.
Solich recruits who were full- or part-time starters last year - and are projected to be this year - are receivers Terrence Nunn and Nate Swift; tight ends J.B. Phillips and Josh Mueller; offensive linemen Andy Christensen, Mike Huff and Byford; linebackers McKeon, Ruud and Lance Brandenburgh; linebacker-end Clayton Sievers and safety Tierre Green.
``I'm not looking for any vindication,'' Solich said. ``But if (the numbers) are accurate and that's the way it's playing out, then those recruits were the right recruits. They were kids able to play major-college football and able to help Nebraska win games. Good for them. I'm happy for them. I'm glad to see not only the players we recruited have success but would like to see Nebraska continue to have great success.''
Swift, recruited by Solich and signed by Callahan, said Callahan has been fair in his dealings with the Solich recruits.
``Sometimes the guys who are here with the old coach get pushed aside,'' Swift said. ``More often than not, the new coach wants his guys to play. There definitely was a lot of talent here that Solich brought in here and that Callahan brought in that first full year recruiting.''
Callahan has put together three full recruiting classes, including the 2007 newcomers.
His greatest success has been junior-college transfer Zac Taylor. He was a two-year starter at quarterback who made first-team All-Big 12 and was the league's 2006 offensive player of the year.
One of Callahan's first recruits, running back Brandon Jackson, left after his junior year and is now competing for a starting job with the Green Bay Packers.
The top returning player is Maurice Purify, who was second-team All-Big 12 last year and arguably the best receiver Nebraska has had since Irving Fryar in the early 1980s.
Senior transfer Sam Keller proved himself as the starting quarterback at Arizona State, and now has to do the same in his only year at Nebraska.