Nebraska: "We're Back"

It was fitting that the first coach to hit the stage at the Big 12 media days in KC was Nebraska's Bill Callahan. Nebraska is the consensus favorite to win the Big 12 North ahead of Iowa State. Is this the year they make their return to the national map? See what Callahan had to say on Monday, with coverage from the ONLY Cyclone web site that was in attendance.

Bill Callahan is one confident head coach. Why shouldn't he be? Callahan is entering his third season at Nebraska and his Huskers are the pre-season favorite to win the Big 12 North according to eight different media outlets.


"We're projected to win the North Division, and it's awfully competitive in this juncture within our own division," Callahan said at the Big 12 media days on Monday. "We're on schedule in my opinion. We're more improved. We're more consistent."


The Huskers ended last season with three straight victories, including an impressive Alamo Bowl victory over fellow powerhouse Michigan. Not only are they the odds on North favorite, the Huskers are also tabbed as a top 25 preseason pick by those same eight media outlets.


"It certainly was a great finish to last season culminating in the Bowl victory against Michigan and certainly gave our players a lot of momentum and confidence to build upon."


Is the Nebraska of old back?


Nebraska cornerback Zackary Bowman thinks so.


"We're back," Bowman said at the Big 12 media days with a smile on his face. "Even the fans have the sense that we're back," Bowman said.


Though brimming with confidence, Callahan talked about what his Huskers must improve on in '06. The number one priority: The running game.


"We were not efficient enough in our running game from a production standpoint. We needed to do a better job with the efficiency of the running attack," Callahan said.


In 2005, Cory Ross led Nebraska averaging 73.5 YPG. Ross is gone in '06, but depth at the RB position doesn't look to be a problem for Nebraska in this upcoming season. It may even be a strength, with five suitable starters at the position. The jewel of last year's recruiting class sophomore Marlon Lucky will battle out for carries with JUCO transfer Kenny Wilson, junior Brandon Jackson, and sophomores Cody Glenn and Leon Jackson.


"We'll play the best back. Whether it's by committee, whether it's two, three, four, five, however it shakes out, that's our goal," Callahan said.


Not only does Nebraska have depth at RB, but the offensive line should be much improved from a season ago according to Callahan.


"We've got a number of young players that are starting to emerge and starting to come onto the scene," Callahan said.


At center, academic All-American Kurt Mann will anchor the front. He'll be complemented by three young guards named Mike Huff (RS Sophomore), Andy Christensen (RS Sophomore) and senior Greg Austin.


"We've got good experience. We're bigger, square, much thicker inside than we've been in the last two years and of course outside we feel we've got more continuity in terms of our tackle play," Callahan said.


Why this Nebraska team? What makes this year's team different then the past two Callahan teams?


"It's just a team bond that we have. Last year we were young and we kind of didn't know what we could do. At the end of the season, we started to play together and we started to hang out more off the field. I trusted the guys beside me. With trust you build confidence. Then you can do anything," Bowman said.


On October 7, Callahan will lead his confident Huskers into Jack Trice Stadium for a showdown between Big 12 North powers which may decide who makes the return trip to Kansas City.

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