Category Archives: Huskers News

Huskers’ first-year punter has work to do, but strong leg wins Caleb Lightbourn starting job

LINCOLN — It’s still hard for Nebraska special teams coordinator Bruce Read to watch practice without Sam Foltz ripping punts into the summer sky.

Foltz, who died earlier this summer in a car crash, was so good at his craft, Read said, that he made coaching easy. Foltz had all that inside knowledge of a seasoned punter — where to line up, how to approach kicks out of his own end zone or on the opponent’s side of the field.

“We had all that worked out,” Read said. “Now everything’s brand-new. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of things I took for granted that he did that I knew that’s how we wanted it to do. Caleb is really just learning.”

And that’s how Read announced Foltz’s season-opening replacement, freshman Caleb Lightbourn. In recent practices, Read said, Lightbourn had “come to the front” in a position battlewith Issac Armstrong, who put up a good fight, Read said. Lightbourn has more upside and a stronger leg, Read said. He wanted to make a decision now, he said, because Lightbourn is right-footed while Armstrong is left-footed, so the protection schemes are different for each of them.

During Saturday’s scrimmage, Lightbourn did the bulk of the punting work, and one of his pooch punts downed inside the 10-yard line drew applause from the sideline.

But Lightbourn’s a work in progress in terms of directional punting. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder — giant for a punter — is already accomplished at kicking the ball out of the stratosphere.

“We’re trying not to kick it too far,” Read said. “Just high and kinda far is really good. But he is very powerful.”

Lightbourn’s also 18, with limited experience as a punter at Camas (Washington) High School. A soccer player for most of his youth, Lightbourn punted just four times in 2015 because of a knee injury and didn’t punt much in 2014 because Camas’ offense was so good. Before the accident, Foltz was working with Lightbourn on improving his technique to go along with the booming leg.

Read thought he’d have a year to get Lightbourn ready. But he won’t. He’ll have Armstrong as a steady backup should Lightbourn struggle with the finer points of the game.

“He’s not going to be Sam,” Read said. “I have to keep telling myself that. Because Sam was almost — if we punted 10 times, nine of them, you’d like that. I don’t know what we’re gonna be, but we have to rally around this kid.”

Other special teams notes from Read, who generally talks just once before the season:

» Nebraska’s punt returner remains undecided. Read is looking at four candidates: De’Mornay Pierson-El, Jordan Westerkamp, Stanley Morgan and JD Spielman, who has been added to the mix in the last week.

“Westy’s got super-sure hands, DPE’s got the flash, Stanley has the work ethic — he doesn’t have the natural ball skills those other kids have — and Spielman can track the ball and chase it down. He’s a very natural catcher,” Read said.

» The kickoff return unit has been “revamped,” Read said, with Terrell Newby, Spielman, Tre Bryant and Mikale Wilbon as lead returners, and Jordan Nelson, JoJo Domann and Wyatt Mazour as the “off returner” who will block more often. Morgan and Brandon Reilly, Read said, are out of the mix so they can concentrate on wide receiver.

» The freshman class has been helpful in filling spots on special teams. Read said Domann and Lamar Jackson may start on several special teams.

“They’re both physically ready and they’re both mentally dialed up — don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Read said. “They are guys who, right from the very beginning, fit it. It’s hard to say that about the young guys.”

Spielman, Read said, is “super-talented and super-tough.”

“I love the kid,” he said. “He’s a natural football player. He’s got great instincts. He’s kind of a rare guy who can return kicks and cover them. You watch his highlight tape from high school. He blows people up. He’s a little guy, but he’s a tackling machine. This kid’s a baller, and it’s going to be hard to keep him out of the lineup.”

For one game, Big Red to go all-white as Nebraska’s 2016 alternate uniforms are revealed

LINCOLN — Redshirt freshman DaiShon Neal was walking off the practice field after Tuesday’s workout when he noticed the mannequin showing off Nebraska’s new alternate uniform in the Hawks Center lobby.

The defensive end had a question for staffers: Would the exhibit be moved back to the locker room?

Because Neal had a few social media updates in mind. And he wasn’t alone.

Adidas’ annual alternate look for the Huskers, to be worn for theSept. 24 game at Northwestern, was met with resounding approval from the team Tuesday afternoon.

The group watched a video reveal together while a red sheet covered the suited-up mannequin. And the room went crazy when the players finally saw the design — they started sharing their elation on social media soon after.

It’s white pants and a white jersey. The helmet’s white, too — with a chrome face mask, a matte finish, a glossy red “N” on both sides, a cutout of the state, a little Herbie Husker face logo on the front and a decal paying tribute to the late Sam Foltz. There are two silver stripes on the outside of both shoulders and two silver stripes lining the sides of the pants. A red “N” is on both hips.

“I don’t know if they’ll get that jersey back,” sophomore I-back Devine Ozigbo said with a laugh. “That’s one of the best I’ve seen.”

Nebraska has had a special uniform for one contest each of the last four seasons. The Huskers wore all reds in 2012 and 2014. They had black tops and white pants in 2013. Last year’s design was all-black.

The players never offered many negative reviews of those alternates. They seemed to appreciate the one-time change-up. Anything new was welcomed.

But this year’s combination? The all-white look?

Best. Ever.

“(The team) loved them,” sophomore receiver Zack Darlington said. “All-white is different. It’s kind of a new trend everyone likes. It’s a very clean look.”

Junior receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El said while the team was assembled in its auditorium Tuesday he heard one of his teammates yell for “all-whites” as soon as they realized the alternate jerseys were about to be announced.

Ozigbo said the all-white style was a team favorite last year. NU traditionally wears white jerseys and red pants on the road — but it’s sported white pants a few times over the past two seasons.

Darlington noted that Texas A&M, a fellow Adidas program, has worn all-white at times, which the guys have all raved about.

“I’m a big fan of the all-white,” Darlington said. “I mean, they are icy.”

Notes: Spielman making case for playing time; Emergency call to Darlington; 2-minute offense needs work and more

Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said several true freshmen remain candidates to play this season, but those evaluations likely will continue through this week.

Among those making a strong push, however, is receiver JD Spielman out of Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

“He runs well,” Langsdorf said. “He’s a guy that can stretch the field. He’s a good route-runner out there at that flanker position, which usually has a lot of space. It needs speed because you got some ground to carry down the field or to get on the defender.”

Spielman made a nice catch on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Tanner Lee in Saturday’s scrimmage. Langsdorf said the 5-foot-9, 180-pounder also is good on the fly sweep and a capable blocker.

“I think there’s a lot of things that he’s showing us that he is willing to do, and it’s looked pretty good,” Langsdorf said. “He’s definitely in the conversation.”

Other freshmen battling on the offensive side include receiver Derrion Grim, I-back Tre Bryant and lineman Boe Wilson. NU coach Mike Riley has said the status of quarterback Patrick O’Brien will depend on what happens with Tommy Armstrong and Ryker Fyfe ahead of him.

“We’re still working through all that,” Langsdorf said. “I’m sure Coach will announce that in the next few days, but it’s a daily conversation, for sure.”

Emergency call to Darlington

Sophomore wideout Zack Darlington confirmed he’s the holder for this season. He’ll also be Nebraska’s emergency quarterback should the Huskers need one to help preserve the redshirt for O’Brien, NU’s No. 3 signal caller.

Nebraska does not want to play O’Brien, and, presuming starter Tommy Armstrong and backup Ryker Fyfe stay healthy, he won’t have to play. But should a situation arise where Armstrong gets hurt — and, say, Fyfe can’t find his helmet on the sideline — then instead of O’Brien going in, Darlington would.

Darlington was a more accomplished high school quarterback than O’Brien, but two severe head injuries suffered before his arrival — plus a desire to get on the field more quickly — prompted a move to wide receiver.

“I still know the playbook and I still have good experience,” Darlington said.

He explained the injury/lost helmet scenario to reporters. “Maybe I’d run a zone read or a handoff or something.”

Darlington said he hasn’t seen Drew Brown miss a field goal during training camp.

Left guard job up in the air

Add another name to the starting left guard derby: senior Sam Hahn.

There are now five guys — Hahn, Wilson, redshirt freshman Jalin Barnett, sophomore Cole Conrad and senior Corey Whitaker — vying for playing time in the wake of Jerald Foster’s season-ending injury. Wilson took snaps with the No. 1 offensive line in Saturday’s scrimmage. Barnett, who worked with the No. 2s, sprained his ankle in the scrimmage but returned to practice Tuesday. Whitaker got his knee scoped and isn’t slated to return for at least another week. Hahn and Conrad are walk-ons who have served as utility linemen, like Whitaker, all over the line.

Cavanaugh said Wilson, out of Lee’s Summit (Missouri) West High School, was the “most technically sound” offensive lineman Nebraska recruited last season.

“Good run blocker on technique, same thing with pass pro,” Cavanaugh said.

Hahn, Cavanaugh said, is similar to Zach Sterup, who moved from tackle to guard last season and started the back half of the Huskers’ season.

“He’s smart and he adjusts pretty good,” Cavanaugh said. “He’s been in the system for a year and a half. That’s good. We’re just going to see how it plays out.”

Cavanaugh said “everybody was affected” by Foster’s injury but “you have to have a short-term memory.”

Healing up for opening day

The Huskers are inching closer to their season opener and they appear to be getting healthier. A number of banged-up veterans were back in pads for Tuesday’s practice.

Senior receiver Jordan Westerkamp, senior receiver Brandon Reilly, senior linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey and junior cornerback Chris Jones were some of the players who sat out Saturday’s scrimmage. They were all suited up for Tuesday’s session.

Said Reilly: “A lot of guys, I know, they’re really trying to get healed up for that first game.”

2-minute offense needs work

Langsdorf repeated some of Riley’s comments from Saturday about the Huskers’ shaky scrimmage performance with their two-minute offense, saying it “needs a ton of work.”

“That’s been our worst period,” Langsdorf said. “Way too many turnovers.”

Langsdorf specifically pointed to Aaron Williams intercepting Armstrong on a forced throw.

“Aaron Williams made a great interception where he kind of clamped the tight end, and the tight end was No. 1 (read), and we’ve got to get off of No. 1 and go on to No. 2,” Langsdorf said. “We got to do a better job of checking the ball down to the backs in that period, and getting completions. We’re not finding enough completions and getting out of bounds. We’re trying to chuck the ball down the middle of the field late, and it’s not good.”

Outside of the two-minute offense, Langsdorf said the NU offense has taken care of the ball pretty well through fall camp.

Putting in protection schemes

Nebraska has spent brief portions of practice at times during training camp working on its game plan for the season opener. Much more is to come.

The Huskers did start putting in some pass protection schemes Tuesday. Fresno State has a number of deceptive pressure packages. So NU’s offensive line and I-backs will have plenty to prepare for, according to sophomore I-back Devine Ozigbo.

“They have a bunch of looks, but we have the calls and the adjustments to take care of everything they have,” Ozigbo said. “So it’s just all a matter of seeing it, recognizing it and getting into the right calls. Once you do that, everything clicks.”

Langsdorf said Tuesday that he and the Nebraska staff spent considerable time studying the Bulldogs. Fresno State hired Lorenzo Ward, formerly of South Carolina, as its defensive coordinator this offseason.

But NU’s not fully Fresno-focused just yet.

“We’ve got to kind of finish up the details with camp right now,” Langsdorf said.

Omaha South star, Nebraska commit Aguek Arop reopens recruitment

LINCOLN — Omaha South standout Aguek Arop, Nebraska’s longest-standing men’s basketball commitment, decided Tuesday afternoon to reopen his recruitment.

South coach Bruce Chubick Sr. told The World-Herald that NU coach Tim Miles asked Arop, a 6-foot-6 senior wing, to spend a postgraduate year at a prep school and then join the Huskers for the 2018-19 season.

After taking a week to consider, Chubick said, Arop decided not to wait an extra year to begin college.

“He doesn’t need prep school,” Chubick said. “I don’t see where Nebraska had a plan for Aguek. But Tim has to do what he has to do.

“Aguek is going to land on his feet. He’s a hell of a player and a great kid.”

Two years ago this week, as Arop entered his sophomore year at South, he committed to Nebraska. That made him the youngest player ever to say yes to NU for basketball.

Arop suffered a serious knee injury as a sophomore. But he returned last season to help Omaha South to a 28-1 record and the Class A state championship. He averaged 15.9 points a game.

Chubick said he plainly expressed his displeasure with Miles over the change in plans with Arop. Chubick’s son, Bruce Jr., played in four NCAA tournaments with the Huskers in the 1990s, and another pupil, John Turek, was a Husker scholarship center in the 2000s.

“Aguek is farther along entering his senior year than either Bruce or John were,” Chubick said. “So this doesn’t make much sense to me.

“I’ve always been a Nebraska fan, so this is a little hard for me to take. I’ll still be a fan but probably not at the level I was.”

Any hard feelings, Chubick said, won’t affect any future recruiting dealings he might have with Nebraska.

“That’s not how we do it,” Chubick said. “Aguek is disappointed, but he’s OK. I’ve already had four calls about him from other schools.”

Nebraska now has three scholarships available for 2017-18.

Nebraska unveils chrome alternate uniforms to wear against Northwestern

The Huskers have unveiled the alternate jerseys they’ll wear this season against Northwestern on Sept. 24.

The all-white uniforms, developed in collaboration with Adidas, feature metallic accents, including red numbers and a chrome outline on the jersey. There are also two chrome stripes on the shoulders and pants. A bold red “N” is featured prominently on the pants as well.

The helmet features a metallic red “N” logo on the sides and is accented with player numbers on the back next to an outline of the state of Nebraska. The facemask is chrome with a Herbie Husker logo connected to the visor.

This will be the first time in the last five years Nebraska has worn its alternate uniform for an away game.

Nebraska also wore all-black alternate uniforms against Northwestern last year. In 2014, the Huskers donned an all-red alternate against Illinois. The 2013 alternate uniform, wornagainst UCLA, featured a black jersey. In 2012, the alternate featured a big black “N” on the front of the jersey, which the Huskers wore against Wisconsin.

Nebraska volleyball the unanimous favorite in Big Ten preseason poll; three Huskers named All-Big Ten

To go along with its preseason national No. 1 ranking, Nebraska is the unanimous selection by Big Ten Conference volleyball coaches as the preseason favorite to win the league, the Big Ten announced Tuesday.

It marks the first time since 2012 the Huskers were voted as the preseason favorite by the league coaches. That season, Nebraska lived up to the billing by winning its last — and only — Big Ten title.

In addition, three Huskers were named to the 14-member preseason All-Big Ten team. Opposite hitter Kadie Rolfzen, a first-team All-American in 2015, was one of four unanimous selections to the all-conference team, joining Wisconsin setter Lauren Carlini, Michigan middle blocker Abby Cole and Penn State middle Haleigh Washington.

NU middle Amber Rolfzen joined her twin sister on the all-conference team, as did Husker libero Justine Wong-Orantes.

Big Ten coaches picked Minnesota to finish second and Wisconsin to place third, followed by Penn State.

The Golden Gophers are the defending league champions, finishing one game better than Nebraska in 2015. After playing only once last season, Minnesota and NU will meet twice this fall with the first match in the Devaney Center on October 23 followed by a November 23 match in Minneapolis.

The Huskers open the season this weekend in Eugene, Oregon, at the VERT Challenge playing No. 10 Florida on Friday and No. 2 Texas on Saturday in a rematch of last December’s NCAA title match.

Preseason All-Big Ten poll

Nebraska*

Minnesota

Wisconsin

Penn State

Illinois

Ohio State

Michigan State

Michigan

Purdue

Northwestern

Maryland

Iowa

Indiana

Rutgers

Preseason All-Big Ten team

Jordyn Poulter, Illinois, So., Setter, Aurora, Colo.

Abby Cole*, Michigan, Sr., Middle Blocker, Grand Haven, Mich.

Chloe Reinig, Michigan State, Sr., Outside Hitter, South Lyon, Mich.

Hannah Tapp, Minnesota, Sr., Opposite Hitter/Middle Blocker, Stewartville, Minn.

Paige Tapp, Minnesota, Sr., Middle Blocker, Stewartville, Minn.

Samantha Seliger-Swenson, Minnesota, So., Setter, Minnetonka, Minn.

Amber Rolfzen, Nebraska, Sr., Middle Blocker, Papillion, Neb.

Kadie Rolfzen*, Nebraska, Sr., Outside Hitter, Papillion, Neb.

Justine Wong-Orantes, Nebraska, Sr., Libero, Cypress, Calif.

Taylor Sandbothe, Ohio State, Sr., Middle Blocker, Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Ali Frantti, Penn State, Jr., Outside Hitter, Spring Grove, Ill.

Haleigh Washington*, Penn State, Jr., Middle Blocker, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Lauren Carlini*, Wisconsin, Sr., Setter, Aurora, Ill.

Haleigh Nelson, Wisconsin, Sr., Middle Blocker, Cary, N.C.

* unanimous selection

Husker athletic department says season-ticket costs go toward student-athlete experiences

LINCOLN — When Nebraska closed its books on the 2015-16 fiscal year at the end of June, John Jentz said the Huskers spent $36 million on their nearly 600 student-athletes across 24 sports.

That included such essentials as scholarships, academics, travel, equipment, medical support and training table and nutrition. It also included things like laptops, the NU post-eligibility program and testing and analytics.

“And we know that $36 million is going to grow probably faster than most areas just because of the focus on student-athlete welfare right now,” said Jentz, the NU executive associate athletic director and chief financial officer.

And as football season ticket holders received their 2016 packets last week, Jentz said they could feel good about their money going directly to help the athletes they will watch at Memorial Stadium.

Nebraska introduced the Student-Athlete Experience Fund as the sole recipient of all donations tied to football season tickets, starting with the 2016 renewal process and sales to new buyers. NU sent a letter detailing that information for boosters and ticket holders, created a video to accompany it and also included inserts in other correspondence with boosters.

“It’s been very well-received,” said Diane Mendenhall, the senior associate athletic director for development and ticket operations. “What this is doing is, the donors just feel ownership, as far as helping these kids not only on the playing field but in life. One-hundred percent of the monies will touch student-athletes.

“It’s just a real easy thing to speak to a donor about, or a future season ticket holder.”

Jentz said Nebraska wants to become more transparent with its football season-ticket process, from providing exacts on all required donations to specifics on where they go. Donation revenue helped with student-athlete expenses in the past, he said, but he added it just wasn’t very defined.

The creation of the Student-Athlete Experience concept was a staff decision, Jentz said, led by Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst.

“All of our donations are going to be funneled through that tool, and that’s going to pay for the things that directly touch the student-athletes,” Jentz said. “We want people to feel that benefit of giving, knowing it’s going to that use.

“It’s not paying anybody’s salary, or going to the compliance office or business office.”

Tom Burnell has been a football season ticket-holder for 15 years and said he never previously asked how his donation was used. The reason it didn’t matter to him, Burnell said, “is that I trusted in the red N.”

Upon his first introduction to the Student-Athlete Experience Fund last year, however, Burnell proceeded to take all of his separate givings to the university and streamline them toward that singular cause.

“Because that gives me a chance to touch 600-plus students,” Burnell said. “I’ve never, never felt more confident about where my money is going than today because of this fund and the overall recognition that Nebraska is about developing young men and women in all sports to be better people, long-run.”

Burnell was New York-born and California-raised but received both his undergraduate degree and master’s from NU in the 1980s. He is a past president of the Nebraska Alumni Association currently working out of Boston.

He said he’s had a “very, very privileged life” because of his Nebraska education and sees this as a chance to help others work toward some of the same success.

“Not everybody is in the same position, and it’s harder and harder to write those checks — and with where the economy is at, I get that,” Burnell said. “But those that question the level of donation that’s required, think about it not as a donation to buy a football ticket but an opportunity to make a difference in a young man or woman’s life.”

Husker football is working on an NCAA-record streak of 347 consecutive sellouts, but the health of that streak came into question when NU announced that 2,000 season tickets would become available June 1 — about 500 more than the previous year. Those ultimately sold during the next eight weeks.

NU restructured its per-seat donations in recent years to help the cause, making some as low as $150 and none higher than $2,500 (some midfield seats previously ranged from $3,000 to $3,500). It also has made some available in North Stadium that require no donation.

Though some donations are now lower, the revenue stream was aided by the addition of seats and suites with the East Stadium expansion in 2013. Overall, 72,340 seats in Memorial Stadium belong to season ticket holders.

Jentz wouldn’t reveal how much of the $36 million is covered by the donations associated with football season tickets but said they represent the largest overall source of the Student-Athlete Experience Fund.

As somebody whose department is directly affected by the Student-Athlete Experience Fund, Dennis Leblanc said it’s hard to express how much the donation money is appreciated.

That revenue recently funded laptops for all student-athletes when they report to campus and the start of the post-eligibility program that helps with athletes later studying abroad or taking internships.

“What it has allowed us to do is be able to come up with new and innovative ideas,” said Leblanc, executive associate athletic director/academics. “I’m not saying we couldn’t have done them before, but maybe we didn’t think it would be possible.”

As with Keith Zimmer in the Life Skills department, Leblanc said the athletic department knows they usually only ask for things “within reason.”

“It has to have a purpose,” Leblanc said. “But if you need something and know it has value for student-athletes, you bring it forward. It allows us to think beyond what we did before.”

Though there might have been skepticism about selling the 2,000 available season tickets starting this summer — with NU coming off a losing season and many college football programs fighting to keep seats filled — Mendenhall said she was optimistic.

“The thing that we found over the years is that the fans are so responsive,” she said. “We were really pleased.”

Mendenhall said there also was a good mix of some buyers looking for 50-yard-line seats and others maybe wanting upper end-zone seats for smaller donations. The Seat Yourself process instituted in 2014 has made it easier to view what’s available and the potential cost involved.

NU first tied donations to season tickets in 1995, and Mendenhall said some previously were “market-driven” when it came to what a person might pay for a certain location. Both she and Jentz said Nebraska now feels as though it has reached a good place not only with its current transparency, but the availability of tickets requiring smaller donations or none at all.

“The sellout streak is very, very important to us, and it’s not only a Nebraska treasure, it’s a national treasure,” Mendenhall said. “So we want to make sure that we maintain that, but we also want to make sure that we’re continuing marketing it to all age groups, and to make it affordable to families, too.”

And those who take part, Jentz said, should feel good about who they are helping.

“The Student-Athlete Experience Fund is really something we’re trying to message to our fan base,” Jentz said. “We want fans to know that what you’re giving is important today, and it’s going to be critically important as we go forward.”

Haley Hanson helps Huskers snap No. 16 BYU’s nation-best home win streak

PROVO, Utah — The Nebraska soccer team snapped the nation’s longest home winning streak Monday by knocking off No. 16 BYU 1-0.

The Cougars had won 18 straight games at South Field before losing to Nebraska.

The Huskers earned the win despite being outshot 16-7. Freshman goalkeeper Aubrei Corder had six saves in her second start for Nebraska.

Haley Hanson scored the only goal of the match on a diving header in the 56th minute. It was her fourth career goal.

The Huskers improved to 2-0-0 this season while earning the 300th victory in program history. It also marked the 300th win for coach John Walker, who has been with the program since it started in 1994.

Nebraska now heads to Oregon for a pair of games this weekend. The Huskers will face Oregon at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Oregon State at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Nebraska (2-0-0)…….0 1—1

At BYU (1-1-0)………..0 0—0

Goals: NU, Hanson.

Iowa ranked 17th, Huskers unrated in AP’s preseason college football poll

While Iowa came in at No. 17 and Nebraska was receiving votes, atop the Associated Press preseason poll it seems as though 2016 will pick up where 2015 left off: Alabama is No. 1 and Clemson is 2.

The defending national champion Crimson Tide lead the preseason Top 25 for the fifth time overall and third time under coach Nick Saban. The Tide received 33 of 61 first-place votes from the media panel and 1,469 points in the poll released Sunday. No. 2 Clemson, which lost a thrilling College Football Playoff championship game to Alabama in January, received 16 first-place votes and 1,443 points.

This is the first time since 1992 that the teams that ended the previous season at Nos. 1 and 2 in the AP poll began the next season in the same spots. Miami and Washington did it that season.

While the Huskers received votes for the second straight year, Iowa cracked the preseason Top 25 for the 23rd time in program history and the sixth under Kirk Ferentz.

After going 12-2 and winning the Big Ten West Division title, the Hawkeyes have their highest preseason ranking since 2010.

Three other Big Ten schools were ranked — Ohio State (No. 6), Michigan (7) and Michigan State (12).

The Buckeyes are making their 28th straight appearance in the preseason poll. Only Penn State (34) and Nebraska (33) had longer streaks.

Oklahoma is No. 3 and received four first-place votes. No. 4 Florida State had five first-place votes. No. 5 LSU, No. 6 Ohio State and No. 7 Michigan all received one first-place vote. A year after Ohio State became the first unanimous preseason No. 1 in the history of the AP poll, seven teams received first-place votes, the most in the preseason since 1998.

Alabama has won four national championships in the last seven seasons, but none have come when the Tide started No. 1 (2010 and 2013). That’s one of a couple of trends the Tide will be trying to buck this season. The last preseason No. 1 to win the national championship was Southern California in 2004. Alabama is the fourth straight defending champ to start the next season No. 1.

“It’s basically human condition to get satisfied with success,” said the 64-year-old Saban, who is 105-18 at Alabama. “There’s a lot of books written on how to be successful. There’s not a lot of books written on how to stay successful.”

The Tide need to replace Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and defensive All-Americans Reggie Ragland and A’Shawn Robinson and will be breaking in a new quarterback.

Clemson returns quarterback Deshaun Watson, a Heisman finalist whose 2016 campaign essentially started with a magnificent performance against Alabama in the championship game, and nine other offensive starters.

Here are the Top 25 teams (first-place votes in parenthesis):

1. Alabama (33)

2. Clemson (16)

3. Oklahoma (4)

4. Florida State (5)

5. LSU (1)

6. Ohio State (1)

7. Michigan (1)

8. Stanford

9. Tennessee

10. Notre Dame

11. Ole Miss

12. Michigan State

13. TCU

14. Washington

15. Houston

16. UCLA

17. Iowa

18. Georgia

19. Louisville

20. USC

21. Oklahoma State

22. North Carolina

23. Baylor

24. Oregon

25. Florida

Others teams receiving votes: Miami, Texas A&M, Utah, Washington State, Boise State, San Diego State, Wisconsin, Auburn, Pittsburgh, Arkansas, Texas, Nebraska, Navy, Northwestern, Western Kentucky, South Florida, Toledo

On a banner night, Husker vets, newcomers shine in Red-White scrimmage

LINCOLN — It was in an empty gym Saturday afternoon during Nebraska’s brief practice before the Red-White scrimmage that Andie Malloy said she felt the most nervous. But by Saturday night, it seemed that whatever butterflies had fluttered in Malloy’s stomach found somewhere else to go.

Malloy, a graduate transfer outside hitter, made a strong case to be in the starting lineup when the season begins next weekend by showing off her all-around skills in Nebraska’s annual intrasquad scrimmage. She split time between teams and led all players with 16 kills on a match-high 34 swings as the White team took all four sets 25-16, 25-15, 25-23, 15-11.

Malloy said the 6,270 fans who attended the scrimmage at the Devaney Center represented the largest crowd she’d ever played in front of. But by notching 12 kills without an error in the first two games on the White team, Malloy looked little like a newcomer and every bit like the two-time All-Big 12 pick she was at Baylor.”

It felt more homey and welcoming when I got out there, and there were more people and it was all so supportive,” she said. “My team really did a great job at making me feel a part of it.”

On a White team made up of Nebraska’s presumptive starters, Malloy certainly looked the part. She joined setter Kelly Hunter, opposite Kadie Rolfzen, middles Amber Rolfzen and Briana Holman, outside hitter Mikaela Foecke and libero Justine Wong-Orantes, which could be the lineup the Huskers use when they open the season next weekend against No. 10 Florida and No. 2 Texas at the VERT Challenge in Eugene, Oregon.

“I think the big test tonight was Andie,” coach John Cook said, “and I think Andie showed she belongs here and did a really nice job tonight.”

The Red team featured mostly younger players, plus former NU middle blocker Cecilia Hall, who added depth next to freshman middle Lauren Stivrins.

Cook identified some “rough” moments throughout the scrimmage, but was mostly pleased with how the Huskers seemed to be ahead of the game in a few areas compared with most preseasons — in particular, blocking. The teams combined for 20 blocks in the scrimmage, with nine coming from Holman on the White team.

“We have really good hitters, so that helped my blocking a lot,” Holman said. “And we really break down the fundamentals in our gym, so I think it’s improved a lot.”

Holman, a 2014 first-team All-American at LSU, will make her Husker debut next weekend. The junior from DeSoto, Texas, redshirted last season after transferring to Nebraska, and Cook said Holman’s big night at the net Saturday was a sign of the immense improvement she’s made in her blocking since arriving in Lincoln.

“Now, she has a plan, she’s understanding scheme, she’s understanding tendencies,” Cook said. “You combine that with her athletic ability, and it’s really nice. When she got here, she just tried to be an athlete and block balls and had no idea of how to play within a system or with other blockers.”

While newcomers customarily are the talk of the Red-White scrimmage, Nebraska’s decorated returners also were on display. Kadie Rolfzen and Amber Rolfzen combined for 22 kills for the White squad, with each hitting better than .350. Hunter set the White team to a .336 percentage with 44 assists, and Wong-Orantes added 13 digs.

Cook also made an effort to highlight junior defensive specialist Sydney Townsend. The Lincoln Pius X graduate led the Red team with 14 digs.

Two other outsides competing for spots had their ups and downs. Junior Annika Albrecht had seven kills and seven errors for the Red team, which was set by freshman Hunter Atherton. Olivia Boender split time between teams and combined for nine kills and five errors on 28 attempts (.143).

The night also was a celebration of the recent past. Before the match, the 2015 national championship banner was unveiled from the Devaney Center’s rafters, and a video with highlights from the final four was shown on the video boards. Hunter said it was poignant for everyone, veterans and newcomers alike.

But it brought a feeling of finality to 2015. Starting Saturday, the chase was on for the next banner.

“Every time I see that, it hypes me up,” Hunter said. “It was the best night of my life.

“Every time we see something that flashes back, it’s like, ‘That was so great. We want to do that again so bad.’ That’s just our motivation.”