Nebraska Football: Q&A Session with BleacherReport.com's Ricky Hawkins
Hawkins: The Huskers open the season with a non-conference schedule that is no walk in the park. They play Western Michigan, San Jose State, New Mexico State, and Virginia Tech. Do any of these games potentially scare you?
Higgins: To be honest, I feel the team is in better hands than they were the last few years, but it will take a little bit of time for Bo Pelini to turn the defense all the way around. Western Michigan, San Jose State, New Mexico State should all be wins for the Huskers.
Virginia Tech will be an interesting game. To make an honest prediction I would say that Virginia Tech does take this game, but not by too much. I have heard some sportscasters predicting the Huskers at 4-8 and stupid records like that, but overall I think they will finish 9-3 or 10-2 in the regular season in Pelini's first year.
Hawkins: All things considered, it appears as if the Huskers have a pretty fortunate conference schedule this year: they avoid playing both Texas and Texas A&M. How do you think this will affect the Big 12 title race?
Higgins: I would say that for the most part their conference schedule will not be as much as a walk in the park as you stated. They avoid playing Texas and Texas A&M, but they play one of their all-time rivals, Oklahoma. Granted, Oklahoma and Nebraska's rivalry has fallen apart over the past decade since they both decided to not play each other every single year.
Oklahoma is still almost always a contender in college football and they look to have a solid team this coming season. Kansas and Missouri were both major contenders in college football last year and seem to be a great couple of games for the Huskers. Fortunate conference schedule? I would say no.
Hawkins: Nebraska's 2008 recruiting class is ranked eighth in the Big 12 according to Rivals.com. Are you disappointed in this class or do you think they are underrated?
Higgins: I am not disappointed about the recruiting class at all. It is the staff's first year of recruiting for the Huskers, and a lot of players this year were hesitant because they didn't know how this staff would change the Huskers of last year, who looked terrible.
I have always said that the ranking and the stars of players coming into a school means nothing in the long run. It is whether or not the coaches can coach these players to be stars and work as a team.
Boise State is living proof of teaching kids how to be stars and work as a team—who would have thought that they would make a bowl game? A lot of them were two or three-star recruits coming in.
Callahan had one of the best recruiting classes nearly every year he was here, but he proved to not be capable of teaching these players to be even better or even to work as a team. So I would say that I am not disappointed with the recruiting class itself.
Honestly, I am not a Rivals.com guy either. I am a Scout.com guy!
Hawkins: Which recruits excite you and have the potential to play early?
Higgins: Two names excite me the most out of this class. Will Compton (MLB) and Baker Steinkuhler (OG) both stand a reasonable chance of getting on the field next year for the Cornhuskers. I would say Steinkuhler is definitely going to get a good chunk of playing time next year.
Hawkins: The Missouri Tigers have not come into Lincoln and won a game in the last 30 years. Do you think that trend is going to change this year?
Higgins: Anything is possible. The Tigers laid a beating on us last year, but I think this coming year's team will be in better shape than last year's team. I think that it will be a close game in Lincoln instead of a blowout like last year.
Hawkins: At year's end, do you believe the Huskers will win the Big 12 North?
Higgins: Again, anything is possible. The Cornhuskers didn't even make a bowl game last year, but they had won the Big XII North the year before. It really all depends on three things: how Pelini changes the Huskers next year, if Missouri can keep up their team, and if Kansas can keep up their team.
Hawkins: After putting together a 1,743-yard season together last year, Marlon Lucky should be one of the most exciting players in the country next year. How realistic is it to talk about Lucky as a legitimate Heisman candidate?
Higgins: Lucky is a legitimate Heisman candidate if his team helps him out. He needs good blocks and a good offensive line. He really got neither of those things last season, but I think he might even have a better season than last. Do I think he will win the Heisman? Probably not. But he at least deserves contender status.
Hawkins: Quarterback Joe Ganz looked good at the end of last season and in the spring game. Considering his lack of snaps in his career, do you think his success will continue this season?
Higgins: Ganz will continue to be a good quarterback. His "lack" of snaps will have nothing to do with his success this year. Will he have a good offensive line to protect him? Will he have receivers to continue to be successful throughout the year? He loses a good chunk of his receivers from last year. Maurice Purify, Dan Erickson, Frantz Hardy, and Terrence Nunn are all gone from last year's fleet.
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