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Nebraska's Solich mum on coaching changes

NU head coach says he's constantly evaluating the football program

By Terry Douglass

Nebraska head football coach Frank Solich sidestepped questions about the possibility of making changes to his coaching staff during Monday's Big 12 Conference coaches' teleconference.

The Cornhuskers (7-5, 3-4 Big 12) are now assured of having their most losses since 1961 following Saturday's 49-13 setback at Kansas State. Saturday's loss -- NU's worst since a 47-0 whitewash at Oklahoma in 1968 -- has apparently refreshed rumors that Solich might be inclined to make some changes following this season.

"That's an area that I won't address at this particular time," Solich said when asked about the possibility of making any changes. "How I've answered anything along those lines is that we're always in evaluation mode.

"I am (always evaluating) in terms of what we're all about in this program and doing what it takes to make it work."

The Nebraska assistant perceived to be under the most scrutiny is defensive coordinator Craig Bohl. Defensive line coaches Jeff Jamrog and Nelson Barnes and veteran secondary coach George Darlington have also shared in the criticism.

Since getting off to an 11-0 start last season, the Huskers are 7-7 and have allowed an average of 27.1 points per game in that span. Nebraska has given up an average of 23.3 points per game this season, which would be the highest since allowing 23.5 points per game in 1958.

It all began with last year's late-season defensive meltdown. Nebraska allowed a school record 62 points in a loss at Colorado and then the Blackshirts defense was torched for 37 more points against Miami in the Rose Bowl. Offseason rumors had Bohl being replaced by anyone from former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie to Tamp Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, a former Husker assistant.

Those rumors proved to be unfounded as Solich has stuck with Bohl. However, this season has been rocky, as a defense that starts just three seniors has been dominated at times. Opponents have averaged 35.2 points per game in Nebraska's five losses this year.

The newest speculation is that Solich might be considering replacing Bohl with Kevin Steele, who was recently fired as Baylor's head coach. Steele was the linebackers coach at Nebraska from 1989-94 before leaving to take a job with the NFL's Carolina Panthers.

However, Solich contends that he and Steele haven't discussed the matter.

Solich certainly hasn't been immune to second-guessing. The fifth-year Huskers' coach has been widely criticized for Nebraska's supposed misses in recruiting as well as insisting on being his own offensive coordinator.

Although it's been a difficult season, Solich said he understands the business. After all, he was a former player in the Nebraska program, which is struggling to keep its string of 33 consecutive nine-win seasons alive.

"Those are not easy issues to deal with," said Solich, whose team is idle this weekend before its Nov. 29 regular season finale at home against Colorado. "The problem that comes into play is that we've won so much and for so long. Anything below the standard of how we've operated in the past is really not acceptable and it's really not acceptable to the players and the coaches as well as to the fans."

Several of Nebraska's defensive players have expressed public support for Bohl. Following the Kansas State loss, Husker rover Philip Bland said that one of the most upsetting things about the 36-point blowout was that he knew how many fans would react.

"It sucks. It really sucks when you go out there and play like that and you know you're going to hear all the coaches getting reamed out," Bland said. "Any man with any amount of dignity has to know how that makes you feel. It's our fault, but the coaches are having to take the responsibility."

Nebraska senior strong-side linebacker Scott Shanle made similar comments earlier this month, saying the players are the ones who ultimately decide the games.

"I get kind of sick and tired of hearing negative things about the coaches," Shanle said. "They put us in the right positions and then it's up to us to execute. When we don't execute, it shouldn't be their fault."

Solich said that he and his coaching staff have done their best to evaluate each game, try to learn from it and move on. That's the only way it can be done, Solich said.

"You cannot pat yourself on the back at all after coming off a win," Solich said. "There's not time for that. You cannot beat yourself up to a point where you're not ready to respond on Monday to going back to work to prepare for the next game."

Playing in the Big 12 Conference, Solich said nearly every week presents another opportunity to lose a game. Certainly, that wasn't always the case for Nebraska in the days of the old Big Eight Conference where a late-season battle against Oklahoma usually determined whether or not the season was a success or a failure.  

"The bottom line is that college football is what it is today and you need to be prepared to step on the field every week to play your best football every week in order to make it work," Solich said. "There will be no easy wins. There will be no easy way of getting to a conference championship.

"The only thing that we can control at this point and time is how we respond internally and what we do to give ourselves our best chance of lining up and winning a football game."

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