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JOHN MABRY'S PRESS BOX VIEWS: Solich letting assistants do their thing

The desk in Frank Solich's office at South Stadium is a thing of beauty.

It's a dark, rich and shiny piece of executive furniture (Big Red cherry wood, perhaps) with an immaculate top. Other than a laptop on one corner of the desk, it's almost totally clear.

Solich said things got a little less cluttered when he turned over the NU playbook to new offensive coordinator Barney Cotton.

After having a little time to digest all of the changes within the football program and what went down during spring ball, Solich talked a little bit about his new role as more of an overseer and less of a meddler.

"In meetings, not being the coordinator anymore automatically pulls you back some," Solich said. "But I've made a concerted effort to make sure both coordinators (Cotton and Bo Pelini) coming in had a chance to implement things the way they want to implement them.

"On the field, I've tried to make myself at each practice spend a little time with each group. I'm able to encourage players, make some comments here and there, but have really stayed away from too much actual coaching.

"I think it was important for our players to understand how Ifeel about those guys, and in order to get that accomplished, you've got to let them coach."

There are several new leaders on the sideline, but just as important is what kind of leadership Solich has on the field.

It will be interesting to see who emerges as captains this fall.

"They can't just talk it," Solich said. "They've got to do it. They've got to show it.

"There's a lot of guys out there that will present themselves in a manner where they'll talk it. And they'll try to demand it from others. But it really starts with demanding it from yourself first."

The Huskers only had three captains last season -- John Garrison, DeJuan Groce and Chris Kelsay -- which leads me to believe NU had a hard time finding many take-charge senior types on the roster.

Solich said it's ridiculous to expect to find Jason Peters and Grant Wistroms in every senior class.

"If there's some thought that maybe the right captains weren't chosen, maybe the right captains weren't on this football team," Solich said, "because it can be you do have a group of seniors come through that maybe there isn't the kind of leadership you have some years.

"But to say there are others out there that could have led better, it's tough to look at it from that angle.

"You look at Chris Kelsay, he missed close to half the season and that never helps."

I asked Solich what he would change about the way he did his job last fall, and he said he didn't really want to get into the past.

He did admit, however, that the new uniform thing didn't quite go over as well as he would have liked.

"It is kind of amazing how some things that some programs would consider a minor thing, in this program, they're not so minor because things have been done a certain way for so long," he said.

"You look at Miami, for instance, one of the top teams in the country for a few years, they change uniform styles almost every year and it doesn't seem to have an effect. Notre Dame can come out in green or blue jerseys; you know, sometimes you lose track."

Long-range change

The NCAAmen's basketball rules committee is talking about moving the three-point line back 9 inches, from 19 feet 9 inches to the international line of 20-6.

Husker coach Barry Collier has a different suggestion.

"The way we shot the ball this year, I'd like to see them move the three-point line in about 9 feet," he said.

But seriously folks, Collier doesn't see the need to make such a minor adjustment.

"My point would be, if it's only 9 inches, then just leave it where it is and quit changing the game," he said. "They're trying to make it better. I understand that, too.

"The potential changing of the lane, I think, is more significant. It's a pretty drastic change."

Collier was referring to a proposal to widen the lane from 12 to 16 feet or to the trapezoid used in international play.

"I think it will be more difficult, not easier to score," Collier said. "The defense is still going to be in the lane."

As for the talk of using instant replay for questionable calls at the end of games, "I'm in favor of that one," Collier said. "It's technology that's available. Let's use it."

Heading for home

• Collier said Jake Muhleisen is doing well after missing most of the season because of a hip injury. It appears the Lincoln Southeast grad will be ready to roll come fall.

• Sorry to pile on, but if the Iowa State gig comes to an end for Larry Eustachy, he could always look into becoming a spokesman for Buzzard Billy's "Crappy Beer Night." Natural Light? Yikes.

• Solich would not say a word about the Junior Tagoa'i situation, which is understandable given the seriousness of the matter. NU is in trouble without Tagoa'i on the offensive line, but the program's fragile image might be in bigger trouble with Tagoa'i on the roster.

• Saturday is a big day for the Optimist Club of Lincoln. It's been a long, hard battle, but the Optimist Youth Sports Complex (5300 S. Folsom Street) finally opens next weekend. I'm sure the words "Play ball!" have never sounded as good as they will sound on those ballfields Saturday morning.

• You won't find a Lincoln Marathon story in today's section because the race begins before most people read their Sunday paper. We will, however, have plenty of coverage in Monday's Journal Star.

• I already knew Husker baseball coach Mike Anderson was a terrific dad. Turns out he might be even better at being a son.

Reach sports editor John Mabry at 473-7320 or jmabry@journalstar.com.


Also in SPORTS:
NU's Robertson has different persona on the mound
Saltdog shortstop Doskocil has head start heading into 2003 season
Knights' Bahe will walk on at Kansas
Vanous' three overtime goals lift Pius X boys to soccer win
NU golfers on NCAA bubble
Last season's top State Fair jockey earns four wins
Lange smashes 1,600 state record
Team concept puts Doane's Price right at home on track
PREP GLANCE: Southeast sweeps Heartland golf titles
Shootout loss ends LSE boys' season
  

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Press Box Perspective
Pressbox Perspective

Someone recently sent me an e-mail asking if Frank Solich still had anything to keep him busy now that he's given up the title of offensive coordinator.

Solich still has plenty on his plate. For starters, he sorts out messes involving offensive linemen in hot water with the law.

Junior Tagoa'i is a good football player -- he's No. 1 on the post-spring depth chart at right guard -- but he is not going to win any citizenship awards off the field.

Tagoa'i allegedly roughed up his girlfriend while she was holding their 1-year-old daughter. He faces misdemeanor assault and child-neglect charges.

Solich did the right thing by suspending Tagoa'i indefinitely. But when the matter is sorted out in court, Solich will have a lot more to think about.

This isn't the first time Tagoa'i has been in court for this kind of thing.

How much does Solich want to risk the already fragile image of the football program? The ghost of Lawrence Phillips is everywhere.

The offensive line is not NU's strongest position, but let's hope that doesn't enter into Solich's thinking when it comes to making a final decision about Tagoa'i's future as a Husker.

-- John Mabry