Jay Foreman sees only two teams on Nebraska’s schedule with more talent: Oregon and Ohio State.

So the standard for this year’s Huskers, he says, is to add another game to the schedule Dec. 3 as champions of the Big Ten West.

“I expect them to be in Indianapolis,” he said Thursday in Omaha. “Once you get to Indianapolis and have got to deal with the big boys, that’s really going to show you where you are.”

Foreman, a former Husker and NFL linebacker, spoke at the Big Red Today Breakfast before about 200 people at Anthony’s Steakhouse. With him was a former Husker teammate and offensive lineman, Matt Vrzal.

Both said they see the program heading in the right direction.

“I think they’re getting it,” Foreman said. “They just need time, and need to win.”

Foreman acknowledged that defending Big Ten West champion Iowa will be “a tough out.” So will Wisconsin, which opened the season by knocking off then-No. 5 LSU.

Foreman said Wisconsin’s control of the line of scrimmage in that game was “alarming.” But if the Huskers can hold up against the Badger ground game, he said, they should have a talent advantage on the perimeter of the field.

Foreman, who started for Nebraska’s 1995 and 1997 national champions and then played eight seasons in the NFL, said he’s seen a striking change in Husker body types over the past two years. The 300-pounders are quicker, faster. More like SEC players.

He said strength coach Mark Philipp has “done a phenomenal job.”

“His energy level was really something we needed,” Foreman said. “And I think the guys gravitate toward that.”

Another key addition, Vrzal said, was defensive line coach John Parrella, a former Husker and NFL defensive lineman who returned to the program last winter from Northern Michigan.

Vrzal called it “a program-changing hire.”

“I laughed when the ‘experts,’ the ‘star-givers,’ were saying this isn’t going to be a good hire,” he said. “I guarantee you John Parrella could get you to come out there and take a snap.

“You’re not going to find people more passionate about Nebraska football, in particular the Blackshirts, than John Parrella.”

Vrzal, like Parrella, was an NU walk-on from Grand Island. He was a reserve on the Huskers’ 1994 national champions and backed up center Aaron Graham on the 1995 champs.

He said some recent Husker offensive lines lacked aggressiveness. But he sees that changing with the emergence of players such as left tackle Nick Gates.

“Nick plays the game to the whistle, to the echo of the whistle. He plays it past the whistle,” Vrzal said. “You have to have guys who don’t care what you think about them.”

Vrzal said he liked what he saw in Saturday’s opener against Fresno State — an offense that ran the ball, controlled the clock and wore an opponent down. That’s been a rare sight in recent years, he said.

Fans unhappy to see just 13 passes in the opener should like Saturday’s Wyoming game better, Vrzal said, because the Huskers will need better balance to handle the Cowboys.

“They’re not scared of Lincoln,” he said. “They’ve got guys who coached here, guys who played here.”

Contact the writer:

doug.thomas@owh.com, 402-444-1058, twitter.com/dougthomasOWH


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