As spring practice approaches, we're taking a snapshot of the state of each Big Ten program. We're looking at recent performance, won-loss trends, coaching, current personnel and future personnel.
Up next: the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
2014 record: 9-4 (5-3 Big Ten)
Three-year record: 28-12
Coaching situation: Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst was full of surprises, as he fired Bo Pelini despite another nine-win season and hired longtime Oregon State coach Mike Riley as his replacement. Riley is nationally respected but endured losing seasons in three of his final five years at Oregon State. He must show he can recruit and develop players at a program with greater resources and much greater expectations. Riley brought several assistants from Oregon State, including longtime defensive coordinator Mark Banker. He reunites with offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf, twice an Oregon State assistant who most recently worked with the New York Giants.
Roster situation: The Huskers lose their best offensive player (running back Ameer Abdullah) and best defender (end Randy Gregory) but return quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. and some other key pieces. They need Jordan Westerkamp to take over as No. 1 receiver for Kenny Bell, and there are a few holes to fill along the offensive line and in the secondary. Playmaking safety Nate Gerry (five interceptions) is back alongside productive defensive linemen Maliek Collins, Greg McMullen and Vincent Valentine.
Recruiting situation: Riley and his staff did a good job limiting the attrition that often accompanies a coaching transition. Nebraska added a key piece to its offensive line in guard Jalin Barnett and bolstered its secondary with Eric Lee, Avery Anderson and others. There were only two recruits from the Big Ten footprint -- both from Omaha, Nebraska -- so it will be interesting to see if Riley's staff can recruit, or chooses to recruit, much in the Midwest.
Trajectory: Sideways. Many Nebraska fans felt the team went sideways under Pelini, who won nine or 10 games each season but always lost four. Still, few FBS programs win as consistently as Nebraska had under Pelini, and Riley never lost fewer than four games at Oregon State. It might be tough for Riley to replicate Pelini's standard records in Year 1, but he will have time to elevate a championship-starved program. The recruiting dynamic will be fascinating. The staff brings an innovative approach and Riley has ties to Texas, but Nebraska must make some inroads in the Big Ten footprint. Many felt Riley got the most out of Oregon State for much of his tenure, but this is a different stage with much more pressure to perform.