Bo Pelini recently was in Chicago, throwing his best fastball as the ceremonial first pitch at Wrigley Field.
In a few days, he’ll be back in the Windy City, as he, Taylor Martinez, Quincy Enunwa and Ciante Evans have a few fastballs thrown their way, and probably just as many slow-pitch lobs, at Big Ten Media Days.
The event begins Wednesday, when many of the nuts-and-bolts items of the offseason are addressed, and concludes Thursday, when each school's coaches and players sit at their own table and take whatever questions arise in two hours.
As for some of the questions that surround the Huskers’ appearance in Chicago?
There are many more than these, but here are five questions to keep in mind:
1. What were the factors in the decision to switch to season captains?
You can debate if having season captains, as Nebraska will this fall for the first time in the Pelini era, will have any great effect on leadership or wins and losses.
But, certainly, naming Martinez, Evans, Enunwa and Spencer Long as season captains is noteworthy, considering Pelini’s teams have previously had different game captains on a week-to-week basis through his first five years.
Because Pelini has not spoken publicly about the switch to season captains, there’s some curiosity as to how they were chosen.
Did coaches pick them? Were players involved? Were any nonseniors considered? And what brought on the change in philosophy?
2. How big of a draw will Martinez be? And how will he handle the inevitable questions comparing him to Braxton Miller?
You’d think the Nebraska senior quarterback would be considered one of the biggest headliners at the event, right up there with Ohio State’s Miller. After all, the two split first-team conference QB honors last season.
Yet there was one Big Ten writer, when seeing the list of players heading to media days, who first mentioned Miller and Michigan’s Devin Gardner as the marquee names.
Some might consider that odd, considering the resumes of Martinez and Gardner.
We’ll keep an eye on who draws the biggest crowd. But you’d think there would be curiosity about Martinez from non-Husker media. Because, while it might seem Nebraska’s QB has been around for 10 years, this is his first media day appearance.
Local media can tell you Martinez has improved his media presence, especially since the bowl game. The thing about Martinez? He can be quite blunt when he feels strongly about something.
You might recall in the days prior to the bowl game against Georgia when Martinez got a few folks riled when he said: “I think the Big Ten, talent-wise, is a lot better, and the defenses in the Big Ten are better than SEC defenses.”
This week, you can expect someone will be looking to compare and contrast him to Miller.
But perhaps more interesting to Nebraska fans will be contrasting the Martinez they see in Chicago with the one they saw answering questions as a freshman and sophomore.
All recent signs point to a considerable difference.
3. How much will Pelini expand on the decision to dismiss Thomas Brown and Ernest Suttles from the team?
On rare occasions, some big headlines come out of media days. Most often, however, they are most useful in tying up any loose ends that occurred in the offseason.
For instance, how are players such as Thad Randle, Taariq Allen and Tyler Wullenwaber responding coming off injuries? What are the most-recent status reports of 2013 recruits (Randy Gregory, Marcus Newby, Tre’Vell Dixon) who have struggled to get to Lincoln?
And what more, beyond the initial statement, might be said about Pelini’s decision to part ways with freshman defenders Brown and Suttles? With the head coach facing another roster decision on potential Husker transfer Alex Lewis, any insights into the process Pelini uses when making decisions such as those could prove interesting.
4. What’s a senior defensive back to make of a defense relying on so many underclassmen?
Evans will be the voice of the Husker defense. He seems a good choice to bring to Chicago, for several reasons.
He’s a senior and captain, of course. But beyond that, he’s also a player Husker coaches sometimes feel gets overlooked.
“If you watch the film, there's probably not a better defensive back in the league,” Pelini said of Evans late last season.
Yet Evans, who perhaps gets lost in postseason award discussion because he’s a nickel back (never mind the immense value of the nickel position in Nebraska’s defense), received only All-Big Ten honorable mention from the media and coaches in 2012.
So it can’t hurt to get Evans out there in front of people. He’s also a pretty good spokesman, with solid takes on the finer points of playing defense.
It’ll be worthwhile to pick a veteran player’s brain about not only his role as a leader, but also where he sees this young defense compared with past Husker defenses entering fall camp.
5. What does Pelini say about the offseason hype that’s been building about his team?
The popular narrative this offseason, among many fans and various media, is that Nebraska’s offense has the capability to be very explosive, and may have to be to carry a young defense as it grows early in the season.
But Pelini might not be into such concessions for a defense that coaches expect to be faster, if still lacking game experience.
What’s a defensive-minded coach to think going into a season with so many questions about where the defense is headed?
If some believe it's the Husker offense that will shine this fall, it's the defense, and the task of fixing the leaks, that figures to be in the spotlight this week.