The Osborne Athletic Complex houses Nebraska's weight room.

Things I know, and things I think I know:

Glen Mason seems almost startled by what he encountered in Lincoln this past weekend.

The former college football coach served as color analyst for BTN's broadcast of Nebraska's 48-9 win against South Alabama. It was his first visit to Lincoln since 1994, when his Kansas team was throttled 45-17 by Tom Osborne's first national championship squad.

"Man, has that place changed," Mason told me Sunday morning from his home in Minneapolis. "The football facilities there are unbelievable."

He also was beyond impressed by the thriving Haymarket area.

"I'm not saying Lincoln was bad before, but that's really an exciting district," he said.

But most striking to Mason was Nebraska's football complex, which many Husker fans perhaps take for granted. I hope not. After all, NU generally has been consistent in keeping up with the facilities "arms race" in college sports. It's a race that never really ends.

In his role at BTN, Mason tours facilities throughout the Big Ten and around the nation.

"I really thought within the Big Ten that Ohio State had the best facilities that I've seen," Mason said. "But I have to think Nebraska has them now. Everything is state-of-the-art."

He mentioned the weight-training areas, players' lounge and coaches' offices. The facilities demonstrate an unmistakable commitment to the sport, and yes, recruits notice. There's a "wow factor," Mason said. Of course, NU isn't the only school that can sway players with facilities. And players consider a variety of other factors, as recent recruiting rankings suggest (the Huskers' class of 2016 as of Sunday was ranked 39th by Rivals.com, 11th among Big Ten teams).

If it were all about facilities and the "wow factor," then programs such as Texas and Nebraska wouldn't be struggling to regain relevancy on the national scene. Bottom line, NU has enough recruiting disadvantages — i.e., lack of population in the region — that it certainly can't afford to lag behind in areas that it can control.

In fact, Mason said, Nebraska's facilities need to be better than the high-powered programs in populous areas. It's common sense, really. But it's also easier said than done.

* As for those Rivals.com rankings, here's where Big Ten teams stand: 1. Ohio State (19 verbal commitments); 6. Michigan (23); 8. Penn State (20); 11. Michigan State (20); 25. Wisconsin (18); 26. Iowa (23); 29. Maryland (18); 33. Rutgers (19); 34. Northwestern (19); 37. Minnesota (15); 39. Nebraska (14); 52. Illinois (15); 73. Purdue (nine); 78. Indiana (10).

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* Listening to Mason discuss Nebraska's vaunted Blackshirt tradition is interesting. He has a high degree of respect for it, mostly the result of his days as head coach at Kansas (1988-96).

You don't have to be a BTN analyst to understand the Huskers have a long way to go to approach the program's mid-1990s form on defense — even in the secondary, which was regarded as a strength entering this season.

"The biggest negative against South Alabama was giving up some big plays," Mason said. "Nebraska defended the fade route very poorly. … For the Huskers to play that style of defense, you can't give those deep routes away.

"If you're going to play press coverage with the corners, which is the 'in' thing in college football, you're going to put a guy out on the island, and either he can perform and make the plays, or he can't.

"If you don't have a guy who can play that position, you're probably not going to play press coverage, because if an offense has the ability to throw the ball, and it has good wideouts, you're going to have some problems."

In other words, Nebraska has ample work to do this week before squaring off against savvy Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya and what promises to be a group of fleet receivers (despite injuries that sidelined two starters last week).

 * I like that Nebraska offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf isn't satisfied with Tommy Armstrong's 63.4 percent completion rate through two games. Langsdorf obviously is doing a lot right in coaching up the junior. Langsdorf said he's pleased overall with Tommy, "but there are some throws that even he'll tell you could be better."

By the way, Langsdorf didn't specify a desired completion rate.

"I just think of what the number is now and the throws he's missed," the coach said. "It could be higher."

Yep, good coaching.

* Note to self: Ask Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker if he was channeling his inner Johnny Cash when he said of the Huskers' depleted linebacker crew, "It's life. It's never the side of plenty that ever has a problem. It's always those struggling in life."

Cash wore black "for the poor and beaten down," according to his song "Man in Black." Perhaps Banker was watching CMT's programming last weekend dedicated to Cash. Inspiring stuff.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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