Things I know, and things I think I know:

As humans, we handle defeats — be it a lost client, lost sale, lost jury trial, lost poker game, etc. — in our own way.

Some people can rationalize away defeats and move on quickly wearing a smile. Others feel all the pain. Many fall somewhere in between.

I get the feeling Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander felt all the pain of last season's 4-8 record. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

“I ain’t happy anymore with winning some practice,” Chinander barked during a recent workout in a video put out by NU. “I’m trying to win in September.”

That goes down as my favorite quote of the spring practice season. Yeah, hallelujah to the notion of winning when it counts. So if Chinander's unit plays well in the Red-White Spring Game on Saturday, I doubt you'll see a wild celebration from the leader of the Blackshirts.

A sellout crowd will be on hand for the annual practice shindig. Nebraska once again will finish near the top of the pack nationally in spring game attendance, for what it's worth. I've said it before: Winning the offseason became too big of a thing around here in recent years. How about a win against Wisconsin or Iowa? That would be much more meaningful to the program than anything that happens from mid-January to August.

This coaching staff gets it. Chinander definitely gets it. His defense evidently has enjoyed a strong spring. But he didn't like the way it played in a recent scrimmage. He theorized that maybe his guys were tired. Then he quickly added that a defense doesn't get to be tired. It doesn't have that option, especially after a 4-8 year.

I like the attitude. Love the attitude. Defense is mostly about attitude and passion. The Blackshirts' leader has plenty of both — as evidenced by the best quote of the spring. Hope his players are listening.

* Because NU football media members see only snippets of spring practice (a change from the Mike Riley era, when we watched the entirety of a handful of practices), it becomes that much more important to listen closely to coaches and players.

In terms of program culture, it's easy to like what you hear. Husker running backs coach Ryan Held is always fired up. He bleeds this stuff. Which is why he was thrilled late last month when players organized a teamwide practice for the Sunday that ended spring break.

That particular players-only workout will be something on which we reflect if Scott Frost's program breaks out in Year 2, as many seem to anticipate.

"It comes down to: What are we wanting to get out of all this?" Held said recently. "Are we wanting to play in the Big Ten Championship Game? Or are we wanting to put up the pads and we (coaches) just go out recruiting? I don't think these guys want that. This place needs to compete for championships. That's why we came here. That's why these guys came here. We've got to get this thing back.

"But it's got to be ownership by the players. It's got to be them leading the charge. It can't be us always doing it. You're seeing a lot of glimpses of the way it should be. We're not there yet. But you're definitely seeing it go in the right direction."

* If I were a head coach at Nebraska, I wouldn't allow media to watch even snippets of practice. Understand, there are about 40 to 50 media members on hand for spring practices that are open for a few periods. It's just too much media. If I were a head coach at, say, Florida Atlantic, the small media corps would be allowed to watch entire practices. But not here. The horde is too big and takes up too much sideline space. Plus, there's too much hysteria as it is.

Or maybe I just need a day off. I'm not a Blackshirt.

* It's easy to envision readers literally rolling their eyes every time we report a Husker freshman football player saying it was a challenge to adjust to the speed and size of athletes at the college level.

But when redshirt freshman receiver/running back Miles Jones says it, the spiel takes on added meaning. After all, the 5-foot-8, 175-pound speedster played for American Heritage High School in Florida, the third-ranked prep program in the nation by USA Today during his senior year.

Jones quickly learned the college game was a different animal.

"I've got to work harder here," he said this week. "In high school, you could just show up to the field and you were the best. Here, you definitely have to work even when there's no practice. You've got to work after practice, you've got to work before practice, and you've got to take care of your body.

"I realized that the second I got here."

* My favorite part of an interview Sunday with former Nebraska baseball coach Dave Van Horn (1998-2002) was when he talked about how the Huskers used cold weather to their advantage. 

"I remember one team from Texas — I won't tell you which one — went and rented a few butane tanks so they could heat the dugout," Van Horn said with a chuckle. "We were laughing. We're over in our dugout going, 'We're going whip their butts.' It was awesome. And we did."

* The only thing cooler than Fred Hoiberg throwing out the first pitch before the Creighton-Nebraska game Tuesday night would be if Jervay Green were the mystery catcher.

Would Hoiberg fire a strike?

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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