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Steven M. Sipple: Jurgens' situation grabs Rimington's attention; and Cook does it again

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Iowa vs. Nebraska, 11.26

Nebraska's Cam Jurgens (51) snaps the ball to Logan Smothers in the fourth quarter Nov. 26 at Memorial Stadium.

Steven M. Sipple, Parker Gabriel and Chris Basnett break down the hires of Mark Whipple, Mickey Joseph and Donovan Raiola, among other Husker topics.

Things I know, and things I think I know:

Guess I don’t know everything after all.

It somehow slipped past me that Dave Rimington seriously considered skipping his final season at Nebraska after capturing the Outland Trophy in 1981.

He earned the Outland again in 1982 as a senior — he remains the only player to twice capture the prestigious award — while helping lead the Huskers to a 12-1 record as a dominating center.

Does Rimington have any words of wisdom for current Nebraska center Cam Jurgens, a fourth-year sophomore who reportedly is contemplating an early jump to the NFL?

Is Jurgens ready?

“Only he can answer that,” said Rimington, adding, “I think he does have an opportunity to be one of the best centers in the country if he comes back to school.”

Rimington obviously would be delighted if Jurgens next season made a push to win the Rimington Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s best center. All-time Husker great Dominic Raiola captured the inaugural Rimington Trophy in 2000, and NU hasn’t had a second winner.

Iowa redshirt junior Tyler Linderbaum is this year’s choice, announced Thursday night during ESPN’s College Football Awards Show.

Linderbaum switched from defensive line to center following his freshman season at Iowa in 2018.

Jurgens made the move from tight end to center during the spring of 2019, and has made 31 starts. 

“He’s getting much better,” Rimington said. “I knew he would get better. He’s an athlete.”

Jurgens, in fact, possesses unique explosiveness for a 6-foot-3, 290-pound athlete — the sort of explosiveness you see in the NFL and not many other places in the world.

“He just needed to get the snap part down, and he got that part down,” Rimington said. “Now it’s to the point of let’s just cool it with the mistakes of the rest of the offensive line. But he was one of the promising guys this year, definitely. He was a guy they could count on.”

With designs on the NFL, Jurgens will need to continue to work on snaps under center, Rimington said.

“Doing it under duress, that’s the big thing,” said Rimington, who played seven years in the NFL despite chronic knee issues. “He can do that. He’s got to get in tune with the quarterback, and they’ve got to do it in difficult situations, where it’s do or die. That’s when the fumbles occur. When you’ve got to fire out and get low and move a guy, and the quarterback’s not used to being underneath you … under duress, it can be a lot more challenging.”

Regarding his big decision following the 1981 season, Rimington said, “I had a conversation with coach (Tom) Osborne about it. He was real understanding, but he wanted me to come back. I was just beat up. I was a kid from South Omaha thinking I needed to try to make some money. Back in my era, if you didn’t play pro football, you’re probably going to work at Kellogg’s in Omaha, like my brother did, or you’re going to work in the meat industry somewhere.”

Rimington decided to stay in school in part because he wanted to help his team.

The thought of winning a second Outland Trophy also was appealing.

“I figured it was probably something nobody else was going to do simply because once you get one, why would you risk it to get another?” he said.

“But I also thought another year of seasoning would be good.”

Nebraska coach Scott Frost probably feels the same about Jurgens’ situation. 

After all, Jurgens is arguably the team's top returning player at any position. Stay tuned on this one. 

* Nebraska senior setter Nicklin Hames, following her team's colossal win against Texas late Saturday night in Austin, said of her teammates, "We had each others' backs and we outhearted and outteamed them, I feel like." 

"Outhearted" and "outteamed" may not be actual words, but they sound wonderful all the same, and certainly are applicable to what the college volleyball world witnessed in 10th-seeded Nebraska's NCAA Elite Eight triumph. 

This season may be John Cook's best coaching job of all, which obviously is saying a mouthful. 

Put it this way: It's difficult to imagine him being a better athletic director than coach — because he's still remarkable in his current role. 

* Meanwhile, Nebraska men's basketball fans would love to see Fred Hoiberg's crew "outteam" someone, anyone.

At the moment, that seems a far-flung notion. 

The Huskers' level of struggle — they're 5-6 (0-2 Big Ten) and losers of four straight — has been an eye-opener even for Hoiberg's most ardent supporters.

In fact, the pendulum has swung toward the concerning side this season so quickly that I've almost skipped criticism of Hoiberg and headed straight to utter amazement of how poorly the team appears to be constructed, and coached. 

Alas, it's too early in the season to bury Fred's crew. But it's not too early to raise red flags — several of them.

* Former Wisconsin football coach Barry Alvarez told me last week that Donovan Raiola "is one of my all-time favorite players." 

"I just loved him," Alvarez said of Nebraska's new offensive line coach, a 39-game starter for the Badgers between 2002 to 2005. "He was fun every single day. He loves football, now. He brought a lot of fun to the field. He was a character, and besides that, he was a good player, and I've always liked good players." 

Alvarez shared his favorite story about Raiola. Although Wisconsin was a sizable underdog against Auburn in the Capital One Bowl to end the 2005 season, the Badgers managed a 24-10 triumph.

The margin could've been wider. 

"We took a knee on Auburn's 1-yard line to end the game," Alvarez recalls. "Donovan comes running off the field, gets in my face and says, 'Damn it, coach, you said we weren't going to hold anything back against these guys!

"Then he busts out laughing." 

Nice one, coach. 

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