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Trev Alberts says Nebraska's coaching search has made 'very good progress'

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The World-Herald's Sam McKewon breaks down Nebraska's loss to Michigan

Trev Alberts wasn’t ready to make any big coaching announcements Wednesday night. But the Nebraska athletic director said the process of identifying and securing the next leader of the football program continues to go well.

Making his monthly appearance on the Huskers Radio Network, Alberts said the search — now passing 66 days and counting — has made “very good progress.” NU does not have a specific date in mind to introduce a new head football coach, he said, though he’s well aware of key looming dates like the opening of the transfer portal (Dec. 5) and the early signing period (Dec. 21) beyond that.

“We’re where we’d hoped to be and confident as we move forward,” Alberts said. “…Really pleased with the process, really pleased with the amount of data and the amount of work we’ve been able to do. Looking forward to the day when we can (announce a coach). I understand it’s hard sometimes to say just be a little bit patient. But we’ll have to be as a fan base. I do appreciate our fans giving us the space to do what we said we would do.”

Alberts said he’s gotten lots of suggestions from fans in the last two months — and many have been good ones. What he’s been most surprised about as he speaks to coaches and football people around the country is the deep respect others have for Nebraska’s historic past and its potential to regain national influence in the future.

What continues to come up in every conversation, Alberts said, is the fan support. Any candidate can see the program’s poor record in the last few years. But they also see the NCAA-record sellout streak endure with packed stands for a squad that is 3-7.

“I know we say this a lot but I really believe whoever becomes the next head coach at Nebraska, one of the driving components to it and primary reasons is because of our fan base,” Alberts said. “It’s the greatest thing we have to sell.”

Asked whether NU has any financial constraints in hiring a new coach, Alberts said he’s not bargain hunting but also sensitive to being a good steward of athletic department resources. Fit between coach and university remains the top priority.

Alberts also continued to praise the efforts of interim coach Mickey Joseph and other staffers for working through what can be “awkward moments” when a school fires a head coach three games into a season. Staffers have stayed engaged. Chaos and drama could have broken out but haven’t.

“It’s very, very meaningful to me and I’ve very, very appreciative of our coaching staff, our recruiting staff,” Alberts said. “Nothing has stopped. They’ve continued working very hard. They’re trying to do the right things for Nebraska and I think that really speaks to the character of all the people involved.”

Joseph himself spoke for an hour following Alberts — his usual Thursday show moved up a day because of the men’s basketball team playing that night at St. John’s — and revealed positive news of his own as NU turns its attention to Wisconsin on Saturday morning.

Quarterback Casey Thompson is trending toward a return against the Badgers after practicing for a second straight day in his recovery from elbow nerve damage that has caused numbness in his pinkie and ring fingers. Backup Logan Smothers is also relatively healthy, Joseph said, and took reps with the second unit. Thompson has missed the last two games as the offense sputtered in losses to Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“Right now it looks like Casey is going to be ready to go,” Joseph said. “We’ll still go day by day with him but today he looked really good and Logan looked really good today.”

Other notes from the hour-long sessions with Alberts and Joseph:

>> Asked about the roots of football’s struggles for the last 20 years, Alberts said “it comes down to people.” Nebraska has all the infrastructure and support, he said. The goal is to fill the department with servant leaders rather than those waiting to be served. Many of those people are already in place, he said. NU is also focused on continued integration and collaboration between various support systems including nutrition, strength training, sports psychology and others.

>> The football team remains on track to move into the new still-under-construction facility beyond North Stadium next summer, Alberts said. Discussions and planning are also ongoing for “backfill” opportunities inside Memorial Stadium for spaces that will be vacated. NU will work with the academic side to address potential needs there as well.

“It’s going to get kind of quiet here but I want our fans to understand it means we’re just going to work now behind the scenes,” Alberts said. “The next time we go public with it we’ll have a pretty detailed plan around Memorial Stadium modernization.”

>> Joseph said the improvement of the defense under interim coordinator Bill Busch has largely come through clear and thorough teaching.

“It’s detail,” Joseph said. “The kids understand pursuit angles, they understand what’s going into the game plan. They don’t look confused anymore.”

>> Why was Joseph able to come in and not only maintain order but light a fire under the team? The coach said it came down to a combination of having a plan and being wired to galvanize a team.

“Guys get (head) jobs because they’re coordinators and they fall on their face because they’re not a natural leader of young men,” Joseph said. “I’m a natural leader of young men. I can get young men to follow me because they believe in what I say and believe in what I do because I’m up front with them. I don’t sugarcoat anything with them but they know I care about them.”

>> While 12 seniors with exhausted eligibility will take part in ceremonies Saturday, Joseph said as many as 28-30 may be involved even if many of those eventually decide to return. The coach said one of his first priorities after the season will be player retention as NU looks to become an older team in the makeup of many of its Big Ten West peers.

>> Does Joseph expect anything different with offensive coordinator Mark Whipple in the press box this week? Quipped Joseph: “Well, you won’t get those death stares.”

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Evan Bland covers Nebraska football, baseball and other sports for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @EvanBlandOWH.

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