The defense will be hurt by the loss of David Brown in the secondary—but not that much. The five-man defensive line will be headed by Jeff Perlinger (6'4", 240 pounds), an All-America prospect, and Middle Guard Tim Davis (5'10", 210 pounds), who made 16 unassisted tackles against Ohio State. Don Dufek, an outstanding rover, is the nucleus of the linebacker-secondary corps.
Michigan opens at Wisconsin, where a veteran Schembechler team almost got beaten last year. Other tests are against Michigan State and, of course, the Buckeyes, whom Michigan gets at home.
Midway through spring practice Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne, in search of a quarterback to replace David Humm, was puzzled over the bumbling performance of Randy Garcia, a 6'3" sophomore who was redshirted last season after a knee operation. On the depth chart, which at that stage was very tentative, Garcia was listed as No. 5 and playing not even that well. "Dang," said Osborne, firing off the strongest oath in his vocabulary.
The coach called the sophomore to his side. After some hesitation, Garcia admitted that Osborne's presence made him nervous. "If I make you nervous being around," said the coach, "how are you going to react in front of 76,000 people?"
In the next few days Garcia improved considerably and Osborne was taking credit for the transformation.
"No, Coach," said the sophomore. "It wasn't the talk. Now I just pretend you aren't here."
For the first time in seven seasons the Cornhuskers will open with a quarterback corps of questionable credentials. Humm is gone, and long gone are Jerry Tagge and Van Brownson. That's the trio that led Nebraska to two national championships and six straight bowl victories.
At the moment, the starting quarterback is Terry Luck, a senior who has spent more time under the knife—three knee operations—than on the playing field. Seeing action for the first time last season, he completed eight of 21 for 83 yards and a touchdown. It was Luck, in for a sputtering Humm, who engineered a late 99-yard drive to beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Just behind him are, yes, Garcia and Vince Ferragamo, a 6'3", 205-pound junior with promise. Despite their inexperience, Osborne felt he had enough good people to consider using Earl Everett, last year's No. 2 signal-caller, as a part-time wingback.
When you have three potential All-Americas at other positions and a defense that could have given Leonidas three additional days at Thermopylae, it takes the pressure off the offense, but in this case, the offense can take care of itself. For instance, it has Rik Bonness, the explosive center—the best in Nebraska history, according to Osborne—who has started every game but one the last two seasons; senior Tony Davis, perhaps the finest fullback in the land; and John O'Leary, a slashing tailback.