The water is long under the bridge now, but it never feels good to get spurned by your favorite childhood team.
Such was Tanner Farmer’s recruitment five years ago. He grew up dreaming of playing for the University of Illinois. A native of Highland, southeast of Champaign toward St. Louis, Farmer wanted nothing more than to commit to the Illini and play his college football there.
The coaching staff at the time had a different idea.
“I always wanted to go to Illinois growing up,” Farmer said Monday. “That’s where my grandfather went, I had a bunch of cousins go there and I always did well at their camps. (Then-head coach Tim Beckman) brought me in and he goes, ‘Farmer, we want you to walk on.’”
Farmer went on the camp circuit and blew up into a national recruit, earning dozens of scholarship offers. Only then did Illinois put one on the table itself.
“It was pretty much too late by then,” he said. “If I wasn’t good enough for you then, I’m not good enough now.”
Needless to say, things worked out OK for NU’s starting center, who already has his degree in hand and has 27 career starts to his name entering Saturday’s contest against his old favorite team.
“They kind of snuffed me,” he said. “Nothing against Lovie Smith. I think he’s a great guy and a great coach, but I’m not as much of a fan of Illinois anymore.”
Familiar face: Former Husker AJ Bush makes his return to Memorial Stadium on Saturday and figures to see plenty of playing time at quarterback either as the starter or the backup to M.J. Rivers. Bush has started six games this season, throwing for 924 yards and rushing for 472.
Bush redshirted at Nebraska in 2014 and didn't play in 2015 before transferring to Iowa Western, then Virginia Tech, then Illinois. Several current Huskers are familiar with the senior, perhaps none more so than linebacker and fellow Georgia native Mohamed Barry.
Barry said Monday he knew Bush when the quarterback starred at Norcross High School, and Bush hosted Barry on his official visit to Lincoln. Barry counts Bush among the main reasons he chose Nebraska.
That doesn't mean, though, Barry won't be ready to lay a lick on his old friend come Saturday.
"I'm ready for that," Barry said. "When you play someone that you know, we used to talk smack to each other all the time when we went against each other. So to face him, when I get my opportunity, I'm going to make it known that I'm here."
Alternate reality: Nebraska will bust out its alternate uniforms Saturday, with the duds paying homage to the 100th anniversary of World War I and Memorial Stadium.
The jerseys are modeled after those worn by the first team to play in Memorial Stadium, in 1923, and feature a red jersey with sublimated stripes and a white helmet designed to mimic the leather helmets of the period.
Don't expect Nebraska's coaching staff to dress for the time period, though.
"I don't know what coaches wore in 1918 and 1919. Ties?" head coach Scott Frost said. "Yeah, I don't think that's going to happen."
Frost, like many Nebraska natives and life-long Husker fans would prefer NU to stick with its traditional uniforms.
"In general, I think there’s maybe a dozen brands in college football and uniforms that you recognize and those schools probably are better off, in my opinion, just sticking to the tradition," Frost said. "We have a strong enough tradition here where everybody in the country when they see the ‘N’ on the side of the helmet, knows what is stands for. Not to say we won’t mix it up occasionally, but there’s power in what we wear every Saturday and I don’t see us wearing something different every weekend."
Ferguson update: With defensive depth an issue all season, Nebraska's coaches are hopeful for any production they can get out of junior outside linebacker Tyrin Ferguson.
Fergson has missed three of the last six games, including last week's contest at Ohio State, and has been slowed significantly since recording five tackles for loss in Nebraska's first three games.
"He’s been hampered by a minor injury for a while so hopefully we get him back and healthy," Frost said. "Gosh, we need more depth, more depth will help us on defense, more depth will help us on special teams. Having a few guys hurt, not able to go hurts us from that standpoint."
Frost said freshman running back Maurice Washington was nicked up against Ohio State but is ready to go for Illinois.
— Parker Gabriel and Chris Basnett