Quite an eclectic set of questions in the mailbag this week. The Hail Varsity staff is back to answer all of them.
Will Memorial Stadium ever have another expansion? If so, where would it be and what would you like to see added? (@HerbieHype)
Mike Babcock: I would say yes, though I’m not sure how that would be accomplished. I would’ve preferred the money used to build that section high atop the East Stadium be used to widen seats throughout the stadium, which would (of course) have reduced seating but made seating more fan friendly. I think the press area should be converted into suites and the press area be moved to the north end. Those suites could be relocated on west side. Or maybe a press area could be added atop the south end. Suites on the west side would be more expensive, of course. And room would have to be maintained on the west side for radio and television. The large lounge area already on the third level of the west side could be used for news conferences.
Erin Sorensen: There will be expansion, but I doubt it’ll be an expansion of seats. Mike did a nice job of mapping out the possibilities for change in Memorial Stadium, and I’d add that we could see expansion of the facilities for the athletes on or around the stadium. That may not be exactly the same, but it could change the layout of the stadium in some ways so I’ll count it.
If you could add any realistic restaurants to the concession lineup at football games, what would it be? (@danhoppen)
Brandon Vogel: Block 16. I don’t even care about making this practical for game day, though sandwiches generally work (even messy ones). I would just show them the space and say, “It’s yours, do what you do.”
Greg Smith: I’ve been thinking about ice cream way too much lately so I’m going to go with Zesto. Hello cherry dipped cones.
MB: Answering a Dan Hoppen question about food choices would be like giving Scott Frost advice about what to run on fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard line. I’ll pass.
ES: I’m going with Brandon. Give me Block 16 or else.
Husker football, better chance to win at least 10 games or with everything Colorado is doing better chance of a Husker invasion? (@SlicVic13)
Jacob Padilla: I don’t know what would qualify as a “Husker Invasion,” but I think it’s probably more likely than a 10-win season. Even with this year’s schedule, 10 wins would be a heck of a turnaround from this past season. As for Colorado, I think all their efforts have just served to fire up the Nebraska fan base and make the Husker faithful more motivated to get to Boulder, which probably would have happened to a certain degree regardless.
MB: Agree with Jacob. I don’t see a 10-win season, certainly not in the 12-game regular season, and I’m not among those who expect nine wins in the regular season, no. Colorado used to huff and puff back in the day and folks out there were like, “Yeh, man, cool, we can do that.” Not. Husker fans will be on-hand, in large and vocal numbers.
GS: I’m almost counting on a Husker Invasion against Colorado. I’d be pretty surprised at 10 wins. There’s a much better chance at a repeat of that famous Notre Dame game in Boulder this year.
Other than the Polar Bear, who is the biggest 2020 target Nebraska has on the board? (@PBlak69)
JP: Greg’s Guys is a good place to start to answer that question. I’ll go with Xavier Watts simply because of the local ties and Frost’s stated mandate to keep talented in-state kids from leaving Nebraska. Blaise Gunnerson is right up there too.
GS: I agree with Jacob. Cody Simon, the linebacker out of New Jersey is way up on the board as well. The answer is Nash Hutmacher, aka the Polar Bear, and it’s amazing that everyone knows him as the Polar Bear.
Why does Nebraska only recruit tackles? Is it because they can be interchangable such as a guy like Conn? (@Go_Big_Red)
GS: I don’t think being a tackle in high school is a requirement to be recruited by Greg Austin. Generally, your best linemen on a high school team play tackle and then can be moved later on.
Who do you think Nebraska should add as nonconference opponents in the future (football)? (@natethomas01)
BV: In order of stadiums I’ve never been to but want to go to: LSU, Boise State and Texas A&M. I’m assuming, of course, those would all be home-and-homes, though going home-and-home with Boise is a bad idea for any Power 5 team.
GS: Teams in the South. I’ve had it mentioned to be by more than one HS coach down there that it would be helpful for the Huskers recruiting efforts to play schools down there sometimes. My top picks would be Auburn, Florida and Georgia.
Derek Peterson: Nebraska needs a former Big Eight foe on the nonconference schedule every season. I want to see Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Colorado on a rotating basis. That would serve as marquee games on the schedule against other Power Five opponents, it would serve as a way to drum up nostalgia (and ticket sales) in the fanbase, none of those games would be difficult to get fans to travel to and if we’re talking about playing all of four of them in an eight-year span, that’s consistent visibility in three of the other four major conferences. The idea of playing teams down south, like Greg noted, is a really good one, too. Tennessee is the first name that jumps to my mind, which makes sense considering the Vols are already on the schedule for 2026 and 2027, but I would love to see Nebraska play Georgia. It seems a recruiting goal to hit that state hard on the trail, so going into Athens and beating the Bulldogs would be a huge deal.
What is your favorite piece of sports memorabilia you own in any league/sport? What is your favorite piece of Huskers memorabilia you own? (@JJStark8)
BV: I have a program signed by Shaquille O’Neal. It was from a preseason game in Rapid City, S.D., between the Magic and the Timberwolves before Shaq’s rookie season. He signed on the page opposite his full-page photo, so Shaq’s signature runs over the headshot of some forgotten NBA role player. (Literally, I can’t remember who it is.) That plus the fact that one of Shaq’s first official tasks as a pro was to spend some time in Rapid City still amuse me.
MB: I hold onto pretty much everything, so it’s difficult to differentiate. I have a brick from Schulte Field House, where my uncle had his “office,” the equipment room. I have a paperweight made from the crossbar of a goal post at the 1959 Oklahoma upset. I have a photo signed by the Scoring Explosion backfield in 1983—not sure how it got signed. But those things are stuff. For me, it’s the experience, covering Osborne’s national championship run; sitting in Bob Devaney’s basement, watching Hogan’s Heroes and eating chocolate-chip cookies while waiting to do an interview for his book; having Stan Musial shake my hand and call me by name on a second encounter in Memorial Stadium (at a Missouri) game. And so it goes.
GS: I have a book that has 20 years of articles the LA Times wrote about Kobe Bryant. It’s a glorious 300+ pages. My goal is to one day have him sign it.
DP: It’s not really memorabilia but it serves the same purpose for me. I have a handful of jerseys that I wore as a baby/little kid. I have an infant Michael Jordan Bulls jersey, an infant Dan Marino Dolphins jersey, and then little Heat Dwyane Wade, NOLA/OKC Chris Paul and Florida Tim Tebow jerseys that I’m saving for my first-born. I’ve also kept the game program of every football game I’ve covered so far. I plan to make them into a piece of wall art some day.
What are the expectations for Amy Williams in year three? Is NCAA bid realistic? (@dmhusker1)
JP: A tourney berth certainly is a realistic goal in my mind, based on what Williams brings back and the experience gained (and promise shown) by last year’s freshman class. It’s hard to win with freshmen and sophomores, but it’s quite a bit easier to do so with sophomores and juniors and that is what makes up the core of the 2019-20 Huskers. I think Williams has a pretty solid recruiting class that she’s excited about coming in as well to further bolster the depth. If they can find some consistency, which eluded them last season as it often does to young teams – I think they’ll have a chance to do very well in the Big Ten and qualify for the postseason.
MB: Jacob said it all.
DP: The expectations should be for more than just a bid. Nebraska has everything it needs to be a serious Big Ten contender. Hannah Whitish will be a senior and her ability to space the floor and create for her teammates allowed Amy Williams to play her and Sam Haiby more together as the season went on. Haiby, a freshman last year, is the perfect complement in the backcourt, with her ability to take people off the dribble and collapse a defense. Sophomore-to-be Leigha Brown on the wing is the kind of “give her the ball, leave her alone” scorer a great team needs and she was that as a true freshman in the Big Ten last season. Nebraska has one of the best shooters in the country in Taylor Kissinger, a really capable and versatile defender in forward Kayla Mershon, a double-double threat in Ashton Veerbeek and a rim-protecting center in Kate Cain. Cain’s biggest issue in her first two years was consistency; the hope is she’s a little more steady from night to night as a junior. That team grew up a ton last season with basically half of their games being decided by two possessions or fewer. They saw what it takes to win and learned what sort of mistakes bring about losses. I’m super bullish on Williams’ bunch this season.
We saw a few walk-ons see the field last season and we’re seeing the staff make it a big priority to bring in more for the upcoming season. Which walk-ons are in the driver's seat to make a push in the fall for playing time? (@StumptheSilva)
JP: Trent Hixson appears to be in line to start at left guard. Kade Warner is likely still in the mix at wide receiver. Isaac Armstrong should start at punter, and if he doesn’t William Przystup will. Not sure if he’s still on scholarship or not, but Wyatt Mazour will probably see a couple snaps here and there. We can’t rule out Joseph Johnson in the inside linebacker discussion in terms of depth spots and he could see the field on special teams regardless. Eli Sullivan, Jeramiah Stovall and Ethan Cox could all factor into the special teams discussion. Chase Urbach should handle the long-snapping duties. Maybe Hunter Miller or AJ Forbes will stay in the mix at back-up center if Cam Jurgens locks the starting spot down.
MB: Best opportunity is up front on offense: Hixson, Miller and Forbes. I’d guess Hixson will earn a scholarship at some point. Kade Warner is solid, does the right thing, in the right place, at the right time.
Is there concern over recent in-state prospects committing elsewhere? (@bumpasorous)
JP: I don’t believe Nebraska has lost any in-state prospects that they’ve actually offered a scholarship too yet, so I don’t see why there would be. I still think it’s an up-hill battle to keep Xavier Watts in Nebraska, but even if they don’t get him six out of seven is a pretty good hit rate including the five guys from last season and Zavier Betts in 2020. The guys that have committed recently were all looked at as mostly walk-on targets if Nebraska even wanted them at all, and you’re not going to win all of those battles when other schools are offering free rides.
What expectations should we have for Husker basketball next season? Winning record in conference? (@hspu6)
JP: Well, Fred Hoiberg had no expectations heading into the summer workouts, so it’s tough to figure out what we as fans and observers should expect. During Hoiberg’s first season at Iowa State he stacked his nonconference slate with wins and then struggled in conference, finishing 3-13 and 16-16 overall. This roster at Nebraska looks better to me than that one at Iowa State, but until we see these guys on the court it’s hard to know what to expect. Could a postseason berth be possible? I think so. But to expect that might be setting the bar a bit too high before seeing this team take the court. I think an above-.500 season is probably what we should expect this first year and anything beyond that is gravy.
Has there been a time where a football recruit has come to an OV with an offer in hand and it was later rescinded after the visit? (@korupteddonkey)
GS: Rescinded is probably too strong but there are absolutely times that a guy comes to campus and the coaching staff red flags him and no longer pursues him. Players being disinterested during presentations, coming late to events and making a bad impression on player hosts are all recent examples of why this has happened.
How does landing Choe Bryant-Strother, Simon, Malik Reed, Hutmacher, Jamar Sekona, Sevion Morrison and Marvin Scott III sound as all commitments for part of the 2020 class? Omar Manning, Brian George, Dominick Watt and Jahkeem Green sound out of the JUCO ranks? (@Go_Big_Red)
GS: That all sounds like a dream scenario. Reed is already off the board with a verbal commitment to Wisconsin. Also, it’s a good idea to remember that prospects will continue emerging and that all of the spots in the 2020 class will not be filled with players we are already talking about. I’d be pretty surprised if there were two JUCO wide receivers in the class.