Mailbag: One Former Husker Star This Year or Three 5-Stars for 3 Years?
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Mailbag: One Former Husker Star This Year or Three 5-Stars for 3 Years?

July 03, 2019

It’s a loaded mailbag. Let’s just get to it.

Which Husker would you want as your teammate on The Amazing Race? (@CWalshy_Jr) 

Derek Peterson: As someone who has never seen a minute of The Amazing Race, I’m going to assume it has a race-like structure, and I’m going to say Jaron Woodyard, the speedy track guy. I know full well the odds of the show actually involving a foot race are slim, but that’s my final answer. 

Jacob Padilla: I think I’m at the point where I’m just going to automatically answer Damian Jackson any time I’m asked to pick a Husker. Seems like a Navy SEAL would be nice to have around in most situations. 

Greg Smith: I’ll go with JD Spielman. First, he’s fast. Secondly, he’s laid back and people always find themselves in pressure situations in that show and you need a partner to keep level-headed.  

Mike Babcock: My first thought was Damian Jackson, but Jacob has him. As I think about it, I’d go with Adrian Martinez, who’s resourceful, athletic and personable as well. 

Erin Sorensen: It’s my fault for getting to the mailbag questions later than everyone else, because I would have taken Damian Jackson or Adrian Martinez. Both have been selected, so here we are. With those two off the board, I'll take Mo Barry. He’s intense, which could create some interesting situations but he would give it his all and wouldn’t quit. 

You can pick any one football player from the last five years who can play for the Huskers for this season or you can have THREE 5-Star recruits for the next three years. If you choose the one player, who would you pick to add to this year's roster. Choose wisely! (@Corn_Huskers) 

Brandon Vogel: I would choose the one proven option over three likely (but not for certain) stars. From the last five years, that player is Ameer Abdullah. Give me a proven and dynamic back with what this year’s team returns and I feel pretty good about the lofty numbers I have in mind for this offense. 

DP: Do I get to pick the 5-star guys? Because we’re talking about winning one Big Ten title versus two or three. I’m going with the three 5-stars — Sav’ell Smalls, a 6-foot-3 outside linebacker from Washington; Myles Murphy, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound strongside defensive end from Georgia; and Darnell Washington, a 6-foot-7 tight end from Nevada. I don’t think the offense needs any outside help to be great this year. I like the pieces there. But if I can give Erik Chinander two elite, game-changing defenders for three years? Woah boy. 

GS: This is really tough. I’m going to agree with Derek though. Funny thing about Darnell Washington: Nebraska had him on campus last year for Friday Night Lights before he completely blew up and became a 5-star. Sorry they’ve been eliminated though. I would probably go with all defensive guys as well. Brian Breese, a 6-foot-5, 290-pounds defensive lineman who is heading to Clemson would be my first pick. Keele Ringo, the Arizona cornerback who is one of the fastest players in the nation gets another slot. Justin Flowe, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound inside linebacker gets the last slot.   

MB: I go with the proven player, as did Brandon. And the proven player would be Abdullah. 

How do the Huskers manage all the offers? They have made the most offers of any team by far. Does a player have to visit first in order to commit? (@dmhusker1) 

JP: I’ll let Greg expand on this, but the short answer is “with a great staff.” In addition to all the coaches, Nebraska has a handful of others in the football office assisting with recruiting efforts. It’s an all-hands-on-deck endeavor. 

GS: Jacob is correct about the short answer. A player doesn’t necessarily have to visit first to have the green light to commit if the staff agrees that prospect is a “can’t miss” type of player. In most cases though, an offer is a way to show a prospect who is typically from far away that Nebraska is interested. It’s another way of saying it’s worth it to take a long trip to check out Lincoln. Nebraska’s recruiting department is impressive and very organized. 

Which bowl game would you like to go to that the Huskers have not played? (@dmhusker1) 

BV: Nebraska has played in most of the major bowl games at this point, so give me the Peach Bowl. I had a great experience “covering” UCF there when Frost had already been announced as Nebraska’s next head coach, and Atlanta is a great city that has become sort of the “capital” of college football. And it’s played in a great stadium. 

DP: The Rose Bowl. I don’t care that Nebraska has been in a Rose Bowl a long time ago. I haven’t been, and I want to change that. 

MB: I leave the bowling to the youngsters. I’ve been to enough bowls over the years, all the majors. But if I wouldn’t mind going to the Pinstripe Bowl; Nebraska’s never been there—though not necessarily fan, or player friendly because of the time of year. However, I’d like to see Yankee Stadium. I’ve always enjoyed brief visits to New York City. And it would bookend with the Gotham Bowl, Bob Devaney’s first. I watched that on a snowy television screen. 

ES: I’m going to agree with Brandon. I loved the Peach Bowl when I was there for UCF-Auburn. I’d go back in a heartbeat if Nebraska got there. If not the Peach Bowl, my second pick would be the Pinstripe Bowl because it would give me a reason to go to New York City for the holiday season. 

How much would it take to disown your fandom to your favorite team? Bad trades? No free agent acquisitions? Being a New York Knick? (@btran0524) 

DP: I don’t think there’s anything basketball-related that could happen to my Thunder that would cause me to disown them. I think that’s the deal with fandom. You’ve got to love them at their worst so you can truly appreciate the highs. I think about all the bad luck the Thunder have had when it comes to injuries, I think about how we were a Kevin Durant re-sign away from having a Westbrook-Oladipo-Durant-Horford-Adams starting lineup, and yeah all that stuff sucks but if we were to win something after all that, I can only imagine what that’ll feel like. When OKC made the Finals back in 2012, the state lost its mind. Winning a Finals? That’s worth all the infuriatingly-bad Sam Presti draft picks. 

JP: Well, the Suns signing Terry Rozier like they were reportedly trying to do probably would have done it for me. I think fandom is a little different when you have no geographic or family ties to the team. I’m a Suns fan because of Steve Nash. He’s long gone now, and Robert Sarver has managed to steer the Suns right into the cellar of the NBA, but I’ve stuck around through all of that. I’d have a hard time completely cutting myself off from the Suns – more because of the fellow Suns fans I know and enjoy conversing with online than anything else – but I probably wouldn’t make nearly as much of an effort to watch the games. At the end of the day, sports are supposed to be an entertaining diversion from life. If all your team does is make you miserable, devoting your time to following that team probably isn’t in your best interest (and I’m talking prolonged incompetence more than a bad year or two here). 

GS: Woo, boy. I was close at the end of the season to taking down my Lakers shrine in my basement. My biggest issue with the franchise is always when they are run so incompetently that they can’t function. This isn’t hard for them (which frustrates other fanbases) because they have so many advantages, so it makes it worse. Stay away from bad headlines enough to get meetings with good free agents, hire qualified people and the rest takes care of itself. I’ve seen some incredible highs having been a fan since the 90s, but it doesn’t make these last seven years any better. It seems like brighter days are ahead very soon. 

MB: Nothing, really, though the San Francisco Giants’ hiring of Farhan Zaidi came close. I’m convinced he came from the Dodgers not to rebuild the Giants but rather to permanently disable the Dodgers’ oldest rival. In other words, he is still working for LA undercover. Look at the moves he’s making. The evidence is clear. As for the Warriors, after paying max contracts to Curry, Green, Thompson and Russell, I’m not sure they have enough left under the cap to hire eight or nine decent players to fill out the roster. Still, I’m not bailing. 

Why does it seem even after a good week of recruiting we are behind last year? Do we have a chance at a top twenty class? (@SuperTrampJay) 
Why don’t we have more recruits? Is it by design or what? Asking for a friend. (@THINKMULE) 

JP: They may be a little behind schedule in terms of sheer numbers in the class at this point, but I’d say the quality is pretty darn good. Turner Corcoran is one of the highest-rated players in recent memory, Zavier Betts is bursting with upside and Nash Hutmacher is probably one of the strongest players in the 2020 class. Mario Verduzco loves the quarterback he got in Logan Smothers, Alex Conn is a solid piece to add to that offensive line room, Blaise Gunnerson fits a huge need and Tamon Lynum is Travis Fisher’s kind of prospect. Nebraska has done very well with its top targets so far, landing almost all of them that have committed to this point. I think we’ll see a few more decisions go Nebraska’s way over the next month or two. The Huskers only have 15 or so scholarship seniors, so 2020 likely wasn’t ever going to be a huge class. A top-20 class in terms of average ranking per recruit is certainly well within the realm of possibility; the question is whether or not their class will be big enough to rank that high (volume does play a large part in those rankings, after all). 

Last year Nebraska gave up 31 points a game. What does that number have to get down to guarantee at least nine wins? (@CountItsvan) 

BV: Maybe 30, but 28 would be better. If Nebraska’s offense can do what I think it’s capable of doing in a Year 2 scenario, a slight improvement on defense might be enough. You’re looking for about a nine-point differential in points per game to hit nine wins (most of the time). I think 38 points per game is a realistic number for the offense, so 30 on defense is cutting it close. 

GS: All offseason, I’ve been thinking about if it’s realistic that Nebraska cuts a touchdown off last year’s average to give up just 24 points a game. That might be too ambitious, so I’ll go with 28 as well. If the offense makes the jump I expect in Year 2, that will be enough to win 9. 

MB: This is concerning to me over the long haul, but probably it’s the direction of college football, having to score lots of points to win. So we’re talking about allowing four touchdowns as a basis for successful defense? 

DP: I kind of think the defense will be a field goal better than last year’s average, which doesn’t seem like “better,” but let me explain. I think the offense is stronger, sees an efficiency bump and becomes a little more explosive. They’re scoring more and the defense is on the field a little more, so, if you break it down to something like points-per-play, that’s where you’ll see the jump. I’m high on the defense — maybe higher than others as I really think Darrion Daniels is going to be a difference-maker — but I just think the nature of this schematic approach lends itself to more points on both sides of the scoreboard then people are normally comfortable with. 

Favorite Independence Day tradition? (@InDaWilderness) 

MB: I’m dull, sitting back and watching baseball on television. Used to be a Legion baseball tournament over the Fourth that I worked. Enjoy watching baseball at any level. It’s a good day for that. 

DP: This isn’t really a tradition as we just did it for the first time last year but my family went to a farm on the outskirts of the city we live in and shot tannerite, then grilled out, then watched fireworks over a lake. That was fantastic and I wish I was back there with them for that again. 

Who would be your ideal pick for the special musical guest for the preseason Nebraska basketball scrimmage event? (@HuskerPower66) 

JP: Nickelback. 

MB: What’s left of the Grateful Dead, with Warren Haynes. No question. 

ES: DMX. You have to. Also, Jacob is a troll.

You're at B1G Media Days in July and can ask two questions, one to a Husker player and one to a Husker coach, and they have to answer them. What are your questions and who are you asking? (@Corn_Huskers) 

DP: This is a good question. Am I guaranteed an answer? Does Scott Frost think his offense is the best in the Big Ten? Does he think it’s close? I’d ask a Husker player who the most overrated team in the conference is. 

If there was a three-on-three boxing match between the Buffs’ and Huskers’ players, who would you like to see in the octagon? (@Go_Big_Red) 

JP: Are we picking guys for different weight classes as well? If so, for my heavyweight I’ll go with Damian Jackson (see my Amazing Race answer). I’ll take Noa Pola-Gates for my light heavyweight; he may be small but he’s fast and we know he can really hit. My third guy is a bit tougher to come up with, but I’ll go with Braxton Clark as a cruiserweight; his length would be tough to deal with. Also, why are we boxing in an octagon? 

MB: I would defer to Jacob on all three. They’re in an octagon because it’s a free-for-all right? Maybe we shouldn’t have weight classes then, just three big, tough guys, in which case I’m considering, say, Jackson, Mo Barry and . . . Garrett Nelson maybe? 

Eight wins has been the number for the football team for what seems like all offseason. If you have to pick over or under (no push), what do you choose? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

BV: Over, but I’d expect to be sweating it the whole way (though not as much as I’d be sweating the under and no more than seven). I think eight is a good number, but I think the potential for a special season—say 10 wins or more—is greater than the potential for what would have to be considered a disappointing season at 7-5 or worse. 

MB: I’m with Brandon both ways, but I’d chance it with over because of how the schedule is set. 

DP: Over.  

Thoughts on Bolt’s initial commitments for the baseball team? Anyone or position in particular we should be looking out for next year? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

MB: I’m a poor at evaluating recruits. For me they need to get here and play. But I like the early spread of three Nebraskans and two from California. Pitching is always important and there will be opportunity with the departure of all three starters—presumably (or hopefully) Luensmann will be back, or at least closer, to form and so in the rotation. I work Legion baseball games here in Lincoln, PA and scoring (I’m paid exactly what I’m worth), and the consensus seems to be more and more, the best players are opting for select teams, so I’m seeing fewer of them. Still, Bolt and his staff seem to be making in-state connections that didn’t exist, for whatever reason, before. The consensus is positive. Texas A&M has again taken one good in-state player (Millard West), I think. Gotta keep those kids. 

It seems like we're really digging in on the rivalries lately – Colorado and Iowa especially. Thoughts on how that might affect recruiting athletes from those states? I can't think of many Nebraskans who wanted to join the Sooners back in the days of the Big Eight for example. (@Goooobigred) 

JP: Nebraska actually beating those teams on the field should only serve to help them as they continue to recruit in places like Iowa and Colorado. Oftentimes kids will be more willing to leave home for a place where they feel like they can win, and the easiest way to sell Nebraska as that kind of place to recruits is to, well, win. Getting back on the winning track should help the huskers keep their own kids at home as well. 

GS: Winning is the big key as Jacob said. Especially when it comes to recruiting against Iowa, Colorado and even Wisconsin. The next thing I’d throw in would be make the winning look like fun. If Nebraska starts winning and it looks like it did at UCF, they have something that really separates their brand from those schools.  

What is on the Mount Rushmore of summer content tropes? (@FeitCanWrite) 

DP: In a good way: jersey rankings, newly-unveiled jerseys, film dives, coaches going on random podcasts and going unfiltered. In a bad way: anonymous coaches dishing dirt on other teams, preseason rankings, any questions/stories about weight/muscle gain. I wanted to come up with four each but surprisingly came up short on the hating side. Huh.  

Completely unrelated to Nebraska, but after the first two days of free agency, who’s the team to beat in the NBA? (@ApolloSolace) 

JP: The nice thing right now is that I don’t know if there is one sole team to beat. Obviously the Golden State Warriors are going to be a shell of what they have been, although I wouldn’t be shocked if they found a way to be in contention come playoff time. Milwaukee led the league with 60 wins last season, but after losing Malcolm Brogdon I don’t expect them to be quite as good, although they should certainly be on the contender list. Brooklyn’s still a year away from contention while Kevin Durant recovers. Daryl Morey had big goals this offseason, but even without actually making any significant moves the Houston Rockets should be one of the best teams in the West. I like what the Utah Jazz have done. The Philadelphia 76ers have made some big moves and I’m not sure how they’ll play out come the postseason, but they certainly have the talent to compete with anyone. There’s only one real player left on the market who will shift the balance of power, and that’s Kawhi Leonard. If he picks the Lakers and Los Angeles is able to add a couple role players who can shoot, they’ll likely be the betting favorite if nothing else. If he returns to Toronto, they’ll certainly be in the mix to repeat next season. 

GS: As things stand right now, things are wide open. There is no clear team to beat and really the only way that changes is if (when) Kawhi Leonard picks the Lakers. If he returns to Toronto, it will be quite wide-open next year.  

MB: Unlike Jacob, I would be shocked if my Warriors are in contention at season’s end with a roster of four stars (though not sure when, or if, Thompson will return), three rookies and five or six has-beens (or never-wases). Houston, if Paul and Harden can get along? Toronto, if Kawhi were to stay? If Kawhi picks Greg’s Lakers for some reason, my interest in the NBA will come to an end. Just saying. Otherwise it’s wide-open.  

DP: Golden State could miss the playoffs and I wouldn’t be surprised, so suggesting they could be in contention at the end of the season seems crazy to me right now. Houston is one bad Harden chuck at the end of a game away from seeing its roster completely eat itself. They could blow up. I think the NBA is going to be more competitive this season than it has been in years — so I agree with the other guys on that point — but if you asked me for favorites at this point I’ll say this: With Kawhi in a Laker uniform, the Lakers are the best in the West and the Bucks are the best in the East. With Kawhi in a Raptor uniform, the Jazz are the best in the West and the Bucks are (still) the best in the East. 

Who becomes the starting rotation for defensive line, linebacker and/or wide receiver going into summer and fall camps? (@natethomas01) 

MB: First up, Darrion Daniels, Carlos Davis, Ben Stille, JoJo Domann, Alex Davis, Mo Barry and Collin Miller. Is that what you mean? Then Damion Daniels, Khalil Davis, Deontre Thomas, Tyrin Ferguson, Caleb Tannor, Will Honas and . . . Garrett Nelson again, maybe? I like Nelson’s attitude as well as his ability. Is that what you mean by rotation? As for wide receiver, JD Spielman, Kade Warner (for reliability) and . . . you pick ‘em. 

DP: Mike and I are in agreeance on the defensive line and linebacker first-teamers heading into camp. As for the wideouts, I’ve got JD Spielman, Andre Hunt and Wan’Dale Robinson. 

Predictions for Nebraska’s first 5-star recruit? (@ATH_EDITS) 

GS: I’m going to go with Elkhorn South offensive tackle Teddy Prochazka as the first 5-star of the Frost Era. He is not an early 2021 5-star but he has the tools to get there when the evaluators get around to Nebraska a bit more. That would be pretty cool. 

I just wanted to make a note that this week’s mailbag was so big we held a couple questions out for larger stories at a later time. So if you don’t see a question you submitted, Greg Smith is either writing about it or I am. I also wanted to say I greatly appreciate everyone that participates in these each week; I have memorized some of your Twitter handles at this point and I just want to say thanks for that continued engagement. — Derek

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