Hail Varsity Mailbag
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Mailbag: Over/Under 1,200 Yards Rushing in 2020 for Dedrick Mills?

May 06, 2020

It’s mailbag time. Let’s get to it.

Books or music? You can only choose one to have for the rest of your life. Which one do you choose, and which one do you go without forever? (@Corn_Huskers) 

Mike Babcock: Reluctantly, I give up music and stick with books. Wait a minute, uh . . . you’ve posed a tough one. How about I keep them both and give up television? 

Erin Sorensen: Music means too much to me to give up. I’d miss books, but this was a decently easy decision for me. With that said, maybe someone could just sing books and turn it into a new audiobook format. 

Greg Smith: Giving up music would just be way too tough. Getting ready for the day, working out, working, driving in the car without music would be odd for me. Sorry books. 

Jacob Padilla: I don’t listen to music anyway, so this is an easy choice for me. 

Brandon Vogel: I hate this question more than any other we’ve ever received because it’s too hard. I’ve been passionate about both for as long as I can remember. I’ll reluctantly take books because if we end up in a world where “A Quiet Place” isn’t a movie but reality, music would be out the window anyway and had I chosen music then I wouldn’t have anything. Books seem like a better play for a post-apocalyptic future, should that arrive, though there is that episode of “The Twilight Zone” with Burgess Meredith to think about. Again, I hate this good question. 

Derek Peterson: No.

What is the movie you would want to see a remake, reboot, updated version of? You cannot choose a movie that has already been remade. Who would be in your remake? (@Corn_Huskers) 

MB: Shouldn’t answer this, but I will. I don’t like remakes, updates of the movies I’ve enjoyed. Woody Allen movies couldn’t be remade with the same effect, for example. Long ago, when I was considering a career, if not sports writing, I thought I might be a film critic. (Laughing can begin.) To that end, I watched Felini, Godard, etc. Maybe some of those could be remade to make sense. 

ES: Legally Blonde. Reese Witherspoon is going to reprise her role as Elle Woods for a third installment (the second wasn’t that good, so I’m hoping the third is much, much better) but that’s different than what you asked. Legally Blonde has stood the test of time for me and I don’t believe it needs to be remade, but it would be interesting to see what it would look like today. As for who would pay Elle? Well, Reese’s daughter IS a spitting image of her. 

Do you think Bivens plays a role in the running back rotation in the upcoming season? Also, do you think he is healthy enough? (@Go_Big_Red) 


Talk about John Bivens. (@HuskerNation540) 

GS: I wrote about this subject yesterday but the huge question here is if he is healthy enough to contribute. We won’t know that until practices start back up but it’s best to keep expectations low and be pleasantly surprised. 

JP: The fact that he’s walking on should tell you to enter into this deal with low expectations. At this point, I’d say both Ronald Thompkins and Bivens are lottery tickets – don't expect anything but if you get lucky the payoff could be big. 

Will the Husker walk-on ever be what it used to be? There are so many good teams in the area that players can start at or transfer too. I don’t get how free tuition for those whose parents make $60,000 or less will help bring players here. (@JacobKrueger) 

MB: There was a time and place for the walk-on program as it was under Tom Osborne in its heyday. That included a freshman-jayvee program and more graduate assistants to oversee it and accommodate all the players. A couple of years, Nebraska took 80, even close to 90, walk-ons. And as you say, smaller schools offer scholarships at a time when tuition keeps going up markedly, so that even for families with better income have to think twice. Plus, with the internet and social media and recruiting analysts everywhere, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to miss talent, regardless of where it is. 

ES: To your last point, I don't think free tuition will bring all students to a school. It might bring some but I’m not sure what that means for the walk-on program at all. One thing that might help walk-on programs though? The ability to profit on your name, image and likeness. Depending on the program, it might provide additional incentive to a player in the decision process who is more willing to come to a school regardless of tuition if they can make some money while doing it. Regardless, Mike is right. Social media and things like Hudl have changed how people recruit, and that changes walk-on programs no matter what. 

JP: The free tuition opens up that walk-on path to some players that wouldn’t otherwise be able to turn down free education from lower-level schools in order to fulfill their dreams of playing at Nebraska. But overall, Nebraska should be fine. It’s far more important to hit on scholarship recruits than it is to worry about losing a walk-on to an FCS school. Losing a guy like AJ Forbes to the transfer portal is unfortunate because he’s a good player who jumped some others on the depth chart, but he had two guys at least ahead of him in Cam Jurgens and Will Farniok, and they’re both underclassmen. Nebraska still has plenty of walk-ons and will continue to add them to the program. Getting a guy like Ty Hahn to walk on is a big win for the staff (even if the plan is to place him on scholarship eventually). The walk-on ranks will continue to produce some rotation players each year and every once in a while one will rise up and become a difference-maker. But that’s a supplement to the program, not a cornerstone (as much as Bill Moos keeps harping on it).  

DP: I just want to add that schools, where I grew up, offered the same kind of program back in 2013 when I was deciding where to go to school. I don’t think that’s going to be a huge recruiting tool for NU when it comes to the walk-on program. I know I’m in the minority, but I just think the walk-on program is something that can provide a select few guys on occasion. It’s not going to be like it was. 

The Big Ten conference pushed all sports operations back until June 1. Do you think they will continue to push it back or do you think they accommodate and allow sports operations to start back up in phases just like everything else? (@Go_Big_Red) 

MB: Phase in, don’t you think? I’d doubt things will be full-go June 1. We need to see the results of states phasing back in the openings of places. 

ES: Things will have to open back up in phrases, no matter what. If they determine things can start to move forward on June 1, they will but it won’t all happen at once.  

JP: They’re probably going to keep pushing it back until we have a better solution for treating and tracking this thing since a vaccine is still a long way off. These decisions are about buying time to keep working towards making it safe enough to start returning to normal-ish life (in phases, like Mike and Erin said). Keep your fingers crossed the scientists and medical professionals make some kind of breakthrough in the next month. 

Husker basketball, comparing this season’s roster with next season’s, where will we be stronger (shooting percentage and rebounding)? And where could we be weaker (hopefully nothing)? (@hspu6)  

JP: The only thing the 2019-20 team was really good at was playing the style Fred Hoiberg wanted. With that being the case, as long as the new roster buys in the same way, the Huskers will have a chance to be better almost across the board. The emphasis on adding size and physicality at multiple spots should help the team get better on the glass and on defense. Hoiberg’s hope is that they’ll be much better finishing around the rim with guys like Derrick Walker, Dalano Banton, Shamiel Stevenson, Teddy Allen and maybe Kobe King taking those shots compared to a 17-year-old Yvan Ouedraogo, Dachon Burke Jr., Cam Mack and Jervay Green. I think 3-point shooting has the potential to be much better, but the players still have to prove it at this level (as we saw with Green and Matej Kavas). Hoiberg’s added some good 3-point shooters, but I don’t think any of them are elite and some of the guys have a lot of work to do on their shots.  

Without the spring game to give good storylines, and with all of the negative national coverage and whatnot that I've been getting more and more pessimistic about the upcoming year. How are y'all feeling heading into summer and what needs to happen for this team to be special? (@InDaWilderness)

MB: I’m pessimistic, as you are, and becoming more so as we find out more about this virus, or realize we no less than we thought. Anyway, I think Nebraska coaches have done a good job of staying on top of things in recruiting, given the hurdles to overcome. Every school is dealing with the same issues, so we’ll just have to wait until things can be relaxed and see how the Huskers handle the next step—when it can be taken. 

JP: Since we weren’t actually able to see or learn anything this spring, I’m not feeling all that different than I have been. “Special” is probably a ways off, and losing some much-needed development time this spring didn’t help. But the short-term goal (whenever football resumes) has to be progress. The offensive line and quarterback play in particular have to take a big step forward from last year and appear to have the pieces necessary to do so. If that happens, I think it will elevate the rest of the team and the Huskers will be able to at least get to a bowl game even with the tough schedule. 

COVID hurting Nebraska more than other BIG schools in the West division? (@navymousel) 

MB: Certainly in recruiting Nebraska had something of an advantage over the others bringing recruits to Lincoln so they could experience what it’s like, the energy and so forth. Not having a (sold-out) spring game hurt for sure. 

ES: Nebraska lives by the visits in recruiting to show things off. The spring game is especially beneficial. Not having that, or the ability to get guys on campus and face-to-face, definitely makes things tougher for Nebraska. I’d be remiss to say that’s not affecting everyone though. 

GS: Yes, they are hurt by lack of visits and a general philosophy of not being too pushy about forcing commits to happen. The flip side of that is if Nebraska can weather the storm right now there will be a lot of ground that can be made up later because decommits are going to happen.  

Would you take the over or under for Mills reaching 1200 yards? (@ChicagoStation) 

MB: If Mills has figured out a way to stay on top of things during the pandemic, I think he could be used in a way that would allow his to reach 1,200 yards. That’s in part because of effectively no spring, meaning he has the necessary game experience to carry him along and be the guy. 

JP: I’ll take the under on that. Nebraska hasn’t had someone crack that mark since Ameer Abdullah in 2014. Mills’ productivity (and usage) was all over the place last season. Until I actually see Nebraska commit to Mills as its workhorse back and Mills consistently produce in that role, I wouldn't be comfortable betting on it to happen. 

DP: Over. To argue Jacob’s two points, I don’t think Nebraska has any other choice but to commit to Mills, one, and two, Mills averaged 5.2 yards a run last year. He was 10th in the conference in carries with 143. Simply taking Maurice Washington’s totes away and giving them to Mills, which makes the most sense in trying to figure out what a “full” workload may have been a year ago, would get him to 1,000 yards in 2019 based off his per-carry average (Washington had 50 carries). Is growth in the system, growth up front, and fewer carries for Wan’Dale Robinson worth an extra 200 yards to me over 13 games? Yup. I think the dude is the kind of runner who can carry that workload, and I think the lost spring practices might actually impact Nebraska’s propensity to run the ball in 2020.

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