Nebraska football returns to the practice field tomorrow morning after a week off for spring break. After that first "here's what awaits you when you return" type practice for Nebraska 10 days ago, it feels like we can fully dig into spring football – with all its standard position races, "bigger, faster, stronger," etc. – this week.
This spring is different for the Huskers on a couple of obvious fronts, but one that might get overlooked is the presence of eight early enrollees. That's about double what previous highs have been at in Nebraska, and, because new guys always draw a lot of intrigue and column inches, the talk of new players making an impact that comes with any spring will probably be elevated in Lincoln in the weeks to come.
I was thinking about this as I read through Phil Steele's recent series looking back at his top 50 high school prospects in the 2017 class by position. In typical, fanatical Steele fashion, he revisited his lists (defensive backs haven't been published yet) and tracked down the players' actual performance as true freshmen.
But it was the redshirt tally that really interested me. While far from a representative sample of all freshmen – these are the top players at their positions, which means different things based on the position – I found the "redshirt rates" intriguing. For the top-50 guys in the 2017 class, at which position do you think it was the easiest to earn immediate playing time? The most difficult?
Have your answers? Here were the rates for the positions Steele has hit so far. I've also included any Huskers that made the 2017 lists as well as any on Steele's 2018 rankings.
|POS||RS RATE||17 HUSKERS||18 HUSKERS|
|DL||54%||G. Thomas (47)||
|LB||34%||Roberts (21)||Tannor (45)|
Some quick thoughts:
>>It wasn't a surprise to see quarterback have the highest redshirt rate. Not only is it the position where experience probably matters the most, it also has the fewest candidates considering most schools take one quarterback a year. The 50th-best quarterback gets you pretty deep into the entire list of quarterbacks in a class.
>>The same isn't true at offensive line, where the 50th-best linemen should still be fairly elite based on the total number signed. Given the size difference between college and high school linemen typically, it's not a surprise to see that this had the second-highest redshirt rate among Steele's top 50. Also of note, no Nebraska signee ranked in Steele's top 50 in 2017 or 2018
>>It wasn't much easier to see the field early on the defensive line, with just 46 percent of those highly coveted 2017 D-line signees playing as true freshmen. Also interesting to see Guy Thomas on that list. He made Jacob Padilla's list of five under-the-radar Huskers on defense this spring.
>>If you want to play right away, be a receiver, running back or linebacker. Those are the positions where natural athletic ability – i.e. something that doesn't have to necessarily be honed to compete right away – is most valuable. I'll be really interested to see if the same holds true with the defensive-back numbers when those are published.
I'd say those numbers all seemed to be about in the range you'd expect based on stereotypical position traits. Nebraska of course isn't in a stereotypical spot this spring with the depth chart basically wiped clean (to a degree) under the new staff. Should make this spring pretty fun.
The Grab Bag
- ICYMI: Minnesota took two-of-three games from Nebraska to open Big Ten play as the Huskers were shut out on Sunday.
- Why did Alabama try to help Tennessee with its coaching search?
- While it seems like a crazy tournament, Neil Paine of Fivethirtyeight.com writes that there is a method to this year's March Madness.
- Former Nebrasketball assistant and current South Dakota head coach Craig Smith is reportedly close to taking the Utah State job.
Today's Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.