Major Storylines to Watch at 2019 Big Ten Media Days
Photo Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Mailbag: A Big Ten Media Days Soundtrack (Of Sorts)

July 10, 2019

The Hail Varsity staff is back for another mailbag. We cover three sports and plenty of ground so let’s get into it.

Does James Palmer make an NBA roster or G-League roster, and where do you think he fits the best in terms of team and position at the next level? (@JJStark8) 

Derek Peterson: James followed up an encouraging 4-for-7 from 3, 23-point performance on Sunday with a 2-for-8 from 3, 4-for-11 from the field showing on Tuesday in a 10-point loss to the Grizzlies. But he had five boards, four assists, two blocks, a steal and the best plus/minus of anyone on the Suns. And he still scored 18 points. He’s pretty much given the good and the bad in the first two showings. As a scorer, he’s a known commodity, but can he consistently knock down perimeter shots and can he give you enough of the other stuff on a night-to-night basis. I think at his ceiling he’s a scoring off-guard off the bench in the league, because he has the physical tools to be a decent defender. My best guess would be he takes the G-League route to get there. The Suns play the Spurs tonight at 8 p.m. CT on NBA TV, so watch that. 

Jacob Padilla: I think Palmer’s best shot at the NBA is a two-way contract where he spends part of the season with an NBA team and part of it with the team’s G League affiliate. Like Derek’s said, despite the numbers he’s put up he’s still done it in a very Palmer-like fashion. In the first game, he shot well from the perimeter but not inside the arc. In the second game, the 3-pointer wasn’t falling but he got to the free-throw line. Palmer always finds a way to score, but at the NBA level a player in his position just isn’t going to get the kind of volume of possessions Palmer often needs. If nothing else, I think there’s a place for the G League for him this season if that’s the path he chooses. He’s got the size and length to play the two or three and hold his own in most match-ups. 

Congratulations! Hail Varsity has all of you driving in a luxury van to Chicago for Big Ten Media Days. What three albums are a must listen on your trip? New, old, in-between. (@Corn_Huskers) 

Greg Smith: The Black Panther album by Kendrick Lamar, Whitney Houston Greatest Hits and FutureSex/LoveSounds by Justin Timberlake. Let’s roll. 

DP: The complete 20/20 Experience, Coloring Book and 2014 Forest Hills Drive. 

Brandon Vogel: My Morning Jacket’s At Dawn, Pusha T’s Daytona and Ray Price’s Night Life. Not only is that in-between, new, old, it is also morning, day(tona) and night. 

Erin Sorensen: Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You, Kacey Musgrave’s Golden Hour and CHVRCHES’ Love Is Dead. 

Mike Babcock: American Beauty or Europe 72, Grateful Dead; For the Last Time, Tribute to Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, various artists; Between Dreams, Jack Johnson.  

JP: Nickelback.

DP: Formal request to have Jacob reprimanded. 

If Nebraska becomes a middle of the pack defense in the BIG, do they win the conference? (@tklim2430) 

DP: In the Big Ten, Nebraska’s defense last season ranked 12th in scoring, 12th in points per play, 11th in yards per carry, 10th in yards per play, 10th in third-down defense and ninth (tied) in turnovers forced. All of that and the Huskers had a top-50 offense and they were outscored on the season by four touchdowns total. Given that we expect the offense to, what, crack the top-25, I’d say if the defense is middle-of-the-road in those above metrics then yes Nebraska will certainly win the conference. I don’t think you’re going to have a top three or four defense in terms of numbers when you have this style of play. If Nebraska manages to get in the six or seven range in some of the key areas like per-play metrics, third down defense and turnovers, the actual product on the field, I think, will look really, really good for a lot of people. 

BV: My real answer is that Nebraska would have a great shot if that were the case, a better shot than it’s being given now. In an effort to be more definitive, however, I’ll say yes. In a pretty open year for the Big Ten, if Nebraska has a middle-of-the-pack defense and the offense progresses as I think it could, it can win the conference. 

JP: I think there enough questions on offense for me to be a bit hesitant about declaring them the Big ten champs with an average defense, but I do think that’d be enough to at least win the division. 

Can you please explain how FPI gives us a better chance to beat Ohio State than Minnesota? (@InDaWilderness) 

BV: The biggest reason is simple: The Ohio State game is at home. FPI has Ohio State at 14.1 points better than the average team and Nebraska at 8.2, so on a neutral field the Buckeyes are a 5.1-point favorite. But then you subtract two or three points (I use 2.5) from that for home field and it’s Buckeyes by 2.6. The FPI difference between Minnesota (8.9) and Nebraska is 0.7 in favor of the Gophers. Add 2.5 to that because it’s in Minneapolis and you get Gophers by 3.2. All that said, the difference between a 42% win probability (Ohio State) and one of 39.5% (Minnesota) is practically nothing. I look at those two games and think, “FPI gives Nebraska about the same odds to win either game.” 

If the 2019 season was determined by a sudden death match between mascots, who are you picking to win it all? (@InDaWilderness) 

ES: If we’re talking just Big Ten, Purdue Pete simply because of how terrifying he is. You could make an argument for the Spartan (strength and a sword!) or the Rutgers Knight (again, sword), but Purdue Pete is probably plotting all of our deaths right now. Outside of the Big Ten, give me any live mascot. LSU’s Mike the Tiger would probably destroy you. Colorado’s Ralphie is an animal I also don’t want to mess with. Same with Texas’ Bevo. Long story short: Live mascots always win. Purdue Pete just scares me. 

DP: Testudo is the best mascot in the conference. But Purdue Pete is the most terrifying. I don’t know. 

BV: Are we limited to the Big Ten? If not, Mike the Tiger, LSU’s actual tiger, is clearly the apex predator of the live mascots (humans excepted, I suppose). He could take down Ralphie or Bevo given the chance. If we’re stricking to the Big Ten, I’m going with Penn State’s costumed Nittany Lion. Like most things Penn State, it seems like it is made to look shabby on purpose. That Lion has seen some things, been in some scrapes. His daddy worked a lifetime in the coal mines and died at 42. He’s had to scratch for everything he’s ever had. Do not engage. 

DP: Okay if we aren’t limited to the Big Ten my answer is changing to the Florida State mascot. That’s a real person with a horse and a flaming spear. 

MB: I’m going with Derek on FSU. That lance is planted in any other mascot. Thanks for coming, drive safely on the way home. As for the Big Ten only, Purdue Pete is imposing but Herbie would out-smart him, sneak attack. Don’t let that happy face deceive you. No one knows this for sure, but I think Herbie is well-trained in the martial arts and he may have done some training on the side with Damian Jackson. 

JP: I feel like if Nebraska sent Lil’ Red instead of Herbie, he and Purdue Pete would likely team up and use some sort of dark arts to suck the souls out of everyone else.  

We haven't heard much about Hunter Miller, what kind of role does he play on the offensive line this year, barring injury? (@Go_Big_Red) 

MB: I’m making the assumption that Cam Jurgens will continue to develop and improve at center—and stay healthy. So that means Miller will be competing for the back-up job at center, with enough versatility to back up at guard as well. AJ Forbes in a similar situation, as is Will Farniok. That’s a good situation to have. As I’ve said before, Mike Cavanaugh’s five-guys-only approach to practice and games isn’t the way to go. Nebraska’s best lines have had depth. Miller will contribute to that. And if something were to happen to Jurgens, he might well be the guy in the middle. 

DP: I would guess Miller is the main backup at center, which isn’t a knock on his ability, if Jurgens was still a tight end I think Miller would probably be the first option heading into fall camp. Even with a backup role in name, he probably rotates in for Greg Austin. AJ Forbes took snaps at center in the spring but I image he might be Boe Wilson’s primary backup. Will Farniok is the one guy I have no clue where to place. 

JP: It really does seem like Frost is ready to roll with Jurgens at center and let him learn on the job, so that leaves everyone else competing for the back-up spot. I jave no clue how to distinguish between Miller, AJ Forbes and Will Farniok at this point, however. I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them come off the bench behind Jurgens. 

With regards to Big Ten Media Days, what would be one question you would ask Coach Frost? (@Go_Big_Red) 

DP: Does he have to answer it? I want to know if he could, would he put Michigan on the schedule for this season.  

ES: If he thinks we should go to Shake Shack or Gino’s East for dinner. 

Other than the Huskers, which team are you most interested in at Big 10 media days? (@dmhusker1) 

ES: Ohio State. Last year was a weird year for Ohio State at Big Ten Media Days because that’s when the news and drama really began for the Buckeyes. Ohio State now has a new head coach, and it’ll be interesting to see him handle the attention. I’m guessing he’s going to be a pretty popular breakout table on Day 1. 

BV: Buckeyes and then Gophers. 

DP: Wisconsin. This might be new territory for the Badgers. Northwestern won the division last season, Wisconsin had a bad year, now everyone is talking about Nebraska and Purdue and Minnesota and Iowa. How does this Badger team with an exciting young quarterback and, still, the best running back in football feel about being almost entirely overlooked? What’s the mentality? Also, I enjoyed asking Iowa and Wisconsin players last year how they felt about Nebraska — they had some interesting insight — and I wonder if the perception changes a little bit now that the Huskers are getting love. 

What’s the news with Maurice Washington and Wan’Dale Robinson? Will either or both end up suiting up this year? (@bupward50) 

GS: I think we’ve entered no news is good news with Maurice Washington. He’s been with the team working out and we will ultimately see where his case ends up. I can’t imagine a scenario in which Wan’Dale isn’t out there all season.  

DP: There’s just nothing to report with Washington in between court dates. Nebraska’s in wait-and-see mode. I still think Washington plays this season, but not the whole season. And Wan’Dale is going to play every game, barring any unforeseen health concerns. The citation earlier this summer wasn’t anything that will cost him his spot on the team and it’s not reason enough to question character.  

MB: Both will suit up, depending on the legal proceedings in California involving Washington, with team discipline handled internally. 

There are a few sites online that provide stats but what ones are used by the staff for research? Football, Basketball, Baseball…or is that secret sauce? (@ChuckandM) 

BV: I use literally every day and have for years. It’s the first place I go when I need a number. is a big one for me for the specific thing it provides (not stats, but historical data) and continues to have a unique way to look at the game. I’ll also plug and its official stats. Once you get a sense for where to look and how to navigate it, there’s a lot of good data to be had. 

What is position of Frost & staff on using 2nd or 3rd string QB for mop-up duty early in the season? Do they give Martinez more reps in the non-conf part of the season or give him rest (if score allows) to develop Vedral & Bunch? History at UCF? (@Cty2CtyLyle) 

BV: I don’t know if we have a great sense for that yet. In 2016 at UCF the Knights were trying to find a starter and eventually settled on McKenzie Milton. In 2017, Milton’s backup was a true freshman (Noah Vedral) so you probably use that guy a little less than you would, say, a redshirt sophomore (though Vedral did appear in eight games that year). We all know about the QB depth issues at Nebraska last year. You could argue that 2019 is the best chance Frost has had to insert the second-string QB at almost any point. Vedral, a redshirt sophomore now, has experience and knows the scheme as well as anyone. I’m interested to see what they do here. 

MB: Brandon summarized it well. If the score allows, I would expect Vedral to get an opportunity. He knows the system, certainly, but things are different because of those around him. So any game time he can get will be important. That Berringer was prepared to step in for Frazier in ‘94 meant a national championship. That was long ago but remains Exhibit A for Husker fans. I’d like to see some opportunity for McCaffrey to get on the field while preserving his redshirt, without short-changing Martinez of course. 

JP: In 2017, Central Florida had eight blowout wins and Noah Vedral played in eight games. If the Huskers take care of business, Vedral will get a chance to play. 20-plus-point wins won’t come as easily in the Big Ten as they did in the American, but if Nebraska is ready to take the leap many expect they are then they should have a handful of no-doubters this season. 

Which true freshman will contribute the most to our football team in 2019? (@j_sanatez) 

GS: The very easy answer here is Wan’Dale Robinson. He will be a major part of the offense this season. My second choice would be Noa Pola-Gates. 

DP: What Greg said. 

MB: I’d like to be different, but I can’t. Luke McCaffrey has the ability—but not the opportunity. 

One word: Alternates? (@ApolloSolace) 
Is there any talk about mixing in more uniform combinations besides the third uniform for this year? (@bugeater66) 

MB: Two words: No, please. And yes, I’m the “get-off-my-lawn" old guy, stuck in tradition. Having said that, I understand the dynamic; you do what you have to do. If there’s marketing value, or recruiting value, go ahead, even though you’re going through a door opened by, say, Oregon long ago now. I have heard no talk of a third. Thankfully. 

DP: One word: yes.

What’s the word on green? Going to Texas tech or still looking? (@III_Huskers_III) 

GS: I wrote about this more in Big Red Recon last Friday but I expect Jahkeem Green to end up in Lincoln this summer.  

Which team records more sacks vs Colorado: 2018 Nebraska or 2019 Nebraska? (@Jrod39) 

MB: I hope you can come back at me after the game, but I’d be surprised if the Huskers equal, much less surpass, seven sacks against Colorado this season, even though the Buffs have a new coach. 

JP: It’s going to be tough to surpass seven sacks. I think Nebraska will have less sacks in that game but more sacks total this season. That game proved to be a flash in the pan last season. 

Which of the sports do you see the most opportunity to faster success and which the least? (Ex: volleyball, baseball, basketball, etc.) Obviously, starting where they are now towards their potential. (@AlpineAddiction) 

MB: Volleyball is already there, and apparently softball has some issues, so there’s the bottom right now. Also, it depends on how success is defined. Let’s say winning the Big Ten, men’s sports: Football faster, basketball least, with baseball in between. 

JP: Volleyball is already at the pinnacle of the sport; hard to see much more room for growth there. Football started off in a pretty tough place and Frost is still in the process of turning over the roster. Fred Hoiberg completely flipped the roster in a few months. I’m still not sure how good they’ll be in year one, but comparing the size of rosters and starting points I think basketball has a chance to flip things more quickly. Baseball I’d probably put behind both basketball and football simply because I don’t know what to expect from Will Bolt as a head coach. I think women’s basketball is pretty high on that list as well because of all the talent Amy Williams has coming back. They probably underperformed last year while all the freshmen and sophomores took their lumps, but I think they could make a big jump this year because of that experience. 

Would you trade any one of the 90s championships for one this year? (@BrMags) 

MB: I would not adjust Nebraska’s football tradition in any way: ‘94, Osborne’s first, ‘95, among the best-ever, ‘97, sent Osborne out a winner. Even without those elements, I wouldn’t change Husker history in any way.  

JP: Selfishly, I probably would. I wasn’t even really watching football in the ‘90s (I was born in ‘92), and now I’m covering the team. Covering a volleyball national championship my first year on the beat was an unbelievable experience; I can only imagine what it would be like to cover a football championship. 

So, Russell is basically untradable because of the $47M in 22-23 when he’s 33. How is Husker baseball recruiting going? (@hspu6) 

DP: Erin’s going to give me grief for including another question that doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the team but yolo. I don’t think Westbrook is immovable. I think the casual fans on Twitter and Kevin Durant’s business partner aren’t an accurate representation of the way Westbrook is viewed within the league. He’s a guy who front offices don’t have to worry about at all. His motor, his off-court life, his ability to score the basketball, none of those things are issues. He’s a star in the eyes of his peers and he’s an icon in the eyes of the young guys entering the league who grew up watching him. It’s hilarious to me that he spent the last year getting torn apart by people only for Miami, Detroit, Houston and Chicago to leak they’re willing to give up serious assets to put him on their team within days of the Thunder making him sorta-kinda available. And those are just the teams we know about. He’ll get traded, I’ll be sad, and some fanbase who has hated him for years and called him a stat-padder and whatever else will get hyped because of his addition.  

MB: I have no further comment on Westbrook. I couldn’t. That’s Derek’s guy, and team—though if Miami could come up with enough, I’d expect Russell to be headed there. Me, I’m more concerned about the Warriors . . .  

As for baseball, Perfect Game lists Nebraska recruiting No. 77 at this point, with 10 players, three from Nebraska and most recently Drew Mackie, an outfielder from Liberty, Missouri. 

JP: “His motor, his off-court life, his ability to score the basketball, none of those things are issues.” – He scored roughly 23 points on 23 shooting possessions per game (.468 eFG%), so scoring the ball actually is a part of the issue at this stage in his career, no? 

DP: Formal request to have Jacob fired.

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