Hail Varsity Mailbag
Photo Credit: Quentin Lueninghoener

Mailbag: A Husker-Themed Game of Should They Stay or Should They Go?

December 09, 2020

It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time for another mailbag. The Hail Varsity team is back to answer all your Husker questions this week. Let’s get to it.

The team that played on Saturday, where was that team all year? Fast and decisive QB, special teams making a play to help us, a pass rush, etc. (@hspu6) 

Mike Babcock: Same team, better focus and a reflection of the learning process taking place. Winning is, in part, attitude, believing. Seemed as if that was there last Saturday, and to some degree the Friday before. 

Brandon Vogel: It was back-to-back strong performances from Adrian Martinez. You never know how these things will go, but right now it looks like his response to losing the starting job briefly was a positive one. The defense played one of its more fundamentally sound games of the Scott Frost era, I thought. That group did a really good job remaining true to their assignments and doing the dirty work. Beyond that, a quick 14-0 lead thanks to some special teams plays was really the difference. Purdue outscored Nebraska by four over the final 50 minutes of that game, but it never really felt that way. Having an early lead can do wonders for the mindset. 

Was it unfair before the season to put so many expectations on Omar Manning? The kid hadn’t even played a game at this level and the media/fans kept acting like he was a savior coming in. (@TwinTwisterDad) 

Jacob Padilla: Well, I’d say Frost was the one who started the hype train. He spoke very highly of Manning on signing day. All across the country, highly-rated recruits from both the high school and junior college ranks make an early impact at their schools; why should Nebraska be an exception? The truth is Manning hasn’t had the chance to show whether or not he was deserving of the hype because he simply hasn’t been available, and that’s not something any of us could have seen coming. 

Greg Smith: Here is what Scott Frost said about Omar Manning at his December signing period press conference last year:  

“Omar I’m excited about,” Frost said. “All year we kind of wished we were a little more productive at our outside receiver spot. That’s one place where we thought we wanted a kind of guy that could come in and potentially help us right away. There wasn’t a better guy in the country, in my opinion, for what we were looking for than him. He looks different than anybody I’ve ever coached and has tape to match. I’m really excited to get him. He’s got a little work to do yet before he gets to campus, but I think he has a chance to change our offense.” 

Based on this and other quotes from Frost himself, there was no reason to not place expectations on Manning. 

Derek Peterson: I’d echo what Greg said. When we don’t have access to practice, we gotta go by what they tell us, so they have a large role to play in crafting the public expectation or the public perception of a guy.  

I know Frost said (Monday) that there haven’t been discussions about keeping seniors again for next year, given the eligibility rules for this year. But, who do you think stays for a 5th/6th year? Also how does this affect NSD this year? (@tchristensen43) 

JP: Most of these guys already being redshirt seniors makes this a tougher question, I think. How many college athletes really want to spend six years in school? I wouldn’t be surprised at all if most of them decided they were ready to move on to the next stage of their lives, whatever that may be. I could potentially see JoJo Domann returning; he lost a lot of time early in his career to injury and has been steadily improving over the last two seasons. Maybe if Ben Stille doesnt get great feedback from the NFL he could decide to take advantage of that extra year; perhaps that extra year of being a Husker could be important to a local kid like him. I could see Jack Stoll wanting a do-over with how this season has gone because of the injury, and maybe Deontai Williams thinks another healthy year could get him drafted; I think he’s been playing better lately after a rusty start to the season. 

MB: Jacob’s points describe things pretty well. I’d expect Stille to come back. I’d also expect those who haven’t played much to move on if they’re close to completing a degree. If not, maybe they’ll stay. Seniors staying will also affect younger players’ opportunity to get on the field. I’m wondering how the coaches might handle things for some guys, particularly those on scholarship, behind the scenes. 

GS: I wouldn’t be surprised about anyone returning outside of Brenden Jaimes, Deontai Williams and Marquel Dismuke. Those conversations are going to be so delicate between the staff and players. I don’t think it’ll have an impact on early signing because teams won’t know yet who is coming back because the team is still playing games. Ask me again in February though. 

DP: I don’t know that he’d do it, but I’d really put the hard sell on Brenden Jaimes to come back another year. He’s a true senior so doing so isn’t going to suddenly create some perception amongst NFL scouts he’s too old, and Nebraska could really use another year of him to work above and train a guy like Turner Corcoran.

Who would you rather face in the December 19 champions week? Michigan or Michigan State? (@Go_Big_Red)
Would you rather see Nebraska take on Wisconsin or an East opponent we haven’t played yet this year (Rutgers, Michigan) during championship week? (@JEREIH) 

Erin Sorensen: I think I’d rather Nebraska play Michigan, because the Frost-Harbaugh matchup could be interesting. I wouldn’t have an issue with a Nebraska-Michigan State matchup, but my personal preference would just be Michigan. As for your second question, give me Wisconsin. I’d be curious to see how Nebraska would match up with Wisconsin and since we didn’t get to see that in 2020, that’d be my ultimate pick. 

MB: Michigan, though will the COVID issues, which are extensive, be resolved in time? My preference then would be any team that could play a week from now. 

BV: I think you could make an argument that Rutgers might provide the truest test right now. Michigan has better players, though this season doesn’t seem like it would offer a true look at the Wolverines so it’s hard to know what to make of the result from such a game. Michigan State has better history, but it’s a strange year for the Spartans, too. That’s why I’ll choose the Scarlet Knights. A relatively “normal” year for them and a pretty good one. This might be the first time Rutgers has been my top pick for anything since joining the Big Ten. 

DP: Frost with a chance to put the nail in Harbaugh’s coffin? I’d like to see that. 

Are we at the point where Adrian is the clear QB1? Or is it still a pretty open competition, week to week thing? (@radicalhusker) 

JP: I’m sure Frost will continue to say it’s a competition, but I can’t see how Martinez loses his job if he continues to play like this. To be honest, with what we’ve seen of McCaffrey as a passer, I’m really curious how they were graded so closely in practice.  

ES: Martinez is the clear QB1, whether or not it’s said. Obviously, that can change if the level of play drops, but if he continues to play as he has? Job’s his. 

Is Omar Manning a senior right now? Do you see him coming back next season if he doesn’t play this season? Do you think the Big Red could run an option with Adrian Martinez QB, Dedrick Mills FB and one of our running backs at I-back? (@CarnesRegg) 

JP: Omar Manning is a junior. So with this year not counting, he would technically have two more years of eligibility if he wants to take advantage of them. I’m not really sure what to make of his situation. Nebraska has run some QB-RB option at times this season, but I don’t expect to see the kind of option you’re describing much if at all this season. 

MB: I’d like to see the option you describe. Would I ever. But I’d be shocked at this point.  

Does Greg think Thomas Fidone will end up with five stars? (Justin Taylor, email) 

GS: We are getting to the point of no return with rankings updates. So right now I will say no but I think he is deserving.  

Looking ahead. If any of the seniors head to the draft this year, would any get their names called? And if so who? (@InDaWilderness) 

JP: I think Brenden Jaimes has shown enough as a pass blocker to get drafted. Beyond that, I’m not totally sure. Dicaprio Bootle and JoJo Domann could get looks (I believe Domann’s dad is an agent, so that could help him). Maybe Ben Stille has a shot?  

MB: JoJo’s dad is an agent, so that will figure into whether he opts to return or go. I agree with Jacob about Jaimes and Bootle, not so much Stille, though he’s reshaped himself for sure and has the look. I’d add Matt Farniok as a possibility.  

Who do you see coming in next year and making a difference right away? (@UpstateHusker) 

GS: The low-hanging fruit answer is Thomas Fidone. They are going to give him every opportunity to carve out a role. He’s different from the other tight ends they have so he can be used in different ways. After him it’s a mixed bag but you can always count on someone playing early in some fashion.  

Stoll has been noticeably quieter the last few games, is that more due to injury or has Allen passed him as the primary receiving TE? (@Unclerico9806) 

JP: Austin Allen has been one of the team’s most reliable receiving threats all season. Jack Stoll has gotten some snaps the last few weeks, but it seems like he hasn’t been able to get back to where he was at the end of last year and in the first game this season before the injury. Honestly, I’m surprised he returned as quickly as he did, even if he’s only been playing a reduced role. 

BV: Stoll is one of the more interesting return-or-go cases in my mind because Allen has played so well and Vokolek has established himself as part of the offense.  

Why is there not a national championship-caliber powerhouse team among Big Ten women’s basketball? Each of the other major conferences seems to have at least one title contender every year. (@dmhusker1)

DP: Only one time in the last six seasons has Maryland finished with more than five losses. The Terps haven’t had double-digit losses since the 2009-10 season. That’s a really good team with a really good coach that continues to have high-level talent. They might not be “Final Four every year” good right now, but they were there and lost to No. 1s in back-to-back years not too long ago. It’s just one of those deals where the UConns and Baylors and (lately) South Carolinas of the world have been running the sport.

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