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Mailbag: College Football’s Transfer Portal and Volleyball—Beach Volleyball

January 19, 2022

It’s Wednesday, and that means one thing: mailbag time.

This week’s edition tackles a bunch of good questions regarding the transfer portal as it relates to Nebraska, which has been doing a good job of attracting talent looking for new homes. There’s also questions that deal with the men’s basketball team and volleyball—beach volleyball, that is.

Enough talking about it. Let’s read it:

Do we have a schedule for spring practices? Also, think we get another press conference to meet new coaches and talk about new players around the February signing day? (@lredeugene)

Brandon Vogel: Not officially yet, but counting back from the spring game date we’re most likely looking at the last week of February or first week of March to start with pro day around mid-March. A signing day press conference probably depends upon how many new players Nebraska adds, but I could see just waiting for a spring-kickoff press conference, particularly if practice is getting underway in February. 

How do you foresee the quarterback battle going? Who do you see winning it by fall? (@austin3pierce) 

Steve Marik: As Scott Frost enters a pretty important 2022 season for himself, it was important to bring in an experienced quarterback following the departure of Adrian Martinez to Kansas State. It wouldn’t have been wise to head into next season rolling with Logan Smothers, Heinrich Haarberg and Richard Torres. That’s not meant to be a shot at those quarterbacks, but the fact is that trio is very inexperienced as Smothers is the only one with a college start under his belt. Texas transfer Casey Thompson provides what Smothers, Haarberg, Torres and even Florida State transfer Chubba Purdy do not—game experience and a veteran presence. Thompson spent four seasons at Texas and started 10 games last year. To me, Nebraska wouldn’t have brought in Thompson if it didn’t plan on him winning the starting quarterback job. In my opinion, Purdy should be viewed as the future at quarterback—he has four years of eligibility left while Thompson has two—but don’t count out Smothers or Haarberg. Those two, especially Smothers, will head into spring practice with a chip the size of Texas on their shoulder. At the end of the day, the Huskers need to show improvement in 2022. They need to win. Competition is a good thing. 

Greg Smith: I don’t think the coaching staff would have made the effort to bring in Casey Thompson if they didn’t feel good about him winning the quarterback job. Barring a huge leap in development from the quarterbacks that were already on the team, Thompson will start game one. The battle for the pecking order of quarterbacks will be interesting though. Everyone starts from level one with Mark Whipple so how quickly those guys adjust will be key. 

Brandon: I would agree with the above, Thompson’s the favorite based on experience, but there’s an interesting subplot as Nebraska’s offense evolves this spring. Do you enter spring drills trying to tailor the offense to Thompson’s strengths—Whipple was pretty clear this is his approach when it comes to QBs—or does the overall vision for the offense take precedence this spring? If it’s the latter, his presumed lead on the field of QB contenders might not be as large as it looks at first glance. 

You are the new head basketball coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and you inherit the current roster: Who are your starting five? What five are you having on the floor in crunch time? (@JacobKrueger5) 

Jacob Padilla: That I don’t have a good answer for either of those questions is a good explanation for why Nebraska’s record stands at 6-12. There aren’t five players on this team who have consistently played well, individually or as a unit. Trey McGowens’ return will help, but everybody else around him needs to play better as well. I’d probably start Alonzo Verge Jr., both McGowens brothers, Lat Mayen and Derrick Walker, but I’d sub Kobe Webster in early for Verge, letting Webster play with Trey and Bryce and giving Verge a chance to run the bench units with shooters around him. Mayen isn’t playing well enough, but there really isn’t a better option right now. For the closing five, it’ll be Trey, Bryce, Walker and then whoever else is playing the best or matches up best with the specific opponent.

Who is your favorite football transfer so far? (@TwinTwisterDad) 

Jacob: I’ll go with Brian Buschini. Of all the transfers, I think it’s fair to say he’s the closest to being elite at what he does. Trey Palmer could be close as a kickoff returner, but until I see Nebraska actually block somebody on kickoffs I’m not sure having a dynamic returner will matter. 

Steve: Buschini is the pick in terms of what the team badly needed, a reliable punter who can flip fields and not shank 13-yarders (we’ll need to wait until the games are played to see if he’s exactly that). But if we’re talking about “favorite” as me geeking out as a fan of football, it’s an easy answer: safety DeShon Singleton, a junior-college product from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved watching big defensive backs. There’s just something cool to me about a physically bigger athlete at the corner and safety positions, and yes, I’m well aware that good ones like that don’t just grow on trees—they’re hard to find. Singleton, at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, fits that mold. He’s one of two junior-college transfers who the Huskers have brought in—the other being corner Javier Morton from Garden City (Kan.), who’s 6-2—and should be one of the favorites to start opposite Myles Farmer, who I think put himself in good position to start at the other safety spot, though he’ll need to earn it in spring and fall practice like everyone else. When I watch Singleton’s tape, I see a big body that can provide run support and tackle well in the box. A big part of being a safety is pass coverage, and the offenses he’ll see in the Big Ten are going to be quite different from what he’s seen. I’ll be really interested to see how well Singleton’s game translates to the Power Five level. 

Greg: I agree with Jacob, Buschini isn’t the flashiest pick but could have a huge impact. Palmer really could be the most exciting, but I’ll believe it when I see it on Nebraska having a return game.  

Mike Babcock: Casey Thompson for a couple of off-the-field reasons, both “duhs.” One, his dad played at Oklahoma; I have an enlarged photograph, made by a friend (and photographer at the Journal Star), of Broderick Thomas hugging Charles Thompson after a sack. So a transfer directly connected to Nebraska’s long-time rival. Two, he’s transferring from Texas, which helped drive Nebraska out of the Big 12. Three, his experience, as mentioned above, is much needed. The down side is, I expect Smothers, Haarberg or Torres (or all three) to be in the transfer portal if spring drills don’t go all that well. That’s the downside of the transfer portal, players to whom a coach made a commitment in recruiting, the commitment now nullified. 

Are there any more transfers we are going to pick up? (@Peyton51533) 

Greg: The short answer is yes. For the longer answer on why and potentially where check out Tuesday’s recruiting notebook. I think there are still a few spots Nebraska could use more competition.

Kayla Caffey is enrolled in classes for the spring and will compete for the Huskers’ beach volleyball team. Where is the beach volleyball season played? Do other members of the volleyball team play? (@Steve_Marik) 

Jacob: The beach volleyball season typically runs from late February through March for Nebraska. There are some schools that go all in on beach volleyball, but Nebraska uses it more as a way to stay active and get better during the spring. The Huskers host one event or a few matches at the Hawks Championship Center but otherwise travel to places like Arizona, California and Hawaii. The coaches split the indoor roster up into pairs to compete in the beach events. For example, Nicklin Hames and Lauren Stivrins formed the No. 1 team during the abbreviated 2020 season.  

Erin Sorensen: If you want a little look at the “beach” at the Hawks Championship Center, we have a video from 2020 (right before the pandemic hit) that you can check out. Hames had pink hair that spring, and it was such an iconic move.

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