Mailbag: Counting Down the Days
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Mailbag: Counting Down the Days

January 17, 2017

Is it too early to start asking how many more days there are until college football returns? Of course not. When you love college football, the offseason can feel unnecessarily long. We get by thanks to other sports and recruiting, but football is always there, waiting. So let’s talk about how much time is left, shall we? And while we’re at it, let’s talk Nebraska’s new defensive coach (and 3-4 defense), recruiting and a little bit of everything else too. Sound like a plan? We thought so.

Brandon Vogel, Jacob Padilla, Jake Jensen and Erin Sorensen answer your questions in this week’s Hail Varsity mailbag.

Q: How many days until spring practice, the spring game, fall camp and opening kickoff? – D.A., New York City, N.Y.

ES: This is my favorite way to count down until the college football season in general. As for the rest, spring practice is about 46 days away (if you assume it kicks off March 4), the spring game is 88 days away (scheduled for April 15), fall camp is 196 days away (again, if we assume it kicks off Aug. 1) and 228 days until the first game (Sept. 2). We can make it!

Q: What will be the feeling in Huskers Nation next week? Last two have been crazy. – C.W., Detroit, Mich.

JJ: I think fans will be happy. Kurt Rafdal will likely hold off his decision until after his visit to Iowa, but all signs point to Nebraska winning out. Also, Nebraska will be hosting Deommodore Lenoir and Bryan Thompson and will have a shot to swipe both of them away from Oregon.

Q: What’s going on with the women’s BB team? Just too young and growing pains with a new coach? – D., Colorado Springs, Colo.

JP: Yes, the team is very young and Amy Williams is likely still trying to make the transition from the Summit League to the Big Ten, but it also simply isn’t as talented as most of the teams in the Big Ten. Connie Yori’s departure pretty much shattered a recruiting class that included some very good players plus it resulted in the transfer of Natalie Romeo, who was by far the team’s best guard. It’s a total rebuilding year for the Huskers, and the first order of business for Williams moving forward is to find a point guard.

Q: Who will stand out at DE? – J.R., Cincinnati, Ohio

JJ: I think Carlos Davis will fit right in as a 3-4 defensive end, and the new scheme is a much better fit for Daishon Neal than the prior scheme. Also, keep an eye on Deontre Thomas next fall. That kid is GOOD.

Q: Any inside scoop/predictions of who Tyjon Lindsey said he’s bringing to Nebraska? – R.C., Papillion, Neb.

JJ: Expect him to really work on Joseph Lewis, Lenoir and Jamire Calvin. Lindsey is friends with those three and will try to get them to come along. Also, he will be leaning on his cousin Brendan (Bookie) Radley-Hiles, who is a top 100 recruit in the 2018 class.

ES: I talked to him this week and he had some advice for Calvin (Premium) and other recruits considering Nebraska. I think his answer speaks volumes about who he’s hoping to bring along with him.

Q: What does the offense look like now with a “pure” passers ? Pro-style? Same? West Coast? – C., Lincoln, Neb.

JJ: Danny Langsdorf is going to sling the ball around. It won’t be completely air-raid, but I would not be surprised to see the Huskers average 35+ passes a game. Nebraska’s personnel suits that scheme better than the run-heavy scheme they have been forced to rely on in the past.

BV: Agree with Jake. You’ll probably see an uptick in the number of pass attempts, but beyond that the offense should “look” mostly the same. That said, if Nebraska is able to complete a higher percentage of those passes it might feel different. I still the Huskers overall effectiveness in 2017 will largely be determined by how effectively it is able to run the ball.

Q: Could Memorial Stadium be remodeled to have a retractable roof added? – R.C., Grand Island, Neb.

ES: I’m not sure how easy that remodel would be but it would be nice, right? I often do not envy the conditions that fans sit in for games (at Nebraska and elsewhere) but there’s something to be said about it. I think of all those Kansas City Chiefs fans that sat through rain and winter weather just this past Sunday to cheer on their team. Sometimes those experiences build character… Or at least good memories.

Q: Who would survive a pro-level spinning class in better shape — Erin or Brandon? – M.C.

BV: I’m going to make Erin a heavy favorite.

ES: Let me start half-marathon training again and I’ll get back to you.

Q: Do you like the probable move to a 3-4 defense? – B.P., Howell, N.J.

JJ: I love it. I think the 3-4 is the toughest defensive unit to deal with, as the center constantly has to deal with a nose guard over the top of him and the defensive unit can bluff pressure from several different angles. Also it is a welcome change to the status quo. Other than a brief flirtation with the “Peso” defense in 2010, Nebraska has mainly run a 4-3 since 1991. That’s 25 years of the same defense.

BV: I’m excited by the change, too. There’s a reason the 3-4 is the defense of a bunch of powerhouse programs. It requires some unique talent (and body types) on the defensive line, but if a team can get those kind of players the 3-4 provides a lot of flexibility to create numbers advantages against the run, which is always going to be key in the Big Ten.

JP: I am excited as well. I’m a Packers fan and the 3-4 is the base defense Dom Capers uses in Green Bay (although they are rarely in base). I think it’s a great move both to get more of Nebraska’s linebackers – perhaps its deepest position – on the field and to generate more pass rush. Nebraska still doesn’t have a prototypical 4-3 rush end that can go get you 10 sacks in a season, but I think there are some players on the roster that would be very good rushing from a 3-4 outside linebacker position.

Q: Any plans to step up recruiting in the Deep South?  Michigan has had much success in Alabama. – B.H.

JJ: I think putting significant effort into the Deep South is a bad move. The majority of non-SEC teams that recruit in SEC country end up with the scraps that LSU and Alabama don’t want. Yes, some good ones slip through the cracks (Ameer Abdullah, Stanley Morgan and Cethan Carter), but the majority of guys that slip through the cracks in SEC country slip through for a reason. Nebraska would be better served to attack states like California, Missouri and Texas, states that have a lot of talent and no team that has significant control over the top prospects.

BV: Depends on the strength of the “brand.” Michigan’s is strong right now, but for most teams outside the area it’s tough to drop in and pull a kid out of there. It’s the most competitive recruiting territory in the country. Say there’s a 4-star player in northern Georgia. That player could have offers from Georgia, Clemson, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida State, Florida and Auburn. All heavy hitters, all a day’s drive away at most. This is part of why I think Nebraska’s California focus makes sense. There are good players out there, too, but in most cases you’re competing against Pac-12 schools and they’re more spread out. The odds of getting a top-50 player from California to Nebraska are better than getting that same player from Georgia, for example. It’s not the path of least resistance, it’s smart recruiting in my mind.

Q: Predict the starting front seven next year and round out the final 6-7 commits for the class. – 3.L.C.

JJ: Front Seven:

  • WDE: Carlos Davis
  • NG: Folorunso Fatukasi
  • SDE: Khalil Davis
  • OLB: Alex Davis
  • ILB: Dedrick Young
  • ILB: Avery Roberts
  • OLB: Tyrin Ferguson

Final Recruits:

  • WR Gavin Holmes
  • WR Bryan Thompson
  • CB Kamren Curl
  • CB Deommodore Lenoir
  • FS Michael Onyemaobi
  • TE Kurt Rafdal
  • DT Damion Daniels
  • Wildcard that we don’t know about yet

JP: Jake and I differ greatly on the potential front seven (I’ll let him handle the recruiting projections). I think one of the Davis twins will start at nose tackle and I still see Mick Stoltenberg starting at one of the defensive end spots. As for the linebackers, Marcus Newby is perfect as a 3-4 outside linebacker and actually began his career as a pass-rushing specialist under Bo Pelini and company. He should start. I’m not quite sure how Freedom Akinmoladun or Alex Davis will fit into this defense just yet; it’s going to be an adjustment for both of them. But Tyrin Ferguson was a pass rusher in high school and based on his tweets after the hire I think it’s safe to say he’ll be moving back to that role after working as a middle linebacker his first two years on campus. I also think Chris Weber is going to start at one of the inside linebacker spots, and the staff seems to love Dedrick Young for whatever reason so he’ll probably start at the other inside spot.  

Q: Who does Nebraska look to for safeties coach? – T.T.B.

JJ: Kenny Wilhite.

ES: I am a big fan of Wilhite getting hired for that role as well. He knows the position, he knows Nebraska and he’s an all-around great person. Pair him up with Donte Williams and I think you’d have something great there.

Q: Was Bob Diaco a good hire? – D., Colorado Springs, Colo.

JJ: Absolutely. Guy can really coach and his former players absolutely love him.

BV: I thought from the start that he was probably the best candidate Nebraska could land, and my belief in the hire only increased the more I dug into what he did at Notre Dame.

Q: Who will be the Huskers’ most surprising commit on February 1st? – B.

JJ: I want to say Joseph Lewis, I really do. But I’ll go with Robert Beal, the current Georgia commit. Parrella, Bray and Diaco can sell the image of Beal becoming a star outside linebacker in Diaco’s new scheme.

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