Mailbag: DEFCON Levels Up Front For Nebraska
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Mailbag: DEFCON Levels Up Front For Nebraska

July 25, 2018

The mailbag returns with a full team effort from the staff. Brandon Vogel, Erin Sorensen, Greg Smith, Jacob Padilla and Derek Peterson answer your questions following Big Ten Media Days.


Two things Scott mentioned was the offensive line needs to stay healthy and the leadership of the secondary. What DEFCON level are these concerns to you after this weekend? (@CoryHonold)

JP: For the offensive line’s health, I’ll go with DEFCON 3. At this point, we’re pretty much locked into the opening day starters: Brenden Jaimes, Jerald Foster, Cole Conrad, Tanner Farmer, Matt Farniok. Behind them, there isn’t much in the way of experience, however. It’s fine to have confidence in guys like Christian Gaylord, John Raridon, Hunter Miller, Boe Wilson and Matt Sichterman (my projected back-up at every position), but the truth is none of them have actually played outside of a snap or two. If they’re thrown into the fire, it could go either way.

As for the leadership in the secondary, I’ll go with DEFCON 5. I think the addition of Tre Neal is big in that regard and Aaron Williams is one of the most well-regarded veterans on the team. I don’t expect Will Jackson to be a leader, per se, but I do think his addition to the cornerback room will help keep guys honest because the other corners aren’t necessarily going to play by default anymore like they did last year. I like Travis Fisher’s approach to breaking down egos and prioritizing buy-in as well.

BV: Jacob nailed it with his breakdown, but I did take specific note when Frost mentioned the offensive line as a potential depth concern. It’s not surprising, really, but it was a topic that hadn’t come up that often previously.

Who is the best dressed out of the HV crew? How many people did Greg say he knew while in Chicago? (@Dustin_Huber)

ES: I am the best dressed. The rest of the staff can fight me. (But in all honesty, we have a pretty sharply dressed crew across the board.)

GS: I vote Derek for best dressed and not just because I’m trying to get back on his good side.

JP: Everyone but me.

BV: Only one of us is the officially certified power-tie power ranker of the Big Ten, which I think answers the question objectively.

DP: I mean… Under any other circumstances, I would say myself and I appreciate the G.O.A.T. Greg for voting for me, but Brandon does have a pretty solid cardigan collection. Greg also talked a lot about places he knew, not necessarily people. 

This is your 4th year covering khaki-wan-kenobi… and that second half of their bowl game didn't scream buy-in from their squad. Did you catch on to any mannerisms or quotes that have you thinking he might be losing his team? (@TheWeeksy)

GS: I didn’t pick up on anything suggesting him losing his team. However, it is worth remembering that places sour on him fairly quickly because of his “enthusiasm unknown to mankind.” The way he goes about his business isn’t set up for long-term sustainability in my opinion. I thought to combat that he would need to win at a championship level which has not happened yet. Also, those losses to Ohio State are mounting.

BV: Here’s the thing I wonder with Harbaugh: How much does his drink-milk-it’s-good-for-you, straight-from-the-1950s approach (and look) resonate with today’s player? How relevant is it in today’s game? It wasn’t anything from media days that made me think that –– I first started mulling that idea after watching the behind-the-scenes series on Amazon –– but his general disinterest in Chicago the past two days certainly didn’t fire me up any and I’m closer to Harbaugh in age than I am any of his players.

Contrast that with Frost, who wants to reference the past at Nebraska but also talks all the time about modernizing and appealing to players today. It’s possible to do both (I think), but Harbaugh only seems interested in the way things were. He could’ve been Bo Schembechler –– total job security, good amount of wins, at Michigan a long time –– coaching exactly the way he does now if he was in Schembechler’s era. But he’s not. I don’t discount what he’s done at Michigan to this point. That part encourages me even if it hasn’t resulted in any titles. It’s the feeling I get from him of being a man outside his era that would have me worried if I were a Wolverine fan.

Can the Frost effect pull the 2019 B1G Media Days into Omaha? (@md_schmidt)

ES: Ha! That would be amazing from a travel perspective, but as long as the Big Ten Conference offices and the Big Ten Network are based out of Chicago, we’ll be heading to the Windy City every year. Even Frost can’t change that, unfortunately.

GS: Everything has its limits and I think you found the limit for the Frost Effect.

What was the takeaway from Urban Meyer’s comments on Zach Smith? (@3rdLargestCity)

ES: I brought this up in my observations from yesterday because I wasn’t yet sure how I thought Meyer had handled it all. Having had some time to digest, I think he handled it exactly how I would have expected him to. The problem is that I’m not exactly sure he was completely honest in what he said.

There’s plenty of holes you can poke in his statements at Big Ten Media Days (like when he did and did not know about all incidents). But, the most concerning for me? Smith was interviewing for jobs this offseason at Meyer’s request. That feels like a coach trying to get rid of a problem without having to fire the person.

So, to go back to your original question: I’m not sure Meyer’s comments would have felt like enough no matter what. He was going to go the PR route, and defend what he did and did not know. I gained more from the Ohio State media contingency, who kept asking and kept asking. They deserve credit for that.

GS: I didn’t love how he handled it. I am not at all surprised by how he handled it though. For me, he missed an opportunity to lay out what a serious issue domestic violence is. It felt like he went straight into defensive mode which was unfortunate.

Realistically, what do you think is the highest Nebraska can go in the national and Big Ten rankings for 2019 recruiting? (@between2worlds)

GS: I would say 15 nationally. I’m expecting a full class of 25 with a solid average-star ranking. The 2020 class is the year to watch for a potential top 10 group. As for the Big Ten ranking in 2019, I will predict Nebraska finishes third behind Ohio State and Penn State. Wisconsin and Michigan got off to hot starts but I think they fall back a bit.

JP: After Henrich’s commitment, Nebraska is sitting at No. 24 in 247Sports’ composite rankings with 14 commits. The four teams ahead of them are Minnesota, Purdue, Michigan State and North Carolina State, and I think Nebraska has a great chance to jump all of them which would put Nebraska around 20. However, outside of Ty Robinson, I don’t see a ton of highly-rated players that seem to be Nebraska leans. Without bumping up that count of top talent (they have three 4-stars and on 5-stars according to those 247Sports rankings), I don’t know that they can climb much higher than that. You can win on the field by taking 3-star kids and developing them, but that’s not going to help you climb the recruiting class rankings. But Greg knows this much better than I do so you should probably listen to him.

On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate the recent “coaching” hires for NU? (@3rdLargestCity)

DP: The recent hires being Ron Brown as Director of Player Development and Dave Ellis as the lead sports nutritionist. I think Ellis is a great hire. He started the department, he’ll be good for Frost. So on a number scale, I’d say a nine.

As it relates to Brown, I don’t think I can rate it yet, but I don’t land in the camp that assumes the only outcome here is it ending in flames. Frost, Tom Osborne and Bill Moos are going to be the authority figures on this. None have voiced concern over the hire and everyone appears to be on the same page, which is what you want to see in a situation like this. I don’t personally share the same viewpoints as Brown, but I’ve always operated under the belief that just because someone doesn’t agree, that doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to take it upon themselves to do something.

Frost welcomed a conversation with former Nebraska kicker Eric Lueshen in Chicago and things seemed to go well from the outside, that was telling. Frost has answered each question he’s been asked (and given clearly thoughtful responses) and as a result, the public knows where he stands. But maybe more importantly, Brown knows where he stands. No discrimination will be tolerated. If there’s an issue that arises in the future, Frost has earned the benefit of the doubt to trust he’ll handle it the correct way.

Best-dressed player at Media Days? (@3rdLargestCity)

DP: Stanley Morgan looked pretty fly but someone from the Big Ten East stole the whole thing. It’s funny you ask, I actually wrote a story addressing this exact question and you can check it out here.

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