Another week, another mailbag.
This edition touches on a handful of interesting topics. One of them deals with football transfers—do fans tend to overrate them? Another touches on name, image and likeness—will the ranking of teams with players receiving the highest amount of money match up to end-of-season rankings?
The mailbag tackles those, as well as some questions on the baseball and women’s basketball teams.
How highly thought-of is the JUCO class? Feels like there are equally a lot of intriguing guys and big question marks on guys. Bringing in pitchers with ERAs on the high side and innings pitched on the low side at their prior stops is concerning to me at least. (@f_r_o_f_)
Steve Marik: I’m with you — there are interesting additions while others, on paper, don’t jump off the page. Doesn’t mean they won’t be able to help the program, though. There’s a lot of time between now and the start of next season. While we might not be done with departures from the current roster, a few additions that I’m intrigued about include Zachary Johnson, Blake Mozley and Trey Frahm. Johnson, an in-state product who played at Millard North High School, hit .474 last spring at Southeast Community College, which was tied for the best average in junior college baseball. Here’s a look at the movement that’s gone on with Nebraska’s roster lately.
Do you and the other members of the staff think that fans overrate transfers? I think that transfers can be great additions to teams but there is a reason(s) that they left their last school. Lack of playing time, off-the-field issues, etc. (@GraysonKielhold)
Jacob: By nature I think the typical fan often overrates any player that chooses his or her favorite program, and transfers are no exception. Everybody always thinks their guys are under-ranked and every player outside the top-whatever is a steal or hidden gem or whatever phrase you want to use. I’ve said the same thing you just did (there’s a reason guys enter the portal) many times. That’s the trick with the portal — just like any other kind of recruiting, there’s a certain luck aspect to it. I’m always skeptical that guys who couldn’t produce elsewhere will be able to do so at Nebraska, and the ones that did produce at their last spot are the guys who are most sought after and hardest to land. That being said, sometimes a change of scenery does wonders for a player, and sometimes guys like Samori Touré are able to make the leap to a higher level and still perform. Nebraska’s 2022 season will largely be shaped by this transfer class, and the more of these transfers that hit, the better the Huskers will likely be.
Mike Babcock: I remember a junior college transfer who told me he was so happy to be at Nebraska because he felt a part of something. In junior college, he said, everyone was looking to draw interest from a four-year school, so there was no team unity, just everyone looking out for themselves. As Jacob points out, transfers, junior college or otherwise, are expecting to play right away or they’d consider somewhere else. I’ve always been wait-and-see on any recruits or transfers. As I’ve said before, Bill Snyder dramatically turned around Kansas State with junior college transfers. Times were different then, but still, there’s a knack to building unity with transfers. Bill Callahan went heavily with junior college transfers. Again, times change.
Drake Keeler: Generally, I’d probably say yes. I’m personally very skeptical of transfers most of the time. There’s a good bit of luck involved, like Jacob said. I will say that in this day and age, it’s probably best to go case-by-case when it comes to downplaying transfers because there’s a reason they left. There’s a bunch of movement now for a variety of reasons, so the right transfer can still make a big difference. I was a bit hesitant on the impact Samori Touré would make here, but I couldn’t have been much further off. In the end, it still may not be wise to put too high of expectations on any individual transfer.
Steve: No question about it, fans absolutely overrate transfers. That’s totally normal and understandable, though, because it’s the offseason and no games are being played, therefore all we get to do is sit around and think about how good they can be. You’re right — players have all sorts of reasons why they leave their last school. One of Nebraska’s transfers who I’m interested in is Stephon Wynn Jr. You can look at his time with Alabama and not see much. Sixteen tackles in 21 games spread out over four seasons. Yeah, Wynn was a backup with the Crimson Tide and mostly played late in blowouts. But does that mean he’s unlikely to help Nebraska’s defensive line? Of course not. To me, Wynn is an excellent pick up for the Huskers. He’s a veteran who stuck it out for four years in a Nick Saban-led program without playing much. Not everyone is willing to do that. Think about it — Wynn didn’t just leave after not playing right away. Instead, he stayed put, was a member of a team, played his role and learned what a great football program is supposed to look like from the inside. With two years of eligibility left, I can understand why he wanted to transfer for the final stretch run of his college football career. He wasn’t going to beat out future NFL players at his position like DJ Dale, Bryon Young and Tim Smith. The year before that, Wynn was behind those guys, plus Phidarian Mathis, who was picked in the second round of the NFL Draft earlier this year. Not beating out NFL talents shouldn’t be held against a guy like Wynn. Am I saying he’s going to light it up in Lincoln? No. But what I am saying is he’ll help a defensive line that badly needed an older player with the strength and size (6-foot-4, 307 pounds) of Wynn. Like Damion Daniels and Ben Stille did last year, Wynn was brought to Nebraska to be a space eater and take on double teams so the two linebackers behind him — Luke Reimer and Nick Henrich — can do what they do best: see ball, hit ball.
Any thoughts on another women’s basketball commit for the 2023 class to go along with Logan Nissley? Seems like another big would be needed since this is (Isabelle) Bourne’s last year most likely. (@GeneralChaoz01)
Jacob: First off, I wouldn’t be shocked if Bourne opted to use her extra season of eligibility the way Sam Haiby is set to do next season, especially if Jaz Shelley is still around. They’re both listed as juniors on the 2022-23 roster. We won’t know that until after the season, though. I’m sure Amy Williams would love to have another post player, especially considering we don’t know exactly what Maggie Mendelson’s role is going to look like as a dual-sport athlete. Williams could also look to target another wing in that class. I think the Huskers will have plenty of ball-handling options for the next few years.
How many years until the ranking of teams with players receiving the highest amount of NIL $ spent correlates to end-of-year ranking? Basically, the same as how recruiting rankings and end of season rankings correlate with a 2-3 year lag. (@howard_parkert)
Mike: That’ll be the case unless some restrictions come into play. It only makes sense, right? The best players are going to go where they can get “paid” the most. Show me the money.
Jacob: Part of the problem with that is we don’t actually know who is making what from NIL deals. Personally, I think all the panic over recruiting in the NIL age is a bit of an overreaction. The best programs will still land the best recruits and talent will still get spread around just like it is now. The kind of money an athlete could make is important, but that’s always been the case with many of the best recruits (it just wasn’t out in the open). For example, I know a prominent transfer who turned down a larger NIL deal to pick a school where he felt he’d have a better chance to win at a high level. It’s not all about the money; the money is just a large piece of the puzzle. Ultimately, I think we’ll see things level out a bit if the biggest spenders don’t immediately get the success they were hoping for, because at some point there has to be a worthwhile return on investment. I think it’s all new right now and there are a lot of people excited to be a part of it, but we’ll have to see to what degree that continues in a few years.
Greg Smith: I don’t think it will end up being a straight correlation. The wild card to me in the NIL age is if boosters that are spending now continue to do so. The top players will always go to the best teams. Even if you want to be paid a lot, it will still matter if the team can win as Jacob pointed out. Personally, I think the teams like Texas A&M, Miami, Nebraska and Arkansas that are perceived to be great NIL schools need to stack wins soon to keep the money flowing and increase the ability to land those players without promises of NIL deals.
Who at Hail Varsity was the model for the new Nebraska license plate? (@SipplesLostT)
Jacob Padilla: They actually used an old photo of Brandon from his college days.