Fred Hoiberg Adds Bret Porter as Preferred Walk-On
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Mailbag: Easier to Change a Culture in Basketball or Football?

April 03, 2019

The Hail Varsity crew (minus Erin Sorensen, who is out with a minor hamstring strain) is on hand for another mailbag, answering questions ranging from Fred Hoiberg’s offense in the Big Ten, weather, breakout football stars in 2019 and everything in between. 

Will Fred Hoiberg have to tweak his style of play that worked so well in the Big 12 for the Big Ten? (@BarmettlerCH) 

Jacob Padilla: Well, he did tweak his style of play somewhat based on the personnel he had each year at Iowa State. I recently looked at what wins in the Big Ten, and what I found was basically everything does so long as you’re really good in at least one area. I think Hoiberg’s style of play will be just fine in the Big Ten as long as he can get the right guys into the program. 

Mike Babcock: Jacob nailed it. The key is getting the right guys, as it is for any successful coach. 

Derek Peterson: He’s hoping the Big Ten has to tweak its style of play for him. (Also, yeah, what Jacob said.) 

Greg Smith: What Jacob said but also there would be no point in hiring Hoiberg to change his style the same way for Frost in football. 

Easier to change/build/establish culture on Nebraska’s basketball team or football team? Or does the men's basketball team culture need to change? New coach, new philosophy, but I don't think the culture has been in question like the football team’s culture was when Scott Frost and staff came in. (@ChuckandM) 

Brandon Vogel: I think basketball, simply from a numbers perspective. If you think of it in business terms, a basketball program, when you factor in coaches, support staff, etc., is a company of about 30 people. A football program is probably over 200 people. I think an organization can deal with change better the smaller it is. But no matter the size, you have to have leadership that has a vision and I think that’s what Nebraska has in both sports—two coaches who have not only experienced success but seem to have every bit of confidence in what their programs will look like three or four years down the road. They know how to get there, too, all the steps you need to take in Years 1 and 2. It’s pretty remarkable. 

MB: Agree with Brandon on the smaller the easier because there are fewer who have to buy in. Jacob could answer the basketball culture question better than I, but I’d expect there to be a significant change in Nebraska’s basketball culture (as I would consider it) under Hoiberg. That’s part of any change, including players leaving – Thomas Allen has already made that decision. 

JP: Yeah, Brandon and Mike hit on it. Through sheer difference in numbers, it’s easier in basketball. Heck, half the team at least is likely to turn over from this year to next. That’s just how it goes in basketball, especially after a coaching change. The real trick is to keep that culture in place once you establish it considering that yearly turnover. 

DP: I think Brandon hit on something key, and everyone really answered the question strongly so I’m going to go off on a tangent a bit. “No matter the size, you have to have leadership that has a vision.” Football clearly has that with Frost. He knows where he wants to go and he knows step-by-step (or day-by-day) how he’s going to get his program to that point. I’m not so sure you could say the same about Miles. What was the vision? What was the culture of the program? Attack the rim? Play really good defense? What was the thing that was going to make Nebraska good? Jacob wrote about this recently, but there wasn’t an identity of the program. Hoiberg laid out his vision on Day 1. Hoiberg’s going to sell the heck out of Nebraska’s facilities to bring as much talent to Lincoln as he can, regardless of where they come from, and once they’re in town he’s going to turn them into shooters so Nebraska can fire off 3s and run in transition and outwork the opponent. That was his plan at Iowa State and the results spoke for themselves. That seems to be the plan here. That’s one of the things that really struck me about his intro press conference, and this felt like a good spot to mention. Tangent done. 

What’s the weather suspected to be for the Spring Game? (@TurboHall01) 

JP: Early forecasts show temps in the 50s or 60s with the chance for a little bit of rain. 

Which 3 players on the current football roster do you see as breakout stars for 2019? (@wyattnun16) 

MB: Wan’Dale Robinson (no surprise there, right); Cam Jurgens, though it’s difficult to “star” in the offensive line, mostly you’re going to stand out when you screw up; and JoJo Domann, unless we consider him already established. I think as he has become comfortable in his role, and added muscle, he’s going to be what Nebraska needs on the perimeter. 

JP: Can I cheat and just say “the defensive line” for one of my answers? I’m starting to buy into the hype we’ve been hearing about that group because I always believed that room had far more talent than the results would indicate. It sounds like they’re starting to put it together and I think the Huskers will be much stronger up front. I could see any or all of Carlos and Khalil Davis, Ben Stille and Damion Daniels making a significant leap in terms of production. Deontai Williams definitely makes my list. If Nebraska wins games and puts up big numbers, I think Brenden Jaimes will start to get some recognition as well as the sort of big name along that line. 

DP: Darrion Daniels is a “breakout star” because the expectations for a non-quarterback graduate transfer are usually pretty low and I think he’s both really good and in line to play a ton. Wan’Dale Robinson because have you heard the coaches talk about him? And lastly, I’ll say Andre Hunt. I’m buying what Troy Walters is selling. There will be an opportunity for another guy to be big in the passing game if Adrian Martinez and this offense take the step we expect. (I’ve already said multiple times Deontai Williams is going to be a bad man.) 

GS: I’ll take Deontai Williams, Collin Miller and Wan’Dale Robinson. I’m really high on what Williams can bring to this defense after a year of learning it combined with his natural athleticism. Miller has a home now and could take a huge step forward. Robinson will be a star in this offense and he might have to given the uncertainty at wide receiver right now. 

Which one happens first: Nebraska basketball winning a NCAA tournament game or Nebraska football playing in the B1G Championship game? (@Corn_Huskers) 

BV: Football, but the fact that I’ve gotten this question from a couple of people since Hoiberg was hired tells me that this particular race is as close as it has been in quite some time. The West Division feels pretty open to me in 2019. I wouldn’t predict it to happen right now, but I wouldn’t be shocked either if Nebraska came out of a tough division race on top this season. Even if it doesn’t, I would be surprised if Nebraska won an NCAA tournament game in Hoiberg’s first season, so assuming that doesn’t happen Frost and Co. would get another chance to “beat basketball to the punch” in 2020. I’ll put it this way, if Nebraska football doesn’t make it to Indy during Adrian Martinez’s tenure something went horribly wrong. 

MB: Great question. I’m going to agree with Brandon, mostly because I think Frost will have two shots at it before Hoiberg’s program settles in. Winning an NCAA tournament game in his first season would be quite an accomplishment. 

JP: Agree with Brandon and Mike. Now, if you change the question to football WINNING the Big Ten Championship game, then I’d flip it over to basketball. But with it being simply qualifying for the game in football, I’ll take that in large part because of the extra chances that program will get to get there first. 

GS: Football because they will do it this year.  

DP: Oh my. 

How weird was it to share the room with Iowa media at Hoiberg’s introductory press conference? (@CoryHonold) 

MB: For me, a participant in the Big Eight Skywriters Tour for a few years long ago, not a big deal. It was good to see Randy Peterson from Des Moines. And I liked how Hoiberg responded to the Iowa folks. Back in the day, beat writers got to know each other, a nostalgic thing for me now. When you’re on buses and planes with folks for 10 days during the Skywriters Tour . . . the Big Eight was different than the Big 12, and the Big 12 is different than the Big Ten in that sense.   

DP: I personally found it awkward. Not because they were there, which I had no issues with, but because of the question. “What would you say to Iowa State fans…?” I thought Hoiberg handled that incredibly well, and maybe that’s the best example of what he’s going to be like that you can pull from that setting. I would have said, “Uhhh you’re welcome for reviving a program?” I’m also a loose cannon. So long story short, weird for me, but I thought Hoiberg handled things well (and I honestly don’t think he was too bothered by it).  

Will a professional developmental football league ever become a thing? (@BarmettlerCH) 

BV: History certainly isn’t on any future league’s side. I’ve now covered two games in those leagues—the Omaha Nighthawks’ opener and a Birmingham Iron-Salt Lake Stallions game this year—only to have them go belly up a short time later. The cost to play real football is extraordinary, and it’s just really hard to do that on a shoestring budget. Based on those experiences, I think the only thing that could foster a farm system for football would be some sort of sea change at the college level, and I can’t totally rule that out. Public sentiment on amateurism seems to be constantly shifting and not in the favor of the current power brokers. But we also know the power brokers have the most clout. If there were a push to, say, allow a talented 19-year-old football player to shape his professional career however he wants, there are a lot of powerful entities who would have a vested interest in fighting that the whole way. 

MB: I’m not as studied on this as Brandon but I don’t think in the near future that will happen. It’s different with basketball, certainly, and baseball. In part, that’s a function of the number of players to be developed. Colleges provide a decent developmental system for football, which has a physical development component for a majority of players. Of course, if players were to decide leaving after their freshman or sophomore year was the way to go, and could make that happen, things might change. Minor league baseball has a long tradition. And the one-and-done ability of players in college basketball is valuable, though the NBA does have its G League. 

What do you think about every FBS team having an exhibition game in the spring or summer vs FCS opponents rather than having a spring scrimmage? Also, using this to keep teams limited from playing FCS teams in the regular season? (@_LilBigRed12) 

BV: I’m on board with the spring portion of this proposal. I would love to see regional FBS-FCS matchups stand in for spring games. I don’t think we need to eliminate in-season FCS games, however. They don’t bother me (and more of those games seem to be more competitive each year). But, more importantly, they’re vital to the football ecosystem as a whole. FCS programs need those FBS payouts. FBS teams, particularly those in the Power 5, want the home games. We talk about those games as “buying a win” or worse, when in actuality they’re symbiotic. Given that most FBS teams operate at a loss, if you take away a potential home game every other year (at least) and take away the paychecks on the FCS side I think you would lose a lot of football programs in the middle-to-lower tier in both subdivisions at a time when plenty of schools are already facing tough choices on the football front. While those games may not be the most fan-friendly all the time, I view them as essential to the sport overall. 

MB: I would be against it, maybe for a short-sighted reason but I don’t think so: add an “exhibition” and coaches would spend the spring preparing for the exhibition instead of evaluating and developing players. No FBS coach would want to lose to an FCS opponent, exhibition or not. So you have to prepare for that opponent. Plus, you can control the spring game to reduce the chance of injury. In an exhibition, you couldn’t. But the main reason is winning and losing and the preparation that would require. And exhibition or not, that game would be taken into account for preseason rankings.  

Is it possible for Ant-Man to enter Thanos, say through his nose, and then expand? (@CruGorman) 

MB: Not surprisingly, I have no ability to answer either of the last two questions. I would have to consult my grandkids, and even then I don’t think I could. 

DP: Yes it’s possible, but then how do you stretch the movie three hours? Gotta think long-term, Gorman. 

GS: I suppose so but that would be no fun, Gorman. 

Where will Avengers: Endgame end up being ranked out of all the Marvel movies so far? (@InDaWilderness) 

DP: If this one doesn’t wrap everything up in a satisfying way we riot. It has the potential to be an all-timer, not just in the Marvel ranks, not just in the genre, but all-time movies period. Come at me “Citizen Kane” fans.  

GS: It’ll be tough to take down “Black Panther” as my number one choice but there is a simple way for it to shoot up the rankings for me. Captain America bites the big one courtesy of Thanos early in the film. Sorry Cap lovers. 

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