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Mailbag: Gadget Plays, Nebrasketball’s Ceiling, Recruiting Talk & More

October 07, 2020

It’s Wednesday, so let’s get to the mailbag.

We need another linebacker and d-lineman to step up and have a huge season to be successful, in my humble opinion, besides JoJo Domann and Ben Stille. Who do you think that will be if they do step up and have a really good season? (@CarnesRegg)

Jacob Padilla: See, this is a really hard question and it’s one that I want the answer to more than almost any other. There are a lot of candidates at both positions and I can’t say I’ve seen enough to feel confidently about singling out any one player at either spot. I think we have six options on the line—Damion Daniels, Ty Robinson, Keem Green, Jordon Riley, Deontre Thomas and Casey Rogers. Down the road, I think Ty Robinson will definitely be that guy, but right now? Is he ready to be Nebraska’s second-best defensive lineman? It’s impossible to say, but that’s probably asking a lot. I guess I’ll go with the combination of Daniels and one of those JUCO guys, either Green or Riley. As for the linebackers, are we talking just outside or the inside guys too? At outside linebacker, we’re probably looking at Caleb Tannor, Garrett Nelson and Niko Cooper, and Pheldarius Payne is apparently working with Mike Dawson now as well as a designated pass-rusher type. I think it would be great for Nebraska if it finally clicks for Tannor, but I’ll go with an unknown here and say Cooper plays a big role. If we’re looking at the inside guys as well, mark me down for Collin Miller, though I wouldn’t be shocked if Eteva Mauga-Clements sees his snap count rise higher and higher as the season goes on.

Call your shot! What is a trick or gadget play you would like to see the Huskers run? Who are the players? What is the result? (@Corn_Huskers)

JP: Anything that gives us a Piesman candidate.

Erin Sorensen: I love a good Piesman moment. If I had to pick something else, I also love a good fake punt. Alex Henery had a couple in his career. The one below was Oklahoma State in 2010. It wasn’t supposed to be a fake punt, but it was always an option for Henery. He saw how wide open the field was and went for it. I love it. Enjoy a video that looks like it was filmed on a potato.

Brandon Vogel: Gotta bring the bounceroosky back, right? We probably don’t stop and appreciate just how insane that play from the 1982 Oklahoma-Nebraska game was. So much that can go wrong here. You need a quarterback confident and capable enough to throw a bounce pass—a freakin’ bounce pass––and it needs to be lateral. You need a good bounce. You need the defense to believe it’s an incomplete pass for a split second, then you need the wideout to collect that bounce pass and throw it to another pass-catcher downfield. Pretty straightforward. Nearly foolproof when you lay it all out. With these kind of odds, that has to be the pick but for maximum effect I want Nebraska to wait until it plays Oklahoma in 2021 to run it. That gives us Adrian Martinez with the bounce pass to Luke McCaffrey—it’s not weird that he lined up at wide receiver because Nebraska used it as a wrinkle in 2020, it’s on tape—and then McCaffrey finds a streaking Thomas Fidone for a 36-yard gain.

Mike Babcock: I’d run the fumbleroosky, except the NCAA effectively made it illegal in the early ‘90s, probably because Nebraska, most notably, used it effectively. So how about the Black 41 Flash Reverse Pass with McCaffrey lining up where Mike Stuntz did and throwing to Martinez—Oklahoma 2001.

Starting five for Game 1 now that we know Trey McGowens’ status? (@Go_Big_Red)

Derek Peterson: Jacob took a more extensive look at this question for his weekly “Padding the Stats” column.

With the news of McGowens becoming eligible, does that change Nebraska basketball’s ceiling? (@Foss_07)

JP: “Ceiling” is the key word here, and since you asked it that way I’d say the answer is definitely yes. McGowens has more size and athleticism than Kobe Webster and he certainly has more experience than Elijah Wood, and those two were Nebraska’s point guard options not named Dalano Banton before McGowens got his waiver. His presence allows Fred Hoiberg to be really versatile this season with his lineups. Talent-wise, we’ve seen what he’s capable of with big games against the likes of Louisville, Florida State, and North Carolina. How good Nebraska is might depend on how consistent he can be, however, as he was a very low-efficiency player at Pitt. Flashes of brilliance with no consistency is what Nebraska got with Cam Mack and Dachon Burke last year, and we saw what that meant in terms of a final record.

One has to go. Choose: stadium hot dog, pretzel and cheese, box of popcorn, soda in a souvenir cup? (@knapplc)

JP: Get rid of the hot dog and the popcorn.

Greg Smith: Box of popcorn. It’s the only thing in that group that I don’t even consider purchasing.

ES: Depends on where the soca is coming from. Nebraska? That’s a Pepsi product then and I don’t care. Get rid of it. If it’s a Coca-Cola product, I’d keep it and toss the popcorn.

BV: I like a good pretzel. Stadium pretzels, however, are often not that. Auf wiedersehen, Brezel.

MB: Reluctantly, stadium popcorn.

DP: It’s the soda for me.

With all the upsets happening, which top-10 team is next on the chopping block? (@PBlak69)

BV: Well, the easy answer is No. 7 Miami, which has to play at No. 1 Clemson (-16). I also wouldn’t be shocked to see No. 8 North Carolina (-7) fall to No. 17 Virginia Tech. But neither of those answers feel like they’re in the spirit of the question. The top-five team I’m most skeptical about at the moment is Florida. The Gators are great on offense but rank 68th out of 74 teams in defensive success rate. Eventually, that lack of defensive efficiency catches up with a team and it could happen at any moment. Florida goes to Texas A&M this week, hosts LSU the following week and then, after an off week, plays Georgia. I’m also not totally sold on the Bulldogs. Last week was a strong performance against Auburn, the week before at Arkansas obviously was not. The defense might be strong enough to carry Georgia for a while if it gets smart quarterback play, but the Dawgs have a tough game with Tennessee this week and travel to Alabama the next.

DP: I was going to point to Georgia’s game against Tennessee this week as well, but in doing so I think would say more about Georgia than about Tennessee. The Bulldogs had such a violent swing in quarterback play that first week in Arkansas, I don’t know if I can confidently say Stetson Bennett is the real deal yet or he faced a defense unprepared for him and then rode the emotional high to a win over Auburn. I think we’ll find more clarity when he has to face the Vols. The only other team that feels close to being in danger of a true upset is Oklahoma State, which I say somewhat begrudgingly because I think that defense is really, really good (maybe the best in the Big 12). Depending on what’s going on with their starter at QB—Spencer Sanders—next week’s meeting with Baylor is the kind of game the Cowboys historically drop under Gundy. The primetime slot on ABC, off a bye and before back-to-back ranked opponents in Iowa State and Texas. OSU has lost five of its last six meetings with the Bears. It has lost four straight games in Waco. If Sanders returns after missing the start to the season, is he rusty? If he’s still out, they’ve got a true freshman who will face his first true road test and a defense with an extra week to prepare.

Is there truth that Omar Manning hasn’t been practicing and there is something wrong with him? (@CarnesRegg)

ES: I hate to answer this question like this but it’s the only way I can. I don’t like to speak about the status of a player and what’s going on without confirmation. If something is going on with Omar Manning, Nebraska will tell us (especially because we are in a period of availability so the opportunity to tell us is there). Out of respect for Manning (or any player, for that matter), I don’t want to speculate on anything I’ve heard or not heard. That’s just a rule I live by. Don’t read into it that either, like I know something and am not sharing it. I don’t have any insider information on this. I don’t blame you for asking at all, but this has been my go-to response with any, “I’ve heard this happened with XYZ athlete.” If something has in fact happened, we’ll know soon enough.

Can you comment on Cam Jurgens’ skills as a blocker? Everybody wants to talk about his knowledge/experience with line calls and about his improved snaps. It seems like he had a lot of whiffs or backside finishes as a blocker last year. (@bnkstrom)

MB: I probably couldn’t answer that even if I were watching practice. Gotta wait ‘til the games, or at least watch a scrimmage or two, which isn’t going to happen. But my sense is, he wouldn’t be as solidly entrenched at No. 1, which seems to be the case in line discussions, if he wasn’t blocking well. Line calls and snapping are certainly continuing points of emphasis, especially for a player who began as a tight end. Adapting as a blocker is influenced by those skills.

DP: The reason he’s playing center is because of his combination of raw athleticism and instinctual blocking ability. There were times last year where Jurgens, from purely a blocking standpoint, was the best guy on the field. That’s why they were so willing to work through the obvious hindrance the snapping issue was for the overall offense. He was a young guy playing the position for the first time, so you saw highs and lows. As a blocker, they think the highs can be really high.

First 2022 commit. (@HuskerTom1997)

GS: I’ll take inside linebacker Gavin Meyers out of Kansas. He’s a good prospect that the Huskers like a lot.

Does James Carnie commit to the Huskers when he announces on October 12? (@dmhusker1)

GS: You have to like the Huskers’ chances here.

ES: I’m placing my bet now and saying yes.

With the Carnie offer, I’m sure the Huskers will have the deepest 2021 tight end class in the country. What does it signal about their recruiting strategy the rest of the way? Closing ranks and signing the best players we can get regardless of position? (@huskerazy)

JP: The timing of the offer certainly seems strange. It seemed almost like Nebraska felt content with the two tight end commits they had and their prospects at the position for 2022. Perhaps Scott Frost’s stated desire to keep Nebraska kids in state coupled with the play Carnie has put on film this year finally got to a point where it beat out the worry about overloading one position. It seems more like a special case than Nebraska shifting its entire recruiting strategy in the stretch run here. I still expect them to fill out the rest of the class with positions of need (see below).

GS: First you have to give a lot of credit to James Carnie. He’s worked hard to get bigger and faster. It’s translated to the field and he’s having a really good senior year. I believe he essentially forced Nebraska’s hand because you don’t want to see another local kid go on to have a good career elsewhere when you could have had him. I think it has more to do with keeping the best players home versus a big strategy shift moving forward.

What are our biggest recruiting needs (positional) to finish out this class? (@InDaWilderness)

JP: For our Premium subscribers, Greg details where Nebraska’s class stands in terms of needs every Friday in his Big Red Recon. I’ll let him provide more details, but with or without Carnie it looks like all those needs are on the defensive side of the ball.

GS: Defensive line is the biggest remaining positional need. They probably take two but it needs to be the right two. Even though the team has gone this far into the cycle without a defensive line commitment they still have lots of options. After that, one more impact linebacker would be nice too.

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