Brandon Vogel, Erin Sorensen, Greg Smith and Jacob Padilla answer your Husker questions in a new mailbag.
What week in the 2019 season will the Huskers be ranked for the first time in the Top 25? (@Corn_Huskers)
ES: So, here’s the thing about the 2019 schedule… It’s much friendlier for Nebraska than the 2018 schedule was, but it’s going to be harder to crack the Top 25 without some signature wins over signature teams. Of those on Nebraska’s schedule next season, only Ohio State is currently ranked in the AP Top 25 at No. 5 (Northwestern is just on the outside looking in, having received 109 votes). The Buckeyes are then No. 6 in the College Football Playoff Rankings, with Northwestern at No. 22. That means your best bet for Nebraska working its way into the rankings (figuring the Huskers don’t start the season ranked, which I think it’d be a stretch for that to happen) would be with a win over Ohio State on Sept. 28. Get a win over the Buckeyes and then another a week later over Northwestern? Well, even better. However, a lot will change between now and then. Roster turnover, preseason hype, wins and losses early in the season that change the rankings, etc., so it’s hard to predict. But if Nebraska is undefeated by Ohio State and beats the Buckeyes? Pencil me down for that week.
GS: I agree with Erin about it being more difficult to move up without signature wins but I have a sneaky feeling that Nebraska will be a trendy team next year despite only having four wins this season. So, in my opinion, after a blowout win against Illinois in Champaign, they will be ranked heading into the showdown with Ohio State in Lincoln.
BV: Week 3. Nebraska will be receiving votes in the preseason poll, a few more after the season-opening win over South Alabama (plus a couple top-25 losses) and in the polls after a road win over Colorado. Mark it down.
Now that the first signing day has passed, who of the incoming freshman (and walk-ons) do you think can make an immediate impact (on the two-deep) this season? (@Sal_Vasta3)
GS: Put me down for Wandale Robinson, Ty Robinson, Jamie Nance, Bryce Benhart and Nick Henrich all cracking the two-deep this season. At this point, Wandale has the best opportunity to start.
JP: Greg put a pretty good list together there. Bryce Benhart should push Farniok at right tackle even if he doesn’t start Week 1. Wandale Robinson will have a role in this offense from day one. With only three inside linebackers with any experience (one of whom is coming off a torn ACL), I think both Nick Henrich and Jackson Hannah will get every opportunity to earn playing time this year. Jamie Nance and Darien Chase will get a chance as well with Nance getting the leg up by enrolling early, but it’s hard for me to figure out that wide receiver room after the way things went down this season. Finally, defensive line will be interesting to track. Nebraska used an eight- or nine-man rotation for most of last year on the line, and six guys are back from that group. Add Darrion Daniels as a graduate transfer and you have seven guys with playing experience. Ty Robinson is a very talented player and a great scheme fit and should be in the mix with the likes of Chris Walker, Tate Wildeman and Casey Rogers for playing time; I think the other freshman defensive linemen are safe redshirt bets.
What’s the one Christmas gift you really, really wanted that you didn’t get? (@Simba_Simms)
ES: I’m a big shoe fan, so I wanted a pair of Rothy’s (shoes made with recycled water bottles) and this pair of Nikes with a floral print (sorry, Adidas). I have enough shoes, so it’s probably wise no one got them for me but I was hoping.
GS: Mine is also shoe related. I didn’t get a pair of Adidas Ultra Boosts but I do have a mystery package at my house (I’m out of town currently) so there is still hope.
Best and worst gift you’ve ever received? (@JakeKocoB5Q)
ES: My mom won a basket in a charity raffle at her work full of Coach items. That was pretty cool when she gave that to me, because it was full of all this Coach stuff that she won for the price of a raffle ticket. Other than that, the KitchenAid mixer was a favorite when I got it. As for worst gift, I don’t remember ever receiving anything I truly hated. I even appreciate socks when I get them, because I somehow am always losing socks.
GS: Funny that the best gift question was asked because we had this discussion during family Christmas. When I was a kid, I got a three-in-one pool table, air hockey table and ping-pong table. It’s always my go-to answer and I just loved that. As for worst, I once got a chemistry set when I was about eleven in which you really could make compounds to blow stuff up. I never saw that thing again once we got home. Weird.
BV: Best was definitely the G.I. Joe Aircraft Carrier, which was an insane toy, maybe the definition of excess. My poor parents had to build it in the loft of our house because, at 7-feet long, it was a toy that wasn’t portable. But, man, it was amazing. Worst? One of my aunts made a Raggedy Andy doll for me by hand when I was pretty young. I was terrified of it and started crying immediately upon opening the gift. While the reaction was real and genuine, as an adult I know the time that went into it and still feel bad about it. But what can you do when you’re 5?
Any details on why Dedrick Mills didn’t sign? (@Sal_Vasta3)
ES: Nebraska has been clear with its junior college recruits that they want the academic pieces taken care of before the prospect signs. That seems to be the case with Mills, who just needs to clear up some academic issues before signing.
How many total walk-ons are there now in the Husker program… How many are at the point of contributing consistently? (@marylhanson)
JP: As of now, taking into account the current roster and commits, Nebraska’s roster sits at 151, and 67 of them are walk-ons. Wyatt Mazour earned a scholarship last year and is in the Duck-R/running back mix. Andrew Bunch is still in the quarterback room as of now. Kade Warner earned a starting role at wide receiver last year. Isaac Armstrong has a stranglehold on the punter job while Chase Urbach is the long-snapper. Jeramiah Stovall, Eli Sullivan, Ethan Cox and Todd Honas all played on special teams this year. Trent Hixson and Hunter Miller – and perhaps AJ Forbes – should be in the mix on the offensive line next year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see guys like Isaiah Stalbird and Moses Bryant (plus Forbes) from last year’s preferred walk-on class earn their way onto the field sooner rather than later.
What is your favorite walk-on of the 2019 class? Why? (@_LilBigRed12_)
GS: I don’t really have a favorite per se but I do have a “most intriguing.” Offensive lineman Josh Wegener choosing to walk-on at Nebraska instead of taking one of his FCS offers has my interest. He has an opportunity to provide depth at center quickly. He is someone I’ll be looking out for when he makes it to campus this summer.
JP: Wegener is a good pick, but I’ll toss out two guys I’ve mentioned before: Luke Reimer and Caden McCormack both have the athleticism to get on the field at some point in their careers. I see those two being special teams contributors down the road for sure and perhaps even more.
Priorities in finishing out this class? Seems obvious, inside linebacker, but what about another running back if Dedrick Mills doesn’t end up coming? (@Dthomas24)
GS: Pass rush so outside linebacker, defensive back and wide receiver. Inside linebacker isn’t really a priority, though they’d take an additional one if the right player emerges. Nebraska has been keeping in contact with John Bivens out of Ohio so he’d likely be the replacement for Mills should he end up not making it.
JP: Yeah, I don’t really see a need at inside linebacker. They’ve got three guys already in this class that will start their careers there. I’m not sure another freshman helps you any there. Perhaps a surprise graduate transfer pops up at that position but you only want to take so many guys at the same position in any given class.
Any surprise recruits this February your thinking we could shock people and have a chance? (@TurboHall01)
GS: I don’t see any at the moment. We’ll see after the contact period opens back up next month but don’t count on a random 5-star or high 4-star suddenly on campus.