New year, same mailbag. The Hail Varsity staff is back to answer your Nebraska-related questions.
What are your New Year's resolutions for the 3 phases of the football team for 2020? (@Corn_Huskers)
Brandon Vogel: Start with offense—finish drives in opponent territory. Nebraska really struggled there in 2019, particularly in the red zone but finishing moves, so to speak, start before teams get that close. Defense, convert more pass breakups into interceptions. In terms of percentage, the Huskers were right on the expected number but I think the secondary has to be a strength in 2020 and that probably needs to involve some more takeaways. Where to start on special teams? You could pick almost any phase, but figuring out the place-kicking situation probably has to be stop of the list.
Mike Babcock: Offense, run the ball consistently and often to set up the pass and alleviate pressure on the pass game. Defense, get pressure on the quarterback, sacks, to alleviate pressure on the secondary. Special teams, as Brandon says, take your pick. Make them one-third of the game, don’t just say they are.
Derek Peterson: My offensive resolution: generate a downfield passing threat. JD Spielman is best working in space, not trying to beat guys for jump balls. Someone to compliment him and Wan’Dale Robinson would go a long way to helping with Brandon’s resolution (also important). My defensive resolution: stop the dang run. In terms of yards per carry, Nebraska has ranked worse than 100th nationally for three straight years. My special teams resolution: find dudes who want to do their job properly. Kickoffs go for touchbacks, punts go where they’re supposed to, blockers are clinical, gunners stay in their lanes. Nebraska needs everything to be better when it comes to the third phase of the game.
Which true freshman this year do you feel will make the biggest impact? (@PBlak69)
Erin Sorensen: I think wide receiver Zavier Betts has a good chance at making an early impact in 2020. He won’t arrive at Nebraska until June—so he’ll have to put some work in on his own this spring—but if he can get to Lincoln and hit the ground running, I like what he could bring to the team next season.
MB: I’d agree with Erin on Betts, or Alante Brown, who’s here early, or Jaiden Francois, who’s also supposed to be here. Going through spring is invaluable.
Greg Smith: I love the Brown pick since I’ve become the early driver of his bandwagon. To be different I will go with Marvin Scott III. I go back and forth about which running back will play first and have an immediate impact, which is probably a good thing. He’s physically ready so it will help ease his summer arrival.
I'm pretty confident Frost will get at least four years, but let's get pessimistic. What do you think the minimum number of wins he would need to get in order to not be on the hot seat entering year four? (@InDaWilderness)
ES: Six. I think his seat would be uncomfortable and warm with only six wins, but that would at least get Nebraska to a bowl game and you could talk yourself into being OK with that as growth. I think it’ll take eight or nine to not have it be much of a thing at all.
MB: Hot seat provided by the administration, or the fans? Obviously, Moos isn’t pulling out the hot seat any time soon with the contract extension. As for the fans, some are already heating things up. As Frost says, just OK is not OK. He needs more than minimal bowl eligibility to keep things from heating up more. Seven wins, maybe eight. Six would mean the most vocal folks are tempering expectations. I don’t see that happening.
Jacob Padilla: Barring some off-the-field circumstances of some kind, I have a hard time seeing Frost himself being on the hot seat after next season no matter what happens. His staff, however, is another story. If Nebraska doesn’t show signs of noticeable progress a with at least six or seven wins and a bowl appearance, I could see Moos having a tough conversation with Frost.
DP: Frost’s seat is icy unless Nebraska goes, I don’t know, 3-9, or something crazy like that. His reputation will take a hit if Nebraska is under six wins, but his job security is fine for another two years, I think.
Why is it that basketball coaches and players have to wear nice clothes like suits, but football coaches and players can wear whatever they want? (@IBeLionsBeats)
ES: I don’t have an answer, but I’ve always wondered. Think about baseball too. The coaches wear the uniforms. Could you imagine if football or basketball had to do that?
MB: Fewer basketball players traveling, easier to control. And I’ve seen football teams that travel in suits. Didn’t Osborne’s teams? I think it’s more a reflection of the times than anything. Baseball’s different in that trips are often made by bus, right?
JP: There’s no “have to” about it. It’s not a rule, it’s just what everybody does. I’d say part of it probably has to do with one sport being played in an arena and the other being played in an open-air stadium; practicality plays a part. But you see now in basketball most guys that are injured or redshirting wear some sort of track suit or something like that on the bench during games.
Do you see Nebraska upsetting anyone next year? Looking at Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Iowa I could see Nebraska taking a game or two (@khyelnederson15)
ES: Anything is possible, which is why sports thrive. The potential of anything happening at any time is enough to keep people coming back. In this case, Nebraska has to travel to Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa. The matchups with the Hawkeyes and Badgers are back-to-back on the road too, which isn’t ideal. With that said, I could see Nebraska finally getting a much-needed win over Iowa. Could they snag another from the other three? Sure, but I’m just not confident in what to predict yet so best not to overhype it too much.
MB: We have to consider where those games you mention will be played, as Erin says. Penn State is the only one that comes to Lincoln. I’d be more concerned with games that wouldn’t be considered “upsets,” just winning them, starting with Purdue—and DC Bob Diaco? Finishing with a win against Minnesota would be an upset in my mind.
JP: Mike’s got a good point. We went into this season chalking up six or seven wins off the bat and then looking at those potential upsets to make this a really good season. They struck out on those upsets and lost a couple of those chalk games as well. Until I see that Nebraska is in a place where it’s ready to go toe-to-toe with the best in the conference, particularly on the road, it’s hard to expect it to happen. If I had to pick one, I’d go with Iowa as well because Nebraska has played with the Hawkeyes and had a chance to win each of the last two years.
What is your guess on how many freshmen (or new to the team via JUCO or transfer) are starters next year? (@kohhusker)
BV: I’d put the number at 2.5 and probably take the under. Omar Manning seems like the best bet at wide receiver. I could see a linebacker, maybe Keyshawn Greene or Eteva Mauga-Clements, making a rapid rise. Beyond that, you’re probably looking at another skill-position player eventually taking a starting spot. Both running backs could have a shot.
GS: Brandon set a good number here. I’d also take that under. Manning for sure, and after that, it’s a guessing game. I can see a handful burning redshirts but not many immediate starters which is a good thing actually.
Who, or what position, could we be seeing, if any, come out of the transfer portal? (@Tanner_Claws)
BV: I think you always at least kick the tires on experienced linemen, both sides of the ball. Defensive line could be an option again. Offensive line, too, despite the Huskers returning every starter from 2019. Ohio State started a Rutgers transfer at guard this year, so if you can find a plug-and-play option at those spots, where experience matters most, I think Nebraska would take a look.
MB: Cynical here. Daniels had a reason to pick Nebraska, his brother. And Brandon’s example, good player from Rutgers starts for Ohio State. If I’m a talented player like that looking to transfer, why would I pick Nebraska at this point unless, like Daniels, I had a good reason to do so? Nebraska doesn’t need someone who’s disaffected somewhere else to come here. Develop the players you recruit, raise the level of play and then maybe consider the transfer portal.
GS: Kicker. If I had to bet on a position it would be kicker. Otherwise, it makes sense to wait until after spring ball to see what you have at other spots before adding someone to the mix.