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Hail Varsity Mailbag
Photo Credit: Quentin Lueninghoener

Mailbag: NFL Draft Thoughts, Rearranging Nebraska’s Schedule, and More

April 29, 2021

It’s mailbag time, so let’s get right into it.

If you had the chance to reorganize the Huskers football schedule, what changes would you make and why? Remember, you can’t change who they play, just when they play them. (@Corn_Huskers) 

Erin Sorensen: The one game that makes the most sense to move is Southeastern Louisiana. If it was possible to move it from Nov. 13 to the open date in early September, that would be fine for me. It would give you an earlier home game which is beneficial for recruiting, and I think a bye week late in the season before heading to Wisconsin would be nice. With that said, Southeastern Louisiana isn’t available on that date in early September so it’s a moot point. As far as the rest, maybe I’d swap Michigan State and Northwestern so you’re not going on the road back-to-back with Oklahoma, but that’s the only other change I’d suggest. It’s a tough schedule, there’s no doubt about that. I’m not sure how much reorganizing changes that. 

Derek Peterson: This is always an interesting conversation. The teams with a front-loaded schedule tend to lament the fact they probably won’t be able to build up momentum early in the year. The teams with a back-loaded slate worry about a murderer’s row when your team is most vulnerable to physically wearing out. Nebraska’s particular problem with its schedule is the lack of home games early on. If I have the ability to just cut up and reorganize the schedule, I’m not so much worried about the home game aspect of it, but I do think for this particular team early momentum could be a positive thing. So, we’re opening against Illinois (Aug. 28) because I think a Big Ten season-opener is a necessary and potentially super helpful test for this group. I think Nebraska can beat Illinois so long as it doesn’t beat itself, which has really been the reason for dropping games against lesser talented teams in the last two years. A Big Ten opener sets the standard of play right away, I would think, and Nebraska would be better for that if it comes out on top. Next, we come home to play Southeastern Louisiana (Sept. 4), like Nebraska really wants to in real life. This game should be a blowout. Nebraska is now 2-0 and coming off a game where the third-string offensive line played in the fourth quarter. Good vibes here. Next is Buffalo (Sept. 11), who might be losing its coach to Kansas here in the near future. I like this as the week three game at home. Nebraska is physically recovered from the Big Ten opener but has been able to work out the kinks in week two. Nebraska should be favored here in real life, and with a chance to get to 3-0 in my hypothetical world, I think they can pull it out. Next is Northwestern at home (Sept. 18); we’re into the conference slate now. Northwestern is always a test, but should be an easier out this year compared to last. Nebraska is rolling a bit and I think they’re able to take care of the Wildcats at home. On to 4-0. Now, I want Michigan State (Sept. 25) and Wisconsin (Oct. 9) road games back-to-back, with the first bye week built in between them. At the end of this stretch, Nebraska should be 5-1 and feeling good about where it’s at, which means it’s time to go into the meat of the schedule. Homecoming takes place against Michigan (Oct. 16). Scott Frost is motivated by the way the game went last time, Nebraska has the home crowd to its advantage and could be very competitive. Regardless of which way the game goes, Nebraska is still sitting pretty on the year at either 5-2 or 6-1. Next up is another home game with Purdue (Oct. 23). Nebraska stays at home and gets a bit of a reprieve after physically demanding opponents the previous two weeks. We hit the road again to face Minnesota (Oct. 30) for one more game before the team’s final bye week.  Nebraska could very well be 6-3 at this point heading into the final three weeks of its season with bowl eligibility already locked up. It gets a bye week during the Nov. 6 weekend to rest up and prepare for a gauntlet at the end. Frost and a somewhat freshened-up Huskers team have their chance to prove their mettle. It’s a sucky close, but it’s your chance to show the world what you’re made of. Can’t ask for more than that. Coming out of the bye week, Nebraska hosts Ohio State (Nov. 13). Nebraska should be playing high-level football at this point. After Ohio State, Nebraska travels to Oklahoma (Nov. 20) for the commemoration of the Game of the Century. The original game in 1971 was on Nov. 25, so I want to tie this one to that as closely as possible without interfering with the Iowa game on Black Friday. The original schedule has Nebraska on the road at Wisconsin right before the Iowa game, so it’s not like I’ve drastically changed the calculus here. Close the year with the Hawkeyes at home. Nebraska has been afforded a nine-week build-up with every opportunity to gain bowl eligibility. A bye week then sets it up for a three-week “prove it” stretch at the end. Potentially dramatic stuff.

Give me your last moment thoughts on Nebraska’s draft prospects and who might have their names called here in the next couple days. (@InDaWilderness) 

Greg Smith: At this point it feels like Brenden Jaimes is a lock to be drafted. I do think Dicaprio Bootle has a good shot at getting picked after a strong Pro Day. Bootle also likely impressed during interviews. After that I can see a strong group of UDFA offers. 

ES: Jaimes seems like the most likely bet. I know Matt Farniok’s name has been brought up here and there. Bootle does have an outside shot, but he’s getting an UDFA agent deal no matter what. In some cases, that’s sometimes better than being drafted depending on where you get selected. You have more freedom to select your opportunity, which could be a huge benefit for a player like Bootle. 

Jacob Padilla: Jaimes definitely seems like the best bet to get drafted. Bootle’s testing numbers and interviews might get him picked late on day three. Matt Farniok’s testing numbers probably opened some eyes, but I don’t think his tape is good enough to be more than an undrafted free agent. Jack Stoll missing most of the season prevented him from having the kind of breakout year he would have needed to get drafted. I don’t see Dedrick Mills getting picked either. I think we’ll see one or two draft picks and three or four UDFAs signed by the end of the weekend. 

Who are some second-year players you’re most intrigued by coming out of spring? (email submission) 

JP: I’ll start with the wide receivers simply because I need to see it after getting burned last year. Will Omar Manning (he’s in his second year with Nebraska, right?), Zavier Bets and Alante Brown play a significant role this season? I’d add Sevion Morrison to the list as well because he’s a complete wildcard. We never got to see him last year for a variety of reasons. If he’s healthy this year, can he be a significant part of that running back rotation? We know Ryan Held is looking for a few different bodies that he can count on in the backfield. Finally, I’ll highlight Turner Corcoran. His first start at left tackle went pretty well to my untrained eye; is he ready to hold down that position for the next three or four years?   

If my math is correct, Martinez has two more years of eligibility. Does he play both of them? What are the chances he gets drafted after this year? What about after next? (Based on how good you project him to be). (@InDaWilderness) 

ES: It really, really, really depends on how he plays this season. If he plays like he did his freshman year and the quarterback class for the next NFL Draft isn’t super deep (I’m admittedly not familiar with what to expect with the 2022 draft), then I think we see him move on. If this year doesn’t go as well for him? Maybe he sticks around, but then it becomes a question of what is behind him on the depth chart. Is someone close to passing him? Would that be worth sticking around and competing for (and potentially losing your spot) in a final year? I’m leaning toward this being the last year for Martinez at Nebraska, regardless of how he’s projected to play. But again, I kind of need to see how some of this season goes first for all parties involved (including the depth at QB) before I firmly say one way or the other. 

GS: Martinez does have two years of eligibility left technically. I agree with Erin that it depends on how the season goes. With no inside information here my gut just feels like this is his final year at Nebraska. Playing quarterback at Nebraska for five years would be a lot on anyone. 

The NFL Draft starts up this weekend and once again Nebraska doesn’t have anyone threatening to break into the top part of the draft. Is Cam Taylor-Britt our best bet to have one next year? Where do you think he’ll go? Who else? (email submission) 

GS: Taylor-Britt is the clear pick for a first three rounds of the NFL Draft player for Nebraska next year. It gets more interesting to me projecting players from the 2019 recruiting class. There is a lot of potential there for players like Ty Robinson and Bryce Benhart. Though one player from the 2018 class we never talked about with draft stock is Cam Jurgens. When his time is done here, he will be an interesting prospect. 

JP: I think Nebraska could have a chance to have a handful of guys drafted next year if the season goes as they hope, but Taylor-Britt is the most likely to go during the first two days. Samori Toure will be interesting to keep tabs on. He came to Lincoln to prove himself as an NFL prospect and he’ll get every chance to do so this season. I don’t know that he’s a potential early-round pick, but from everything we’ve heard it does sound like he’ll get a chance to play in the NFL next year. 

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Tags: Mailbag