The full Hail Varsity team is back to answer your Huskers questions in a new mailbag. Let’s get right to it.
With Urban Meyer's announcement today and Brohm staying at Purdue, how would you rank the top 7 coaching staffs in the B1G heading into 2019? (@Corn_Huskers)
BV: This is a really tough question and one that requires a full breakdown. Without Meyer in the mix, who is the best coach in the Big Ten going into 2019? There’s no longer an easy answer, and my staff rankings would flow from there. My gut reaction ranking is: Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State, Northwestern, Iowa, Purdue/Nebraska/Ohio State. Cheating a bit by putting Purdue/Nebraska/Ohio State in as a tie.
When does a baseball preview come out? (@pudgee691)
DP: We’ve actually got some plans for baseball in the works so stay tuned. *inserts eyeball emojis*
Where would you rank the Vault in terms of home floor advantage in the Big Ten? (@TheWeeksy)
ES: I haven't been to many basketball arenas in the Big Ten (full transparency) but I’ve heard a lot about what others think of Pinnacle Bank Arena. While it’s new and doesn’t necessarily have the history other arenas in the conference have, it does impress people. You can credit the fans for that. When PBA is on, it’s on. And it can be a fun environment for visiting teams. I think that gives Nebraska some serious home court advantage, and I think it has to be somewhere in the top half because of the fans.
DP: Before Nebraska left to go play in Kansas City earlier this season, Tanner Borchardt talked about not worrying about big environments like The Sprint Center because they play every home game in as big an environment as they ever will. When Illinois coach Brad Underwood met with the media after that loss last week, he tried to say in as nice a way as he could that Notre Dame’s home floor advantage was nothing compared to Nebraska’s. Pinnacle Bank Arena is a special place and when it gets rocking it becomes something else entirely. I’d put it at the very top of home court advantages.
There any chance McCaffrey plays any wide receiver or another position before he plays quarterback? (@theerealginger)
JP: I think it would be the opposite. They recruited him as a quarterback and I anticipate them giving him the chance to play that position when he arrives. He’ll redshirt the first year while Mario Verduzco gets to work with him then will battle with Noah Vedral for the backup spot to Adrian Martinez as a redshirt freshman. If Logan Smothers arrives in 2020 and jumps ahead of McCaffrey, maybe then they move him to wide receiver.
GS: No. The plan is to redshirt him and let him learn QB under Verduzco. Jacob laid out the scenario quite well.
DP: Are we too quick to assume McCaffrey couldn’t win the backup job right away?
What do you think the Huskers will do to improve the defense next year? (@emporerbjork2)
BV: The numbers don’t really show it, but I think there were stretches where they played the kind of defense they hope to. Based on that, I think this is one case where another year in the system really may be the key. If the secondary play gets a little better and the defensive line play a little more dynamic, both would be small improvements that led to larger improvements overall.
GS: I agree with Brandon that the defense played better as the season went along. One area they really need to improve in is third down stops. If Nebraska can continue to improve there it would go a long way to helping the team eventually score more points. Consistently sacking the quarterback would also be a big help.
DP: Greg stole my answer so I’ll get creative. Nebraska ranked 112th in defensive success rate on third down a season ago. That’s got to bump up. But in order to do so, I think Nebraska’s got to be able to put more consistent pressure on the quarterback. I don’t need to explain away the value of sacking the quarterback but after the seven-sack opener against Colorado, things really teetered off. A better sack rate will help the third-down numbers, it’ll help the turnover opportunities and it’ll help the pass defense. If you could create a “get better quick” list, those would be your three bullet points. Whether that’s bringing in someone like a Lloyd Summerall or developing a guy like Caleb Tannor already on the team, I’m sure quarterback pressure is high on the list of priorities this offseason for the coaching staff.
With the addition of graduate transfer Darrion Daniels, how do you see the depth chart shaping out at nose guard? (@_LilBigRed12_)
JP: That’s a good question. Carlos Davis slid inside almost full-time out of default when Mick Stoltenberg got hurt. Stoltenberg is gone and so is Peyton Newell, two of the four guys that played the nose this year. Damion Daniels should see his snap count rise, but how much will depend on his stamina level and how much work he can get done with Zach Duval over the offseason. Darrion Daniels seems to be a little undersized for a traditional nose tackle, but if he’s strong enough to hold his own in there I’d have to think he figures heavily into the rotation. Vaha Vainuku still has another year in the program, but it’s hard to know what to expect from him. Could he play the Peyton Newell role from this year? I think Carlos Davis will still see some snaps at the nose, but I think they’ll back him off a bit from where he was at the end of last season and have him play more like he was prior to when Stoltenberg got hurt.
I think we’ll see one of the Daniels brothers starting at the nose with a Davis at one end and Ben Stille at the other. The other Daniels brother plays the primary back-up role with Carlos Davis mixing in here and there in certain situations. Vainuku gets the leftover snaps to keep the other guys fresh.
Is there an instant game-changer on the d-line the Huskers are targeting? (Red_N_Ruhd)
GS: Ty Robinson is the only prospect that approaches this status and I don’t think he is a “game-changer” day one. That is no slight to him though because I’ve said before in the mailbag that I believe the hardest place to make a big impact year one is the defensive line. It just doesn’t happen often at all.
JP: Echoing Greg’s thoughts, I don’t think we have a newcomer make a dramatic difference. That being said, I think Nebraska should be fine there with the Davis brothers and Stille getting another offseason with Zach Duval, Damion Daniels getting into better shape and perhaps someone like Tate Wildeman or Chris Walker getting into the mix.
Would you rather fight one million squirrels or one human-sized squirrel? (@tklim2430)
ES: Look, this question was posed but with chickens last year and I got a big ol’ debate in my mentions over it. I’d take the human-sized squirrel because it’s only one thing to fight. And I’d rather be taken down by one stupidly large squirrel versus an army of squirrels. Plus, I think I could outsmart the human-sized squirrel. It’s not like their brains suddenly change and they think like a human. I like my odds because of that.
JP: I’ll agree with Erin. I don’t have the stamina to fight that many squirrels (I probably don’t have the strength to fight one giant squirrel either, but if I’m going down I’d rather it be quick than death by a million squirrel bites).
GS: I’ll take my chances with the human-sized squirrel.
DP: It’s still a squirrel regardless of size and that means I can distract it with an acorn.
Last year, everyone wished for a Coach Frost action figure under their Christmas tree. What shiny, new toy do you want under the tree (any Husker sport related), and what features would it have? (@Rawker8)
DP: A plane ticket to Indianapolis for early December 2019.
Will you guys be making a BIG early NFL tracker list along with returning Big Ten award winners? Would create some fun discussions for next season. (@CoryHonold)
ES: Just for Nebraska or all Big Ten? Either way, let’s do it. I’ll assign it to Derek.