Hot Reads: About Those 5.5 Wins . . . Again
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Mailbag: Picking a Head Coach, Finding Positives and Predicting the End

October 19, 2017

Nebraska is officially entrenched in its bye week and just because there's no game being played this week, that doesn't mean you don't have questions.

The Hail Varsity staff of Brandon Vogel, Greg Smith, Jacob Padilla and Derek Peterson took a stab at answering those questions.

If you’re the AD of any D1 school, who is your 5 football coaches and 5 men’s basketball coaches that you have on your “to go after” list? … Rule: there can’t be any elite coaches that are already at winning programs. You can pick guys you can get for $3 million or less. (@DerrickArthur)

BV: Ouch. $3 million is a tough cut off point. Nearly 40 current FBS coaches make that much in 2017, so you’re left looking at up-and-comers or coordinators. I probably need a month to think about this, but without that here’s a top five on the football side:

1. Scott Frost (HC, UCF): Yes, he’s on my list no matter where my school is located. Love his resume.

2. Brent Venables (DC, Clemson): Hasn’t been a head coach before and may not want to be, but I’d find out. Off the Kansas State coaching tree that has produced a bunch of good coaches.

3. Bryan Harsin (HC, Boise St.): Has won conference titles in the only two conferences he’s coached in.

4. Jeremy Pruitt (DC, Alabama): Has been a Broyles Award finalist twice, and has coaching stops at Florida State, Georgia and Alabama.

5. Mike Leach (HC, Washington State): This one makes me a little nervous and would require the right fit, but there’s nobody who has proven more for less than $3 million a year. I did, however, give a long look to Duke’s David Cutcliffe.

As for basketball . . . I have no idea.

What neglected non-football thing are you catching up on during this bye week? (@Simba_Simms)

DP: Health.

GS: Before today I would have said my DVR but now that the Hail Varsity sickness bug has bitten me, it’s health.

JP: NBA BACK! But also, I’m accompanying my brother on a visit to Doane University for the football game on Saturday. The basketball coaches invited him to come see a game and meet the staff and this bye week worked perfectly so I could go with.

How do the players not get jacked to play for the upset of tOSU in front of the #SeaOfRed? They didn’t seem to be motivated at all on Sat. (@ReedTyler84)

GS: I don’t know if they were unmotivated or not confident. You always want to win but having the belief you can win and behaving and playing as such are two different things for this team at the moment.

In a season full of negatives, what positives can we take out of it at this point? (@NEOilers84)

DP: If you’re not excited about JD Spielman’s future, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Maybe his season came to a crescendo last Saturday against Ohio State, or maybe, given his massive usage on third and fourth down, he’s going to keep building on past performances as the season moves along and we see an even better outing down the road.

GS: Since Derek mentioned JD, I’ll say Ben Stille, Mo Barry, Michael Decker even if reluctantly have all been bright spots individually this season.

JP: Luke Gifford is another guy who has made a big leap this season, and Carlos Davis has been a monster. Caleb Lightbourn is fourth in the Big Ten and No. 41 nationally in punting average.

Since the early season predictions are not looking good and fans on edge do you dare predict the rest of the way? (@CoryHonold)

DP: I’ll go out on a limb and say Nebraska wins three of its final five. They beat Northwestern at home, win a close one over Minnesota and then get bowl eligible with a big season-ending win over Iowa.

GS: It’s so hard to do this right now, so no I do not dare. Ask again after Purdue!

JP: I like Greg’s answer. If they take care of business against Purdue, I think they could very realistically go 4-1. If they lose that one, it could get ugly.

BV: I’ll say 2-3 the rest of the way, wins over Minnesota and . . . let’s see . . . Iowa. Just to make things weird.

Where is Keyan Williams and why hasn’t he played? I haven’t read anything about him being injured. (@joeypaczkowski)

DP: He has been battling a hamstring injury since fall camp.

GS: Hamstrings can be very tricky but even though we haven’t seen him play, he is missed for just having another body who understands the offense.

JP: Fortunately for Nebraska, Spielman has really emerged as a difference-maker in the slot, so I’m not even sure what Williams’ role would look like right now if healthy. The tough thing here is that as a transfer, Williams has already used a redshirt. Unless he was injured during last season as well and couldn’t have played anyway, I don’t think he’d be able to get a sixth year. But then again, I could be wrong. Tanner Lee got his.

What’s one thing that’s surprised you in a good way, and one thing in a bad way about the season so far? (@IBeLionsBeats)

DP: I used JD Spielman above so here, I’ll say I’ve been positively surprised with Michael Decker’s emergence on the offensive line. I would say the negative has been the fact that we’ve seen a couple guys now that have won jobs despite coaches telling us in the offseason they weren’t the best player at the position. I’m thinking Decker here losing out to Cole Conrad. I’m also thinking about Devine Ozigbo and a guy like Brenden Jaimes.

JP: I think we’ve hit on most of the pleasant surprises already, and I think the main one is the performance of the guys who have played well when called on to fill in for injured starters (basically, the other half of Derek’s bad surprise). On the negative side, I think it’s the complete lack of competitiveness on defense the last 1.5 games. I expected an adjustment period, but it shouldn’t be getting worse in games six and seven even with the injuries they’ve had to deal with.

BV: I thought the defense would be much further along. I was expecting a transition period and I knew Nebraska was a player or two short at a couple of positions, but I thought identity might cover up some of those holes. It hasn’t so far.

If you had the "magic elixir" and could change one thing with the football team, what would it be? The final score does not count. (@Corn_Huskers)

DP: Health. I honestly think this team would be in a much different position if it was completely healthy. I’m talking Chris Jones starts at corner all season, JoJo Domann doesn’t get hurt and Joshua Kalu remains at the opposite corner, Tre Bryant has a great knee and the Huskers are able to run it effectively each game. I think we’re looking at a very different situation. 

GS: I’d give these players, coaches and fans a huge heap of belief. I like to quote Batman a lot but there’s a line about Bane fighting with the “power of belief.” Nebraska in all facets lack the power of belief. It sounds a little hokey but I think it’s true.

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