New week, new mailbag. There’s still plenty of interest in Nebraska basketball’s future (if not the present after last night), spring football is starting to trickle in as is a little bit of NFL Draft talk and we get to the most important uniform question to date: Why is basketball so much better at that part of things than football?
We hit all that and more below.
How does Nebraska football, at this point, compare to the rest of the Big Ten and the rest of the country? How does the athletic program as a whole compare? (@PowersWilliamA)
Mike Babcock: The national exposure Nebraska has gotten from Frost’s hiring has provided a boost, allowing the Huskers to go 4-8 and still get respect going into his second season. Plus, the fact he’s a Husker has given him an extended grace period with fans. But the program is in need of significant progress this season to sustain what Frost’s hiring has brought. I’ve maintained from the beginning that folks didn’t understand the implications of joining the Big Ten. It was no slam dunk. Volleyball is nationally relevant. Football, no. Men’s basketball, no. Women’s basketball, no. Baseball, no . . . you get the idea.
Do they move the Davis twins to the outside? (@sparkysauce62)
Derek Peterson: They could. But I don’t think they’ll play inside full-time anyway. Nebraska has both Damion and Darrion Daniels to play defensive tackle and we still don’t know what Vaha Vainuku’s role looks like. There’s a need outside with Freedom Akinmoladun graduating and I could see Nebraska going with Ben Stille and both Davis twins as the three starters up front. So, short answer, they’ll probably play outside without being “moved” to end.
MB: Don’t have a sense how the pieces will fit since they’ll have a new coach. Do I think they’ll be moved to end? No. That’s not their position, or at least I don’t think so. The new coach will do what’s necessary for Chinander’s system, but he’ll use guys in that system in his own way I’m guessing.
Greg Smith: One of the reasons it’s important for Frost to nail this hire is because the defensive line has so many players that can play all over the line and the Davis twins are prime examples. I don’t see them playing inside full time in a 3-4 though.
Jacob Padilla: Yeah, I don’t think Damion Daniels will be ready to handle a full starter’s load of snaps next year. I don’t know what to expect from Darrion Daniels yet and Vaha Vainuku seemingly wasn’t anywhere close to playing last year, so anything they get from him I think is a bonus. They went three-deep at nose tackle last year, so I think there will still be snaps for Carlos Davis in the middle. They’ve got a lot of guys that could potentially play so it will be interesting to see how those roles and snap counts shake out.
Potential coaching candidates not named Lue or Altman? (@thew1242)
MB: I’ll let Jacob address this. I don’t think it’s a particularly attractive job. My understanding is, Lue would have to complete a degree to coach collegiately. Maybe that’s not right. Fred Hoiberg’s grandfather coached at Nebraska . . . but see what Jacob says.
JP: Nate Oats at Buffalo is one of the hot mid-major names this season and T.J. Otzelberger from South Dakota State is a name I’ve brought up previously. Perhaps they’ll go after someone like Gregg Marshall at Wichita State. Hoiberg is out there like Mike mentioned, although I think he’d hold out for another job in the NBA before diving back into college basketball so soon. I’m really not good at all at this sort of thing, though (that thing being who Nebraska would target that might actually be willing to listen).
Who is your breakout stars on offense and defense this year? (@Huskerfan5904)
DP: On offense, I could easily see Brenden Jaimes becoming an All-Big Ten kind of left tackle. That would be a breakout, right? But the easy answer is Adrian Martinez. He was a star to Nebraska, but it didn’t seem like he got the same attention on a national basis. That changes this season. On defense, easy answer: Deontai Williams. He’s got all-conference potential.
GS: I love Derek’s pick of Jaimes and he would be my selection too. I’m all in on Wandale Robinson so I’ll make him my choice on offense. How about Dicaprio Bootle for defense? If he turns all of those pass breakups into some interceptions, look out.
MB: I’m still thinking Miles Jones, but Wandale Robinson could fit. Mo Barry has emerged, right? So how about a healthy Will Honas?
JP: On defense, I’ll agree with Derek and take Deontai Williams; he showed some serious playmaking ability in the limited role he had last year. Give him more snaps and I think we’ll see a good number of interceptions, pass break-ups and tackles for loss on blitzes. On offense, Maurice Washington would have been the answer but with his status up in the air. I think Adrian Martinez was too effective and productive last year to be the answer and it’s tough to pinpoint any one receiver not named JD Spielman as a for-sure producer. Martinez doesn’t seem to love his tight ends so it’s hard to see Jack Stoll catching enough passes to qualify. When I think “breakout,” I tend to think of guys who were already on the team the previous year rather than newcomers like Wandale Robinson. All this is to say that I suppose I’ll agree with Derek on offense almost by default and pick Brenden Jaimes.
Predictions on the Maurice Washington case? Tidbits coming out of winter conditioning? Did the staff stock up on running backs knowing that Washington might not be available next fall? (@thawildbunch)
I'm curious about the status of Mo Washington right now — is he still active on the team, getting reps in practice, etc? If so, will we see him in the spring game? (@Goooobigred)
DP: I don’t think Washington’s legal situation was the reason Nebraska restocked the running back room. That’s standard operating procedure. And if Washington’s still in legal limbo, I don’t think there’s any way he can or reason he should play in the spring game.
MB: I’m with Derek, doubt we’ll see Washington in the spring game, and Frost would’ve gone after running backs regardless. I won’t speculate long-term. The California legal system will decide that.
Jim Delaney has given you control over the start times for the upcoming B1G football season. You have 3 time slots to fill every Saturday. What are your 3 kickoff times? (@Corn_Huskers)
MB: For the fans? I’d take 2:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 11 a.m. For me, 11 a.m., 6:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. In fact, in both sequences, I’d probably go 6 p.m., which would be 7 p.m. Eastern and get a jump on the 7 p.m. games. Also more convenient for fans.
Brandon Vogel: In a world with no television concerns, 1 p.m. local is the perfect football game time. This proposal, which exists in that fantasy world, would be bad for people who like watching “the conference,” though I don’t know how many people are truly passionate about that. That said, I like the simplicity of “the Big Ten plays at 1 p.m.” (The 1 in B1G becomes even more symbolic with this proposal.) So, for a regular slate of seven conference games, six of them kick off at 1 p.m. local. That’s two time slots, 1 and 2 p.m. Eastern. If Indiana at Rutgers is bad, and it probably will be, don’t worry because Michigan at Minnesota starts an hour later. The marquee Big Ten game of the week kicks off at 8 p.m. Eastern. Pair this with a Sunday Ticket-style offering from BTN and maybe you’ve got something, though it would be terrible from a national perspective.
With the combine coming closer, what are your thoughts on Huskers getting drafted and how high? Still looking at 2-3? (@InDaWilderness)
DP: Stanley Morgan Jr. works his way into the late second, early third round. Devine Ozigbo gets late fourth, early fifth on the strength of private workouts. It was really surprising to see he didn’t get a Combine invite. I still think Nebraska gets one more guy as a late round flier.
JP: I’ll go Morgan in the third round. A lot of NFL Draft writers love Ozigbo, but the lack of a combine invitation is confusing and concerning about how the NFL decision-makers actually see him. I was thinking fourth or fifth round but I’ll go conservative here and say the sixth round. I’m hoping somebody like Luke Gifford can sneak into the seventh round, or at least get a good shot in a camp as an undrafted free agent.
Is it just me or do the basketball alternate uniforms always look better than the football ones? What's been the best and worst looking for each sport? (@Sal_Vasta3)
DP: This feels like the perfect Brandon question. I’ll just defer to him on this.
GS: Alley-oop to Brandon off the backboard like Wade to LeBron on this one.
BV: I think there are two reasons the basketball alternates are usually better. One, Tim Miles tends to lean retro. He’s been wearing basketball-Herbie polos for a few years and that’s not something off-the-rack (much to the chagrin of many fans who would like to buy one). No, Miles has to have someone make him all that retro-leaning gear, that’s a special request, and that preference shows up in the alternates like the most recent retro logo collage uniform and the new red uniforms this year with script ‘Nebraska.’ Miles, like a lot of people, seems to like old logos.
Two, basketball is much more of a blank canvas than football. There’s more history with the football uniform and thus more resistance to change. Even with a uniform that’s meant to be a one-time change. Except for this last one, all of NU’s football alternates have featured the basic helmet, just in different colors. The Huskers’ history with their regular uniform has—though I don’t think it has to—limited the scope of the football alternates to this point. You don’t have any of those concerns with basketball.
For the second part, the best football alternate was the white-and-chrome kit in 2016 and the worst was the Scrabble alternate in 2012. Basketball’s best has been the red script they debuted this year and the worst was probably late-2016's red uniform with the white zig-zag lines around the hips.
MB: To some degree, at least, I think the student-athletes should be more concerned with performance than what they’re wearing. (Says the old guy.) Tradition has become an alternate concern.
What would it take to get Nebraska and one of their former rivals to compete at a neutral site? What are your thoughts? (@_LilBigRed12_)
Erin Sorensen: Money? I mean, maybe the love of an old rivalry can bring two old foes together, but money usually moves things along a little quicker.
MB: The first thing would be money. The second thing would be money. The third thing would be . . . With five Big Ten road games every other year, such a game would have to be played in a year with four Big Ten road games. It’s a matter of economics. Also, Nebraska would travel but how about the opponent? When the Huskers played a conference game against Oklahoma State in Kansas City, I recall Nebraska fans traveling but OSU fans, not sure. In any case, the opponent would have to give up a potential home game.
How do the Huskers keep this new coach hire so quiet in a region well known for flight tracking? (@CoryHonold)
GS: There are no leaks so far. One thing this staff does very well when they really want to is keep information close to the vest. This is one of those cases. That’s OK though for now since they may be interviewing a guy or two that currently have jobs.
How many Graduate Assistants does the Football team have? I feel like I haven't heard anything about them, where in the past I know they've played a key role in the history of the program. (@Sal_Vasta3)
ES: There are currently four listed on Nebraska’s staff. I think it ebbs and flows based on how much we know about each. The last that felt like a household name (at least from my perspective) was Tavita Thompson. He became popular because a lot of players wanted him to become Nebraska’s 10th coach when that all came about. But just because we don’t always hear about the graduate assistants, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there working their butts off. I think we have to look at what positions they are assisting with, like wide receivers. It’s easy to get overlooked when the offensive coordinator is the primary guy there. Doesn’t mean you aren’t working though. Just means you might not get the top billing in every mention (unlike Thompson, who essentially was the tight ends coach for Nebraska).
MB: Anyone in such a role must make a significant contribution, just like “analysts.”
With a new Defensive line coach being a necessity how much, if any do you think the defensive scheme will change this upcoming season? (@e_hutch05)
MB: Don’t think it will change significantly, just a reflection of some idiosyncrasies of the new coach maybe. The system will still be Chinander’s.
JP: Yeah, whoever they hire is going to have to already be familiar with Chinander’s system or will have to learn on the fly. Nebraska isn’t changing what hey do from a scheme perspective. What might change, however, is the way the coach teaches and certain technique things. Every coach has his own style.