A common theme in each week’s mailbag is the opportunity to predict the future. It’s especially prominent at the beginning of each new year, which is perfectly understandable. Everything is a blank slate (for the most part) at this point. That mean it’s fun guessing what might and what might not happen before National Signing Day, the first football game of the 2017 season and more.
Brandon Vogel, Jacob Padilla, Jake Jensen and Erin Sorensen answer your questions in this week’s Hail Varsity mailbag.
Q: What does the day one starting OL and DL look like next year? – 3.L.C.
JP: It’s way too early to give a clear answer to this for the offensive line, so I’ll cheat and give a rough outline.
LT: Nick Gates
LG: Jerald Foster
C: John Raridon/Michael Decker
RG: Tanner Farmer/Boe Wilson
RT: Matt Farniok/Cole Conrad/David Knevel
Defense I think is a little easier to project at this point, although there are a few players who can change the equation with a good spring and fall.
DE: Freedom Akinmoladun
DT: Carlos Davis
DT: Mick Stoltenberg
DE: Alex Davis
Q: Best game day food? (Sans Chipotle) – K.K.
ES: How dare you take Chipotle away? OK, OK. Beyond Chipotle, I’m limited to what is in the press box. I get excited for chili and cinnamon rolls day, as well as breakfast pizza. Those two are probably my favorite. Although this year they added a red hot dog/stadium cheeseburgers day and that was great. That went high on the list too.
BV: Sausages. Hot dogs, bratwursts, hot links, kielbasa, andouille, boudin, the possibilities are almost endless. Sausages are portable (you can pack a lot of them into a cooler). They can be prepared en masse. They are easy to handle as you’re holding a paper plate in your hand. They really are the food that was designed for tailgating.
Q: Why not just go after Chip (Kelly) and if he says yes, fire Mike Riley? Recruiting class may improve and definitely a coach upgrade. – B.H.
JJ: Well, they’d be paying three coaches at once for one reason and they’d be running an offense that doesn’t fit their personnel for a second reason.
Q: With Mike Riley leaving Oregon State with little talent and basically the same staff here, what should be a realistic expectation for this year? C.H.
BV: I don’t have high expectations for the Huskers’ record next year. Just too many unanswered questions at this moment, but this team should feel like the first one that is fully Mike Riley’s, so I think the goal is progress. Nebraska at the end of 2017 needs to look like a team that’s ready to contend for conference titles and, thus, playoff spots. Can you do that while being 8-4? Maybe, if it’s 8-4 with close losses to the best teams you face. That’s still a big hill to climb and a very narrow window for what constitutes a fair expectation. This upcoming season feels like a pivotal year.
Q: Does Nebraska land 5-star receiver Joseph Lewis? – A.W., Neb.
ES: My sources are saying no, he will not be committing to Nebraska. The Huskers were really convinced Jamire Calvin was going to commit and with him choosing Oregon State, that pretty much sealed the deal on the kids playing in the Army Bowl. Stranger things have happened, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
JJ: Probably not. Look for Nebraska to zero in on Gavin Holmes, Jeremiah Hawkins and Lynn Bowden to finish out the class.
Q: Are the offers to local kids a sign that the staff is going to struggle filling this recruiting class? – H., David City, Neb.
JP: Yes and no. The timing of the Jaylin Bradley offer had everything to do with his academic status and nothing to do with who else they might have been recruiting. Once Bradley qualifying became a likelihood rather than a long shot, the deal was sealed; he’s a great pick-up for Nebraska.
Chris Walker is a little different story. To call him anything more than a back-up plan would be revisionist history at this point, but then again, he was the back-up plan to two of the best tackles in the country; there’s no shame in that. Nebraska already had a few linemen in its class with Matt Sichterman, Brendan Jaimes and Broc Bando. With those three already on the way and with the coaches clearly feeling like Walker was a viable option, it freed up Mike Cavanaugh to take a shot at Foster Sarrell and Chuck Filiaga. When those two decided to commit elsewhere, the Huskers circled back to Walker, a current Wyoming commit, to see if he wanted to be a Husker.
Nebraska did the same thing with Norfolk Catholic product and one-time Wyoming commit David Engelhaupt last year and the word out of practice is that the tight end has done very well during his redshirt year.
Q: Do you see Huskers nabbing the big fish they’re after or scrambling/settling to fill the class? – H., David City, Neb.
JJ: Nebraska is probably not going to land any 5-stars in this class if that’s what you’re asking. They aren’t in scramble mode though, as they have set targets at each position entering the final three weeks.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about being part of the media? What’s one thing someone who isn’t wouldn’t know? – K.B., Omaha, Neb.
JP: My favorite thing is simply that I have the opportunity to make a living doing what I love. Sports have been my only true passion since I was about 14 years old. I’m not sure what I’d be doing right now if I hadn’t decided to study journalism in college.
BV: Jacob nailed it. Every job becomes “a job” at certain times, but I have found those times are pretty infrequent when it comes sports writing. If I ever find myself feeling that way, I make a point to stop and say “look at what we get to do.” More often, however, the job reminds you of the wonder all the time. That’s the best thing about it.
ES: I completely agree with what Brandon and Jacob said about the best part, so I’ll answer the latter part of your question. The one thing people wouldn’t know is how often you spend doing the less than glamorous sides of the job. I sit in hallways and write a lot. For example, after Kayla Banwarth’s press conference, I sat in the entry way of the Devaney Center on a bench and wrote. It worked just fine.
Also, there are plenty of late nights and early mornings. That double-overtime win for Nebraska basketball? I went to bed at 2:30 a.m. The night of the Northwestern football game this fall? I was in bed around 4 a.m. and then up at 7 a.m. I don’t mind though because I get to do exactly what I love, and that’s worth the long days, hallway writing and everything in between.
Q: Should I watch the final two seasons if House of Cards? – R.K.
ES: I haven’t made it through two episodes of the first season so I’m not the right person to be answer this, but here’s what I think – If you’ve made it this far, you might as well finish the show.
BV: If you like the characters, sure. From a pure storytelling point of view, the later seasons are a step back, but I watched those seasons and didn’t particularly hate them. They’re just not as good.
Q: Is it OK to book your wedding on a Friday night of a game week, so you can attend the game on Saturday? – D.A., New York City, N.Y.
ES: I’m not a huge fan of fall weddings to begin with BUT if you’re going to have one, why not book on a Friday so you can enjoy game day Saturday? Seems like a win-win to me.
Q: What cheese is better for nachos? Rico’s, Velveeta or home made cheese sauce from shredded cheese? – B.T., Grand Prairie, Tex.
BV: This is a great question that gets to the heart of what we want nachos to be. If we’re after an actual food, then make your own cheese sauce and it will be delicious. If we’re after the classic ballpark accouterments of chips and a cheese-like goop, then it’s probably Rico’s. Velveeta, of course, can get you there, too, but I’ll take Rico’s. Personally, I think nachos work best the second way, so give me the goop.