Hail Varsity Mailbag
Photo Credit: Quentin Lueninghoener

Mailbag: Preseason B1G Power Rankings, QB2, and Nebrasketball Signees

April 15, 2021

It’s Mailbag time, so let’s get to it.

Based on the less than stellar last month the NCAA has had regarding fair and equal treatment of all athletes, will it be a conference, just a group of schools, or something else altogether that changes how the NCAA operates or the control they have on the next 3-5 years? (@Corn_Huskers) 

Erin Sorensen: Yes. Its called name, image and likeness. The power of the athlete will force the NCAA to change how it operates. Theres a reason the NCAA isnt exactly jumping to move NIL legislation along. There’s fear of the unknown, and fear of what that power might mean for the NCAA as it exists now. The train is moving down the tracks though, so the NCAA better start figuring some things out quickly or it’ll get left behind. 

Mike Babcock: This is oversimplification, and seemingly obvious, but the NCAA’s focus should be on student-athletes, regardless of gender, not on generating lots and lots of money for other purposes, so that a relative handful of people in administrative positions can have huge salaries. Student-athletes, male and female, equally, should be at the top of the list instead of a secondary consideration, or not even that. 

Give me your preseason B1G football rankings. (@InDaWilderness) 

Derek Peterson: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, then a big gap, then this blob of teams that are all frankly interchangeable to me in Penn State, Nebraska, Indiana, and Minnesota (though I’d put them in that order at the moment), then Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Maryland, Rutgers, and finally Illinois. 

Brandon Vogel: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Michigan, Purdue, Northwestern, Rutgers, Maryland, Michigan State and Illinois. Of those rankings, the two I feel the most anxiety about are Iowa and Indiana. I know, clearly, how Iowa has won and wants to keep winning, but the Hawkeyes have quite a bit to replace. Indiana doesn’t have a lot to replace, but when I look at the Hoosiers’ numbers from 2020, I’m not sure how they went 6-2. I get conflicting signals from both teams for 2021. Maryland and Rutgers are also a little hard to parse.

What type of skills do the new Nebrasketball signees have based on film you have seen? (@Starkastic8) 

Jacob Padilla: Xavier transfer C.J. Wilcher was the first one to send his NLI in to Nebraska when the late signing period opened on Wednesday. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound off-guard is first and foremost a 3-point sniper. He has a lot of confidence in his jump shot and isn’t afraid to let it fly. He only took 29 3-point attempts as a freshman at Xavier and hit 10 of them, but the shot certainly looks good. He isn’t terribly explosive athletically and his lateral quickness could use some work, but he has a strong frame and puts in effort on defense. He finishes pretty well around the rim too. 

Oleg Kojenets, the Lithuanian 7-footer who spent his senior year at a school in Ohio, is an interesting post prospect. He needs to add some strength to his frame for sure, but he has a good base of skills with which to work. He has pretty good footwork with his back to the basket and seems comfortable facing up and putting the ball on the deck once or twice as well. It might take him some time to adjust to the speed and physicality of the game, especially since he only got to play nine games during his senior year, but he has international experience under his belt to fall back on. 

Lincoln Pius X point guard Sam Hoiberg also signed his paperwork to walk on for his dad in Lincoln. Sam is a streaky shooter who is best at getting downhill and putting pressure on the rim. He’s a good athlete who can get up and throw down despite being listed at 6-foot. 

How many scholarships does men’s basketball have for the 2021-22 season left available? What positions do you think they’re going to get? (@CarnesRegg) 

JP: Since Kobe Webster and Trevor Lakes are returning seniors, they don’t count towards Nebraska’s scholarship limit. So although the Huskers have 13 players on scholarship, they still have two open scholarship spots to play with. They made a push for Xavier Pinson before he chose LSU. Perhaps they could still keep an eye out for a transfer point guard, but I’m not sure we’re going to see them use all 15 scholarships available in part because it’s hard to keep 15 guys happy. Right now, Nebraska looks to be two to three deep at every position, so if they add anyone I’d imagine it’d be a situation where they’re upgrading the talent more than filling a hole 

When do you think we will see a female assistant coach on a Big 10 football team? (@dmhusker1) 

DP: This is a really good question. I hope with women making waves on NFL coaching staffs that it’ll come soon, but I can’t really say. I do, though, think that if we were putting odds on the first head coach in the Big Ten to break that barrier, Pat Fitzgerald or James Franklin would probably be the favorites. 

ES: I want to say within the next five years, but it’s probably safer to say the next 10. The sooner the better in my eyes. I’m with Derek, though. If I had to guess who will make it happen first, Fitzgerald and Franklin are top of my list.  

TOSS UP: Which is more impressive? Inside the park home run? Or stealing home? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

Greg Smith: Stealing home. It has less of a fluke play feel to it. You could catch some weird bounces while the outfielder is playing that ball or something. You have to be pretty crafty to steal home.  

MB: Without hesitation, stealing home. Jackie Robinson stole home 19 times (in 31 attempts) during his career, according to LarryLester42.com.  Ty Cobb holds the record, according to MLB.com, with 54—but the game was much different then. Paul Molitor did it 10 times. Pitchers have more control over steals of home than they do inside-the-park home runs, as Greg points out.

Will Haarberg be the QB2 by end of this season? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

DP: He’ll be QB2 by the start of this season. 

GS: I agree with Derek. 

ES: No, it will be Logan Smothers. I don’t see a scenario where Haarberg isn’t redshirting this fall so if he is QB2, it makes me think something has happened to either Adrian Martinez or Smothers that requires him to be in that spot. Redshirt or not though, I’m giving Smothers the nod at this point in time. 

BV: Smothers. Entering the spring, all reports on him were glowing. With the start of spring practice, however, it seems like Haarberg has grabbed more plaudits. Maybe that’s something, maybe it’s just spring. I’m going to bet on the player with a full year at this level, even if it was an unconventional year in terms of the experience actually gained. If Haarberg overtakes him by the fall, the Huskers may truly have uncovered a gem and that’s great news for everyone. It just seems like more of a longshot at this early stage.  

MB: I expect Haarberg to redshirt, despite the praise he has received thus far. If not, and no injuries ahead of him, then what has been said before this spring about Smothers must’ve been so much smoke (a good word for it, right). His experience, though only practice time, should be a significant advantage is he has talent—and is healthy. 

JP: I agree with Brandon. I try not to react too much to anything I hear during the spring unless I see something to back it up. I’m going to defer to the guy who’s been in the program longer and who they were very high on in the recruiting process.  

Over/Under: 1.5 Scholarship RBs enter the transfer portal after the spring game? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

GS: Under. I don’t think the running back depth chart will be settled after the spring game. So there won’t be a reason for a mass exodus if they all mostly have a shot to make a move. 

BV: Good line making. At 0.5, I’d take the over. At 1.5, I’ll go under. Like Greg said, I think things will be opaque enough that more than one departure would surprise me. Markese Stepp missing the spring might actually help keep a player or two around for a bit longer, too. 

MB: I’ll take over. Miss spring or not, Stepp is here in the fall, and Ervin has drawn praise. There’s only so much playing time to be had and it doesn’t divide up very well among so many young (with an emphasis on young—they would all still be here for a while) running backs. Relaxed transfer rules also make it easier, and distance from home becomes a factor for some. 

JP: Under for the reasons Greg and Brandon laid out. I think the uncertainty in that room will keep those guys believing they can win a job into the fall. Rahmir Johnson, Ronald Thompkins, Marvin Scott III and Sevion Morrison all have four more years of eligibility remaining, so they’ve got some time to continue figuring things out. 

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