If a Power 5 conference was eliminated and we were only left with four based on geographical location, where would Nebraska go? Based on the Huskers’ spot on the map, the options could sort of be endless. It’s also a good question with the amount of change that has happened with conferences in the last several years. That was only one of many questions we received this week, including other topics on basketball, the NFL draft and more.
Brandon Vogel, Jacob Padilla, Jake Jensen and Erin Sorensen answer your questions in this week’s Hail Varsity mailbag.
Q: Let’s say the Power 5 was reduced to four (SW, SE, NE, NW) geographically-based conferences. Based on central location, where should Nebraska go? – B.
BV: OK, you probably need about a day to really do this right, but here’s my 10-minute, pencil-on-paper attempt. Assuming four 16-team conferences — sorry Notre Dame, you waited too long, now you’re BYU — the eastern half comes together pretty easily.
NORTHEAST: BC, Duke, Clemson, Louisville, UNC, NCSU, UVa, VT, WF, WVU, Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State, Pitt, Syracuse and Kentucky (have to ship the Wildcats out a little bit, but given their record in SEC play they might be fine with it.)
SOUTHEAST: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Baylor, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech
Everything West of that gets pretty messy. For our Northwest Conference, we’re talking about a Michigan “Champions of the West” type of definition of the West.
NORTHWEST: Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, California, Stanford, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
That gives us a Big Eight revival in the Southwest.
SOUTHWEST: Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Arizona, ASU, USC, UCLA, Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, Utah
Are those four conferences balanced? Probably not, but that’s a separate topic.
Q: Your opinion: Top 5 NFL prospects on the 2017 Nebraska football roster (regardless of class). – H., David City, Neb.
JP: I’m going to cheat a bit. First, I’m not going to include anybody that hasn’t actually played a game for Nebraska yet, so that means no incoming or redshirt freshmen. I’m also not going to give you a top five in order. What you’ll get is a group of guys that I believe have a chance to play their way into the NFL based on their physical tools and what they’ve accomplished thus far. In no particular order, they are Drew Brown, Nick Gates, Jerald Foster, Tanner Lee, Lamar Jackson, Chris Jones, Joshua Kalu, and Stanley Morgan Jr.
JJ: 1. Mick Stoltenberg, 2. Chris Jones, 3. Jerald Foster, 4. Lamar Jackson, 5. Nick Gates
ES: As long as Joshua Kalu and Chris Jones are on the list, I’m good.
Q: How upbeat and exciting is the mood around the stadium, from that staff to the players, for the future of the program as a powerhouse? – J.B., Lincoln, Neb.
ES: I think the incoming recruits (both in the 2017 class and 2018 class) are creating a lot of excitement around Memorial Stadium. Brendan Radley-Hiles is basically pitching Nebraska as a place to change college football and get the Huskers back on top. I think that alone will continue to build hype for Nebraska, especially once those players officially enroll.
Q: What percentage of the verbal commits will actually sign? – B.
JJ: Of the eight current verbal commits, the only one I’m not sure about is Eric Fuller, and that is mainly because he hasn’t visited Lincoln yet.
ES: Nebraska’s retention is going to be very high for this class and some of that has to do with how few will be in this class. There’s not much room for change. I’m with Jake on maybe Fuller simply because he hasn’t visited, but that’s about it. Maybe Cameron Jurgens because he’s been committed so long? Again, I don’t see it. I think this is going to be a pretty solid class and anyone who doesn’t end up signing may not do so because of academic reasons.
Q: Do the Thunder have any chance to beat the Rockets? – K.B., Omaha, Neb.
JP: There’s always a chance when you have a guy like Russell Westbrook on your side, but I’d still make Houston a heavy favorite. More often than not, the best team wins in a seven-game series and Houston has the better team from top to bottom.
JJ: It doesn’t matter, it’s the Raptor’s year. #WeTheNorth #BeenaFanSinceVince
Q: 2017-18 Huskers football team, looking like 94-97 team? Or not quite?
BV: I’ll go with not quite. Final answer.
Q: Last year’s fullback usage fell off the map. Do you see this role increasing this year? Is Ben Miles the man to beat, though he’s brand new to Nebraska? – B.C., Overland Park, Kans.
JP: I think part of the lack of fullback usage was because Luke McNitt was transitioning to that position and he had been a tight end previously, so he wasn’t a guy who had carried the ball much in his past. It’s hard for me to anoint a freshman before he even arrives on campus, so I’d say McNitt is still the guy to beat at that spot. I think Miles could use a redshirt season to put on some more weight as he’s only listed at 210 pounds, a full 30 pounds less than McNitt. However, if Miles shows up in the fall and bows the coaches away, he could certainly make a strong case for himself.
JJ: I think the fullback use will increase a bit this season, but it won’t be like 2015 because Nebraska doesn’t have a fullback as unique as Andy Janovich. Miles has the football IQ and versatility to hit the ground running when he gets to Lincoln, but I’d expect him to redshirt next fall unless McNitt gets injured.
Q: After watching the spring game, it’s clear there isn’t a definite No. 1 running back. Do you think someone will solidify that role during fall? – B.C., Overland Park, Kans.
JP: I don’t think so. At this point, I think it will continue to be a by-committee approach, and I personally don’t have a problem with that. I think all three are capable and all three bring something different to the table. If any of them has a chance I’d say it would be Tre Bryant as I think he’s the most complete of the three. However, I think you still need a power back like Ozigbo and I personally believe Mikale Wilbon is the best pure runner of the three, so to me you have to give that guy a chance. In any case, I think play-calling and offensive line performance will have far more to do with Nebraska’s running game than who actually has the ball in his hands.
Q: Should I be excited about Nebraska basketball’s latest commits? Will it even mean much for next season? – C.
JP: Certainly you should be excited. Thomas Allen checks three boxes for Nebraska: top-end talent, perimeter shooting, and playmaking off the dribble. It’s tough to tell just how big of a role he’ll play right away, but he was a big-time get for the program and if he can beat out the likes of Anton Gill and Evan Taylor he could see plenty of playing time early in his career. Duby Okeke isn’t the talent that Allen is and won’t ever play as big of a role as the Huskers are hoping Allen does sooner rather than later, but he fills a big need as a back-up big that can provide depth behind Jordy Tshimanga and protect the rim. I doubt he’ll see more than 10 to 15 minutes per night assuming good health for Tshimanga, but those will be important minutes as there isn’t currently a single other player on the roster that can probably handle playing the five regularly outside of certain match-ups.
JJ: They got a great shooter in Allen that can also handle the ball and they got a good lunch pail post player in Okeke. The Huskers roster looks a lot better than it did a week ago. My main question is if Nebraska is still in the hunt for another post, whether on the recruiting trail or transfer market, that they can count on to score consistently. I like Tshimanga’s potential and Okeke’s hustle, but neither are guys that I would want to count on for consistent offense in 2017.
Q: Which Husker will get drafted this year? What happens if no one gets drafted? – L.K., Neb.
JP: Nathan Gerry and Cethan Carter are the two to keep an eye out for. I think both of them could be a day three pick. If both were to fall out of the draft completely, it would mean one less streak for Husker fans to brag about.
ES: The answer to the latter part of the question is that the world ends.
Q: Random Question: Do you believe the Earth is flat or is it round? – D.A., New York City, N.Y.
JP: It is round.
JJ: Belief has nothing to do with it. The earth is round.
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.