Hail Varsity Mailbag
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Mailbag: Spielman Reaction, Wedding Cakes, and a Game of Would You Rather

March 04, 2020

It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s mailbag time.

Scenario: If the NCAA allows the one-time transfer, will the players that transferred before the rule (2019-20) automatically get immediate eligibility waivers if they are not already immediately eligible? Say, for example, Ta'Zhawn Henry to Nebraska. (@Go_Big_Red) 

Derek Peterson: I’m not sure I’ve read anything yet about retroactively making those guys eligible to play, though it would make sense to do so. The NCAA rarely makes sense, but my best bet would be if guys who have transferred and currently face a sit-out year meet the qualifications under the new rule, they would be made eligible. Not putting a grandfather clause in for someone who transferred a month before the rule was made public would be a disaster. If those guys weren’t eligible, the school would just be filing a waiver and the whole point of this proposal is to stop with the incessant waiver requests coming into the NCAA offices. 

With JD Spielman's future at Nebraska unknown, isn't it at least worth one, maybe both of the remaining scholarships to grab someone out of the transfer portal? (@Corn_Huskers) 

Brandon Vogel: Yeah, I think Nebraska will look to use those scholarships and probably needs to do so. Even if Spielman returns in the summer, Nebraska could still use more depth at wide receiver. It’s running back room is heavy on young players right now, too, though that’s now less of a priority than wide receiver. 

Greg Smith: Yes, it is absolutely worth seriously looking at bringing in a wide receiver via the portal. The depth is needed but so is the experience. Wan’Dale Robinson being the oldest scholarship wideout on campus  isn’t great.  

Which of the following do you guys think make sense, assuming the one-time transfer rule goes into effect: WR/APB Ta'Zhawn Henry to Nebraska (obvious choice), WR CJ Moore to Nebraska, WR Rico Bussey Jr. to Nebraska, RB Cordarrian Richardson to Nebraska? (@Go_Big_Red) 

BV: All of those names offer some intrigue. As mentioned above, I think receiver is atop the list for Nebraska when it comes to potential transfers, so I’d look to the two true wide receivers. Of the two (Moore and Bussey), I lean towards Bussey though Moore had a Nebraska offer. Bussey has proven production on his side and he strikes me as somewhat similar to what the Huskers looked for in Kanawai Noa. That said, he is coming off a knee injury.  

DP: If you can go get Rico Bussey Jr., I think he’s best available. All those guys make sense, but if you can be picky, you take a guy who can best start to make up the difference in JD Spielman’s lost production. 

Who will be the starting wide receiver since it’s likely JD is playing elsewhere? (@Dustin_Huber) 

Mike Babcock: Alante Brown is my pick for an immediate impact; he’s here for spring practice. 

BV: If everyone arrives as planned, and Nebraska is without Spielman, I would expect the three starters at wide receiver to be Wan’Dale Robinson, Omar Manning and Kade Warner, at least early in the season. Zavier Betts and Alante Brown would be right there in the mix, giving Nebraska a core of five receivers with Chris Hickman also right there potentially competing for spots at wideout. In fact, with a big spring he could jump into that top three. 

Jacob Padilla: I agree with Brandon on that first three, and I think Robinson and Manning will be locked in as starters all year and the team’s top two receiving threats. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of progress he’ll be able to make this spring considering he’s been more of an all-purpose athlete than a straight wide receiver throughout his football career. Ideally, one of Brown, Zavier Betts, Jamie Nance or Demariyon Houston will be able to win that third starting spot at some point this season. Chris Hickman is definitely an X-factor in that conversation as well. The other wildcard in this discussion is Matt Lubick. Are young players more likely to see the field early under  him than they were under Troy Walters? If so, that could give a guy like Brown a leg up on Warner out of the gate. 

GS: Right now, I’ll go with Wan’Dale Robinson, Omar Manning and Alante Brown. With Chris Hickman, Zavier Betts and Kade Warner as the next group. That’s assuming everyone makes it this summer. A wild card for me is what happens with Jamie Nance and Demariyon Houston. They get skipped over in favor of the guys arriving this summer but one of them rising up would be huge.   

Give me your way-too-early starting five for next basketball season? Is basketball included in the one-time transfer rule? If not, what is the likelihood of Kobe King receiving an immediate eligibility waiver? (@Go_Big_Red) 

DP: Dalano Banton, Teddy Allen, Thorir Thorbjarnarson, Shamiel Stevenson, Yvan Ouedraogo. Yes, both men’s and women’s basketball are included in the proposed transfer changes. The proposal would grant a one-time free move for all Division I sports.  

JP: I refuse to answer this question because I have no clue whatsoever. There’s a chance, though, that none of Nebraska’s regular starters this season are in the starting lineup next year for multiple reasons. I think Dalano Banton will probably be in there for sure. Derrick Walker will likely be one of the most vocal leaders on the team and as an upperclassman I think there’s a pretty good chance he starts ahead of Yvan Ouedraogo. I think Teddy Allen could arrive and be so good right away that he starts. Shamiel Stevenson probably would have started this year if he was eligible so he could easily slide in there. Kobe King was a starter a double-digit scorer for a better Big Ten team than Nebraska, so if he gets his waiver he could start. Oh, and despite the roster technically being full right now Nebraska’s not done recruiting.  

A little would you rather: Go 6-6 and win all division games or go 6-6 and win all non-divisions? And a bonus game of what would you most likely: Break your foot from jumping in celebration of a win, break your foot from kicking in anger of a loss? (@TheWeeksy) 

Erin Sorensen: I’d take going 6-6 but winning all division games. If the goal is winning the West, defeating everyone in your division gets you a lot closer than losing to them all. As for the second, I guess I’d rather break my foot in celebration. The second just adds insult to injury. 

JP: Wouldn’t kicking the tire and breaking your foot after a loss actually add the injury to the insult, not the other way around? 

MB: Win the division games. That’s what it’s about. Nebraska has to establish itself in the West Division, first step in getting back to respectability. Celebration, no question. Presumably, the program will reach a point at which there won’t be losses that require breaking one’s foot in anger. If the team leaves it all on the field and doesn’t get blown away, a loss wouldn’t necessarily produce foot-breaking frustration. 

BV: This is the best mailbag question in recent memory because it gets pretty tricky when you think about the week-by-week swings you’re signing up for with either choice. Go the division route and Nebraska starts 1-3, which would not be a fun time. It would get back to 3-3 before another three-game losing streak, then close with wins over Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. I’m cringing just thinking about all the angst that would entail. 

Non-division route, you start 3-1 and are probably in the top 25. Then you’re out after back-to-back losses, but then probably back in and flying high at 6-3 with two potential top-10 wins in Ohio State and Penn State. If we stop right here, I think non-division is the clear choice. But you’d basically undo all of that momentum by losing three straight to end the regular season. Throw in the chance at a division title and I think division games has to be the pick. At the end of the year you’re talking about a team that “saved” its season by beating its closest rivals and might be headed to Indy. And, finally, give me the kick. 

Now that the Combine is over what are your thoughts on the Husker draft prospects? (@InDaWilderness) 

ES: The Davis twins had an outstanding Combine. Those two are going to make an NFL roster, and deserve to do so. Darrion Daniels and Lamar Jackson didn’t hurt their draft chances with their Combine performances, so that’s just what that is. Neither did anything that probably bumped their draft stock like the Davis twins did, but neither hurt their draft stock either. Overall, it was a good showing for the four Huskers in attendance, but the Davis twins were really the stars. 

MB: Khalil got his name on an ESPN crawler. That probably says something about his prospects. 

DP: “They made themselves some money,” seems appropriate. 

JP: I think Khalil Davis in particular helped himself because his numbers certainly stand out and perhaps scouts will go back and take a closer look at his tape and realize he was actually pretty productive considering his situation last year. I think he’s got a great shot at getting drafted. As for Lamar Jackson, I think the 4.58 40-yard dash hurt him quite a bit. I don’t know that a transition to safety is in the cards with the lack of physicality he showed in college, but he might not have the speed to survive at corner in the NFL, at least as a starter.  

It seems like the football team has a lot of attrition every year. Is that something to be worried about? How is our attrition rate compared to other schools? (@InDaWilderness) 

MB: I don’t have the insight into other programs, but I’m a bit concerned about attrition at Nebraska. Some of that can be attributed to the changes in staff, but it seems as if it’s gone beyond that. On the other hand, context of the times has to be considered, with transfer portals and talk of one-time transfer exemptions, rather than sticking it out and earning something, some decide going elsewhere is the solution. The mentality of the times contributes to attrition everywhere.  

DP: Nebraska football has just lived in a constant state of unrest for, what, six or seven years now? Position coaches coming and going, head coaches coming and going, an athletic director change. With all that change comes a constant culture war between what was and what will be. Guys leave under those circumstances. I don’t think Scott Frost is on firm enough ground yet to be able to avoid guys coming, being surprised by what they see, and then bailing. Greg Smith says this all the time: there has to be a clearly-defined way of doing things that isn’t just being preached by the coaching staff but ingrained in multiple classes of guys on the team. And that just takes time to get to that point. In that context, I agree with the “two years away” assessment from the Athletic Director.  

BV: The last time I actually ran the numbers on this was in 2015 and Nebraska did have a higher attrition rate than other teams in the division—34% for Nebraska for the 2011–2014 classes compared to a Big Ten West average of 25%. My hypotheses then, and still my hypotheses today, is that by being a “national” recruiter a higher attrition rate is, to some degree, inherent to how Nebraska has to recruit. That doesn’t mean the Huskers’ couldn’t be lower than it is—I think some success on the field would help—but I don’t foresee a future where Nebraska has lower attrition than its neighbor schools for any extended period of time. 

Cam Mack tweeted “Thanks Lincoln.” Do you think there is anything to make of that, especially the possibility of him leaving sometime soon? (@gus_kathol) 

JP: With it coming directly after the last home game but with two road games plus the Big Ten Tournament game remaining, I’m taking it as a thank you note to the fans for their support this season more so than a goodbye. After the previous game, he tweeted “I wouldn’t wanna play for no other fans except #GBR love u Lincoln”. I think “Lincoln” is how he refers to the Nebraska fan base. A slightly longer tweet would have made this much less vague, but Cam can be a man of few words at times. I don’t think you can make it a guarantee that anybody on this year’s team returns, including Cam. But I don’t know that the tweet in question is confirming that he’s leaving in any way. 

What's your favorite flavor of wedding cake? Follow-up question: what is the flavor of your wedding cake? Follow-up to the follow-up question: If the Mrs. let you, what song would you want to walk into the reception to? Like your own Tunnel Walk. (@Corn_Huskers) 

ES: I’d tell you, but then you’d know what my wedding cake flavor is going to be. I’ll wait to share on that. As for the second question, which I know is geared toward Derek and not me, I will just add this: My fiancé has been incredibly involved in the wedding planning process (hey, it’s just as much his wedding as it is mine and we’re a team in this) and has been far more vocal with the music than I have been. I’d tell you about it, but then again, surprise ruined. Check back with me in May. 

DP: I just want a vanilla cake with buttercream frosting. I’m not very picky when it comes to sweets, and have actually grown duller over the years. I have no idea what the flavor of my cake is, or our food for that matter. I was not allowed to have input in those decisions. If the GOAT reads this I will deny saying it. Your last question… our wedding draws inspiration from Justin Timberlake’s “20/20 Experience” album (the greatest album he’s ever made), so we’re leaving the ceremony to a JT song and re-entering the reception to a JT song and I couldn’t be happier about that.  

GS: Now we are talking! This is one of my favorite questions ever. When I got married the thing I cared about most was the cake followed by the music. I’m legally obligated to say my favorite flavor is what we had. We had one-layer marble cake with hazelnut ganache with another layer of coconut almond with lemon ganache. For a bonus my groom’s cake was red velvet and we also had tins of Garrett’s Popcorn flown to Florida from Chicago. I picked the song we entered the reception to and it was “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce.  

BV: Pies are superior to cake, so we had pies. (We also had a local restaurant smoke a whole pig as the food, so pies were a better fit with barbecue.) I was a Nebraskan living in Boston, getting married in Pennsylvania, so the song—and I wasn’t working full time in sports media then—was, in fact, “Hail Varsity” (long before the Hail Varsity you’re reading right now existed). I had never thought about that bit of foreshadowing prior to this question, but it was a game day and I was deep in Nittany Lion territory, so that was my way of saying, “there are other teams that play football, too.” Nebraska beat Iowa State that day, 35-7, the pig was good, the pies better. 

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