Running back Greg Bell chased by two defenders in scrimmage
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Mailbag: Taking the Over or Under on Nebraska in 2018?

May 02, 2018

The Blackshirts are back! Well, questions about how to handle the awarding of Blackshirts are back. The Hail Varsity staff––Jacob Padilla, Derek Peterson, Greg Smith and Brandon Vogel––tackle that one plus questions on the Nebrasketball offseason, Nebraska's over/under for wins in 2018 and more.

What is your recent thoughts on how the basketball has taken the offseason? Will we have a new assistant coach in the coming weeks? Palmer and Copeland back? (@Dustin_Huber)

DP: Before Kenya Hunter left, and before the the NIT loss, Palmer seemed committed when we talked. Obviously, those two events were rather important and Hunter played a big part in landing Palmer. I don’t expect Palmer to get great feedback from NBA personnel but he would be able to find a team overseas. With Hunter out of the picture, the likelihood he returns feels worse than it did initially.

JP: It does sound like we’re approaching a resolution on the assistant coach front, so stay tuned for news on that. As for Copeland and Palmer, I haven’t heard anything new on that front but NBA Combine invitations are going out as we speak and I don’t anticipate either one will be on the list. At the end of the process, I think it will come down to whether or not those players feel like they have unfinished business at Nebraska or if they’re satisfied with their college careers and are ready to start making money, regardless of where in the world that takes them. May 30 is the latest that we will know. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the program at the moment, TIm Miles and Co. are still recruiting. The Huskers just missed out on a 7-foot Argentinian named Francisco Caffaro when Virginia swooped in late but they’re still very much in the mix with Amir Harris, a 6-foot-5 combo-guard from Maryland who Miles has targeted as a replacement for Xavier Johnson in the 2018 class. Get back to me in a month and I’ll let you know how I feel about the offseason because there’s just too much up in the air at the moment.

Thoughts on the Over / Under published [Monday] for W’s in 2018 that has Huskers at 5.5? (@md_schmidt)

DP: Seems like that number keeps popping up . . .  Anything between 5.5 and 6.5 feels safe. Will it be right? I don’t know, but it’s definitely safe. Like Brandon wrote in the link below, Nebraska has been an average team over the course of the last four years, 5.5-6.5 is as average as it gets in terms of preseason record predicting. Pythagorean win totals also suggest Nebraska was right on the money last season so a two-game improvement over last year would pretty much be entirely attributed to new coaches. I think I’m okay rolling with that.

BV: I’m not surprised that’s the number. ESPN’s FPI was at the same spot and, as I wrote then, when you consider the components of FPI a number of 5.5 is already factoring in a Scott Frost bump plus a difficult schedule. I think that bump will be even a little more significant. I’d take the over at 5.5 and feel good about it.

GS: Like Brandon, I wasn’t surprised by the number. Mostly because there are so many question marks with this team including the most important position, quarterback. Also, the schedule has to be a factor because of how difficult the road slate is. If Nebraska hits the over, that can be considered a successful year one under Scott Frost.

JP: Like everyone else I’m not surprised and coming off a 4-8 season, it’s a reasonable projections. I’ll take the over because I think 6 or 7 wins is where they’re going to end up.

Any thoughts on whether Frost’s staff should refrain from handing out Blackshirts until the defensive players have proven themselves in games? (@BKPete_11)

DP: Is this a thing that’s happened before? I don’t want a bunch of people yelling at me if not… But at the risk of that happening I’ll say I like this idea. Make guys earn it. Last year there were more Blackshirts handed out than have been in a long time and when the performances didn’t hold up, they weren’t taken away. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander has talked about a respect for the tradition — one he calls the greatest in football — so I would suspect we might be looking at a situation where guys have to, like you said, prove it when it matters before they get one. If that means waiting until Sept. 2, okay.

BV: To answer Derek’s question, this has happened before. Bo Pelini took the carrot-on-a-stick approach, and I never much liked it. To me the Blackshirts are part of Nebraska’s cultural fabric. It’s a standard to meet, sure, but a fluid one. So to hand those out or take them away on a game-by-game basis puts too much detail to it. If the defense gives up 400 yards but only 17 points, is it Blackshirt worthy? What happens if it gives up 350 yards but 42 points this next week? I think the Blackshirts tradition works best when it is at its simplest––if you’re a defensive starter at Nebraska, you wear a Blackshirt in practice. The key then becomes conveying what that means, the tradition that comes with that designation and I’m confident in Chinander’s ability to do that. With this season in particular I’m fine if they’re not handed out Week 1, but long term I think making it a shifting stamp of approval creates more problems than it solves.

GS: I am not a fan of the carrot-on-a-stick approach with this either. I love the idea of the week of the first game, there is a cool video that comes out with the players receiving their Blackshirts with some rah-rah speech involved. That way we had really cool moments like when Jack Gangwish got his a few years back. I am in favor of trimming down the number handed out though.

JP: I agree with Brandon and Greg that I don’t much like the carrot approach to handing out Blackshirts. I think you hand them out before the season starts to the guys that have proven themselves starter-worthy through leadership and work ethic in practice (I think that is the standard you’re looking to establish and is much less fleeting than game-to-game production). Last year where it felt like every defensive player in the two-deep got one is a bit much. I think you go with starters plus maybe a nickel corner or pass-rush specialist that will play major snaps.

Has anyone asked if circuit training will be used in other sports during the offseason? (@Cory_Honold)

BV: I haven’t heard that question asked, but I know it never really went away for volleyball. Coach John Cook is a big believer in it.

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