Another week of spring football practice is underway, which means there’s plenty of time to dissect Nebraska’s new 3-4 defense. When the call for this week’s mailbag questions went out, we got everything from the aggressiveness of the 3-4 to the assistant coach that needs to step up (or else!). There were even some questions on baseball, basketball (high school included) and more.
Brandon Vogel, Jacob Padilla, Jake Jensen and Erin Sorensen answer your questions in this week’s Hail Varsity mailbag.
Q: Do you think the new 3-4 will come with more aggressive style? Tired of read and react, time to attack! – S.
JP: I think the 3-4 defense is a bit more aggressive by nature. You still have three guys in the trenches battling, but you have one guy (the boundary side defensive end) who is rushing pretty much every play and then the opportunity to blitz another guy or two from many different spots.
BV: If one of the key advantages of a 3-4 is the ability to better disguise aggression, I don’t think you make that move looking to get less aggressive. Add Bob Diaco’s enthusiastic nature on top of that and I think you’ll be pleased by this new defense. As I’ve continued to go through the numbers, I think this idea — aggressiveness — could be a key part of the 2017 defense as it’s largely something a coach can control.
Q: Who’s the next Husker assistant coach who needs to show results or else? – H.P., Omaha, Neb.
BV: It’ll be an interesting year for running backs coach Reggie Davis. In years one and two, Nebraska had a bit of a safety net in Terrell Newby. He wasn’t quite an all-conference back, but he was experienced, talented and good enough to take the bulk of the carries each season. The Huskers don’t have that right now and, if not for Jaylin Bradley’s late qualification and commitment, probably would’ve gone without a running back in the 2017 class. There’s some work to do here.
Q: What’s the likelihood of pulling a Wisconsin and playing two quarterback next year? – J.K.
JP: I don’t anticipate the coaches having second thoughts after they call the competition. I still think Tanner Lee will be the guy and I think the only way Patrick O’Brien plays any more than mop-up minutes is if Lee is a total bust.
JJ: For Nebraska’s offense’s sake I hope it doesn’t happen. You rarely see a good offense that uses a two-quarterback system.
Q: Over/under on three Nebraska players drafted. Follow up: Who are they? – 3.L.C.
JJ: I’d say three sounds about right. Cethan Carter and Nathan Gerry should both be drafted, and I think Kevin Maurice will be taken late in the draft (6th-7th round range).
ES: Dark horse option: Brandon Reilly. I think he’ll ultimately be picked up as a free agent but I wouldn’t completely count him out of being drafted late. He had a great pro day, which should help him quite a bit.
Q: Given the inconsistency with punting last year, is there true competition or just hope for better results? – M.J.
JP: There was a true competition last year and Caleb Lightbourn won it. He’s clearly more talented than Isaac Armstrong; that’s why he got a scholarship. Lightbourn showed at times (like the bowl game) what he’s capable of. He simply wasn’t ready to play last year but the coaches didn’t really have any other choice. With a full year under his belt plus a spring and summer, I think we’ll see more consistent play from Lightbourn.
ES: I agree with Jacob’s assessment. Plus, Lightbourn has his teammates’ support. Drew Brown has already said that Lightbourn will only get better, especially as he gains the “mental edge” they often talk about. He wasn’t supposed to be the guy last year. He should have redshirted and learned from the best. Considering the position he was in, I think you’ll see big improvement from Lightbourn in 2017.
Q: Should Husker hoops schedule Illinois State? – H., David City, Neb.
JJ: I wouldn’t be in a huge hurry to lock them in. Illinois State will lose their two best players (Deontae Hawkins, Paris Lee) to graduation after this season, so I think Nebraska would be able to beat them, but scheduling really good mid-majors team is a no-win situation for bigger schools. You can’t really get a good win in this situation, you can only avoid a bad loss.
Q: What are realistic expectations for the Husker baseball program year to year? – B.
JJ: Consistently finishing in the top 4 of the Big Ten regular season standings and qualifying for the NCAA tournament are good year to year expectations for NU.
Q: Will the Red/White game be televised live or do I have to wait until later to see POB and Lee’s in action?
ES: Things can obviously change, but it looks like Nebraska may have the BTN2Go live option with the BTN playback. Ohio State is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. CT, and the Buckeyes have the BTN slot. I could see BTN flipping to Nebraska when Ohio State’s spring game ends, or immediately playing a replay of Michigan or Minnesota (both are set for 12 p.m. CT). I’m sure we’ll know more soon.
Q: Do you care more about my fantasy team, bracket or kids’ activities? – M.S.
JP: I have no issues with people talking about their brackets or fantasy teams. I don’t understand why so many people are annoyed by it.
ES: I’m with Jacob. Talk about what you want! If I don’t like it, I’ll just scroll on by.
Q: What are three things we found out and three we still don’t know after girls/boys state basketball? – M.S., Cook/Tecumseh, Neb.
JP: Three things we found out:
- Kearney’s Kanon Kosters is the truth. The 6-foot-3 junior put up 38 and 28 in his two games in the state tournament and did it in a variety of ways.
- Gretna’s Zach Imig and Wahoo Neumann’s Jaxon Simons are absolute steals for Morningside at the NAIA level. I believe both players could compete at a Division II level and they showed that with what they did in Lincoln.
- The championship doesn’t ensure great basketball. The D-2 title game was probably the worst high school basketball game I’ve ever seen and I’ve watched A LOT of high school games over the past four years.
Three things we still don’t know:
- How good is Lincoln Pius X compared to the rest of Class A? They went 3-2 in the regular season against Class A teams, but one of those was against lowly North Platte and the other four were against mid-pack teams in Lincoln Northeast (the first loss), Millard West, a short-handed Millard North and Millard South (without its leading scorer Charlie Easley). Easley, a stud sophomore, gave it a go against Omaha South in the Class A quarterfinals, but he could barely move and was a non-factor while the rest of the guards got blitzed by athleticism.
- Speaking of injuries, what would the Class A championship have looked like with two healthy teams? Ed Chang’s injury late in the semifinals against Kearney pretty much robbed us of an opportunity of a great championship game like we saw in Papillion-La Vista’s overtime win against Norfolk in the season-opener.
- How good could Wahoo Neumann’s Noah Vedral be if he had focused on basketball instead of football? For the second straight year, Vedral was spectacular for the Cavaliers on the biggest stage. What would he look like if basketball was his first sport rather than his second?
- Class B was a really fun bracket this year. Gretna’s win over Scottsbluff in the title game was a blast to watch.
- I think Wahoo Neumann was the most dominant team throughout the state tournament. Winning three games against the best competition in their class by an average of 17 points per game? Impressive.
- Congratulations to Mullen on their D-2 state title. I know a lot of people turned their noses up to the entire class after the title game against Mead, but don’t forget that Mullen won three straight nail biters while being an underdog in every game they played in Lincoln. That’s impressive no matter what class you play in.
- Good run by Guardian Angels Central Catholic in the D1 bracket. The Bluejays scheduled an extremely tough schedule (they were a D1 team that played Columbus Scotus, O’Neill, Wayne, Fremont Bergan, and Winnebago). That tough schedule had GACC well prepared for a run to a state runner-up finish in Lincoln despite coming in as a No. 8 seed.
Q: How many games in before my bracket is busted – 1 or 2? – S.S., Adams, Neb.
JJ: It’s probably safe until the No. 11 seed play-in games start.
ES: I haven’t even filled out my bracket yet and it’s busted.
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.