Hail Varsity Mailbag
Photo Credit: Quentin Lueninghoener

Mailbag: The CFP, Nebraska Secondary, Husker Hoops Starting Five, and More

June 17, 2021

It’s time for another mailbag. The Hail Varsity team is back to answer your questions, so let’s dive in.

Do you like four, eight, or 12 teams for the College Football Playoff? (email submission) 

Erin Sorensen: I like 12, simply because it provides more opportunity for upsets and chaos. I’m fine with eight, if that’s the path to expansion. I’m over four, so that’s bottom of the list for me. 

Mike Babcock: Let’s see how eight teams might work. My concern is, with every round of games added, there’s the potential for reducing the regular-season schedule. As a fan, do you want fewer guaranteed games? Not that it would require a reduction, but right now, with 12 regular-season games, a conference title game and potentially a couple of playoff games, a lot is being asked of players. The max is 15 games for two teams and 14 for two others—with eight teams, it’s 16 games possible (unless my math’s wrong in all of this); with 12 teams, there’s the possibility of yet another game, and four teams would have first-round byes, right? Big advantage. Ultimately, as with everything, money and TV will decide. 

Jacob Padilla: Jumping straight to 12 is rather aggressive, and I don’t love it for the reasons Mike stated — that’s a lot of extra games for the teams that make a deep run and these guys aren’t getting paid to put that extra wear and tear on their bodies. I would have preferred starting with eight to see how that goes before making another jump. With eight, you can still reward all the conference champs (including the highest-rated Group of Five champ) with a couple of wild cards. 

Greg Smith: I like jumping to 12. It saves them having to expand it again within 10 years.  

Derek Peterson: Going to eight would have started all this expansion talk back up again after a year or two, as Jacob says “start with eight to see how that goes before making another jump.” I don’t want another jump. I don’t want more deserving teams to get snubbed while we inch our way toward a model that’s best. There’s the potential for teams to play a full 17-game schedule but I don’t think we’ll see that too often, so as long as NIL laws are going into effect, I think we just wait to see how the players themselves feel about the workload before speaking for them. A lighter fall camp also could help balance things out a little. If we lose a regular season game—which I think will be a bridge many will be hesitant to cross—I don’t see that happening for a bit. I’m on board with the format that has been proposed.

Pass rusher, running back or offensive lineman, or any other position? What do you think they do with the last scholarship to get the most wins? (@CarnesRegg) 

JP: I don’t think how they use that last scholarship is going to impact the team’s record on 2021 in any meaningful way. Adding Tyreke Johnson was a great move because they only had five true corners on scholarship. I’m not sure that Nebraska has as many depth problems elsewhere and I’m not sure if there’s anyone out there that can come in and instantly win a starting job. They already added a running back and I think Greg Austin feels good about where his room is right now. Maybe they keep an eye out for a pass rusher, but I don’t know if one that would have interest in Nebraska is out there. 

GS: I wrote about this exact problem Wednesday in the recruiting notebook. I don’t think that Nebraska will ultimately end up using the scholarship before the season. Everyone wants a pass rusher but there will be more desirable schools for an elite pass rusher to attend. 

Is Tyreke Johnson going to be a starter, first off the bench, or just another backup this season? How good is our DB room at this point? Feels like the best room on the team got a bit better. (@InDaWilderness) 

JP: I have no idea how good Tyreke Johnson is. A 5-star rating coming out of high school doesn’t guarantee that talent translates at a high level to the college game. On the one hand, he was stuck behind future pros in Columbus. On the other, he apparently wasn’t as good as those future pros or he would have played more. Nadab Joseph was a top-100 recruit coming out of high school and the top-ranked cornerback in junior college, and he wasn’t able to carve out any kind of significant role for himself in year one (granted, injuries played a big part in that as well). I’m in wait-and-see mode with Johnson. Quinton Newsome and Braxton Clark have put a lot of time in for this program and have a significant head start on Johnson who will basically have a few workouts and one fall camp to adjust to the way Nebraska does things. Even if he doesn’t crack the rotation immediately, he’s a worthwhile pick-up for Nebraska because that should only make the competition at cornerback even more intense.  

GS: As with most things on the football team, it’s wise to be in wait-and-see mode. I think Johnson will get a real shot to earn a starting job. It’s tough to drop in and do that. My expectations are that he gets spot duty and plays on special teams. He definitely has the opportunity to do more than that. 

Now that the roster appears set, who is your projected starting five and sixth man for Nebrasketball? (@HuscurAdam) 

JP: I’m going to assume Dalano Banton will be back for another season (he didn’t get a Combine or G League camp invitation). I think we’ll probably see Trey McGowens, Bryce McGowens, Banton, Lat Mayen and Derrick Walker as the first five on opening day. Here’s a rough sketch of how I see the roster as of now. 

1) Trey McGowens, Kobe Webster, Quaran McPherson 

2) Bryce McGowens, C.J. Wilcher, Keisei Tominaga 

3) Dalano Banton, Keon Edwards 

4) Lat Mayen, Trevor Lakes, Wilhelm Breidenbach 

5) Derrick Walker, Eduardo Andre, Oleg Kojenets 

Webster will probably be the sixth man like he was for most of this past season, and Andre should see significant playing time behind Walker as well. Beyond that, I think competition will be fierce for the eighth, ninth and 10th spots. I’m guessing we could see Wilcher and Tominaga battling it out for the back-up shooting guard spot while Lakes and Breidenbach compete for the minutes behind Mayen. Edwards is a big wildcard here too; I’m not really sure what to expect from him.  

What’s your take on McCaffreyGate? (email submission) 

ES: As my favorite Peloton instructor likes to say: “It’s not that deep, boo.” I’ve been following a little but I’m a little behind because I spent my Wednesday evening obsessing over Katie Ledecky and screaming about the Atlanta Hawks. I really don’t think it’s as big of a deal though as it seems to have become on Twitter. Scott Frost made a comment and that comment was interpreted by multiple people (and not just reporters, because I saw fans in attendance sharing their viewpoint too) and the McCaffreys chimed in from one interpretation. Ultimately though, their point was about respect. Respect your players both when they are in the program and when they are not. They clearly feel one way about that when it comes to Nebraska and that’s fine. Just like everyone who disagreed with that interpretation is fine to feel whatever way they feel too. Ultimately, it’s not that deep. After all, Frost also said the focus is on the players in the building. Keep the focus there. 

MB: As a fan, respect the student-athlete, regardless of whether he or she leaves Nebraska. As a coach, focus on the players in the building. I’ve followed Jess Shepard (from afar), Nebraska to Notre Dame to the WNBA. I hope things work out for McCaffrey at Rice, just as I’m glad Noah Vedral seems to be in a good place at Rutgers and so on. Nebraska athletics uses transfers to its advantage, too. 

DP: Listen to my podcast.

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