As the Nebraska Huskers went into its bye week, depth became a big concern. From the offensive line to the wide receivers and more, plenty of positions took a hit as key players were injured. That would explain a good chunk of the questions we got this week. For example, what does the Huskers’ depth look like ahead of Indiana? That wasn’t it, though. We also got questions on men’s basketball, football rankings and birthday cake.
Brandon Vogel, Jacob Padilla, Jake Jensen and Erin Sorensen answer your questions in this week’s Hail Varsity mailbag.
Q: When looking at the team, where do you see depth and where is it needed most? – H.R.
JJ: Wide receiver has all sorts of depth now that Bryan Reimers and Gabe Rahn have proven that they can handle playing some reps. For me, the scariest situation depth-wise is still defensive end. If Freedom Akinmoladun or Ross Dzuris goes down, Nebraska is in trouble.
JP: Jake is probably right with his answers. The linebackers may not have quite lived up to expectations at this point, but even so it’s still a deep group. I don’t think Nebraska would miss a beat with Chris Weber in at middle linebacker in place of Josh Banderas. Michael Rose-Ivey has jumped back to No. 1 on the depth chart at strong side linebacker ahead of Marcus Newby and Luke Gifford, who has seen his share of playing time over the past two seasons, is third. Mohamed Barry is young but he’s a freak athlete at weak side linebacker behind Dedrick Young. As for where the team is lacking, if Nebraska suffers any more injuries along the offensive line they could be in trouble. The staff doesn’t appear ready to throw redshirt freshmen Michael Decker, Jalin Barnett and Christian Gaylord out there and burning redshirts at this point of the season would be a waste. Fortunately, it sounds like Tanner Farmer and David Knevel will be ready to go on Saturday meaning Corey Whitaker and Cole Conrad will slide back onto the bench for depth. However, had one more player gone down in the Illinois game, I’m not sure who Mike Riley would have sent into the game.
Q: Tight end depth… What’s in the closet? – B.M., Houston, Tex.
JJ: I may be the only one that’s thinking it but I think Sam Cotton is going to have a big day against the Hoosiers. Tom Allen (Indiana’s defensive coordinator) runs an ultra-aggressive 4-2-5 scheme that he learned at Ole Miss and I think he will sell out to stop the run, opening up the middle of the field for play-action to the tight end. I’m also still waiting to see redshirt freshman Matt Snyder hit the field. He was a big recruiting win for Mike Riley when he committed to Nebraska over Michigan but he has struggled with injuries since he got to Lincoln.
JP: Snyder is still way down on the depth chart behind Trey Foster, Tyler Hoppes and Connor Ketter. Injuries have set him back and he just hasn’t made a leap towards pushing for playing time. Foster is a great blocker and will occasionally go grab a touchdown pass. Hoppes is a guy the coaches raved about during the spring and fall. He hasn’t made an impact yet, but he might be the best receiving threat in the group right now outside of Cethan Carter. Freshmen Jack Stoll and David Engelhaupt are both redshirting.
Q: Will Nebraska get to Wisconsin unbeaten? – T.J.K., Glenwood, Iowa
JJ: Yes, but this Indiana game will cause some gray hairs for Husker fans.
BV: Flip a coin for this weekend’s game. The Huskers are pretty beat up even coming off a bye week, Indiana will be pumped up for the chance to record a top-10 win and everything there looks pretty even to me. Slight edge to Nebraska and huge edge the following week hosting Purdue. I’ll say, yes, the Huskers can go into Madison 7-0, but I won’t be shocked if Indiana prevents. (I will be shocked if Purdue is doing the preventing.)
ES: I think so but I’m also not holding my breath.
Q: Final Husker football ranking? – J., Hickman, Neb.
JJ: I still think Nebraska ends the season with three losses, but I think Nebraska reaches the Big Ten title game at 10-2 because of Wisconsin’s schedule and Iowa’s lack of a deep passing game. So If Nebraska finishes 11-3 like I’m predicting, I’ll go with them finishing the year ranked around No. 13 or No. 14.
BV: My preseason ranking for Nebraska was 20th and I still feel pretty good about that. This stretch of seven Big Ten games is going to be a grind, and Nebraska will do well to finish the season 9-3. That is probably enough to make it come down to tiebreakers in the West. Maybe Nebraska is the champ, maybe it isn’t. It probably doesn’t win in Indy even if it is, so you’re looking at a decent bowl game. The Huskers would need to win that to finish 10-4 and land in the 19-20-21 range. The history of five-loss teams in the final rankings isn’t long.
Q: Striped stadium?! Is it too gimmicky for Nebraska? Or can we at least do a ‘Red Out’ again? – M.S., Cook/Tecumseh, Neb.
JJ: Let’s do a red out around the world. The one in 2010 worked out really well.
ES: Are you suggesting the players wear red jerseys with red pants? God bless that look.
Q: What do you expect from the Husker men’s basketball team this year? – K.B., Omaha, Neb.
JJ: As long as Ed Morrow stops wearing those awful teal shoes, I’ll be happy.
JP: I expect growing pains with seven freshmen and sophomores plus a junior college transfer on the team. I think if Glynn Watson takes a step forward and makes this team his, if Anton Gill lives up to expectations and if the freshmen prove they belong in the Big Ten, the season will be at least somewhat of a success. As far as wins, I have no idea. The Huskers should be better than Rutgers and probably Minnesota. Just like last year, Nebraska will probably in the same tier as Illinois, Northwestern and Penn State looking to make the jump to a winning record in conference.
Q: Which Husker would ask the best question at a town hall debate? – B.C., Omaha, Neb.
JP: Michael Rose-Ivey might have a good question or two.
BV: What Padilla said.
Q: Any updates on when the ESPN 30 for 30 on the ’94-’95 Huskers will air? – J.N.
JP: It is in the post-production stage. ESPN is going to keep working on it until the producer feels satisfied that it is as good as it can be. It didn’t make it for this newest round of 30 for 30s, but it shouldn’t be too much longer before they’re ready to release it.
Q: In honor of Erin’s birthday, what is your favorite kind of cake? – G.S., Lincoln, Neb.
JJ: Ice cream cake. Angel food cake is a close second though.
JP: Cheesecake, with strawberry shortcake right up there.
BV: Red velvet, cream cheese icing. Or maybe tres leches. Or maybe German chocolate. You know what? All the cakes.
ES: I’m with Jake. Ice cream is pretty spectacular. Otherwise, I love a good ‘funfetti’ cake.
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.