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Mailbag: Tuioti Thoughts, Linebacker Talk and Fighting with the Media

February 27, 2019

Another week, another mailbag. We don’t have a full staff this time but Brandon Vogel, Erin Sorensen, Jacob Padilla and Derek Peterson are back to answer your Huskers questions.

What are your first thoughts on our new defensive line Coach Tony Tioti? (@_LilBigRed12_) 

DP: Initial reaction was to look for a coaching tie. But there wasn’t one. Which struck me. The prevailing thought was Scott Frost would stay within his wheelhouse and bring someone aboard who already either knew him or knew his staff. Tuioti doesn’t fit either, but the strategy at play here is hard to ignore. Nebraska, on paper, can open up shop in Hawaii on the recruiting trail. Tuioti played there, coached college ball there and coached high school ball there. There are other benefits, too (Tuioti led Michigan’s recruiting department in 2016), but Nebraska’s coaches recruit in regions and Tuioti just opened up a whole new space for the Huskers to try and break into. The other thing that stood out to me was Tuioti’s coaching background. Not only has he been in a 3-4 scheme similar to Chinander’s (so no learning curve there), he has called defensive plays, coached defensive line, inside and outside linebackers. Dawson helped some with the outside backers last year and Tuioti will be able to do the same.  

BV: Derek hit on most of the things I would’ve mentioned. The recruiting ties and experience are a big. I also don’t think you can ignore the value of coaching under a Justin Wilcox. That guy is a really good coach, and Tuioti now gets exposure to another one in Lincoln. That last piece of this that really interests me is that NU’s staff has made a really rapid rise up the ranks together. That’s valuable and somewhat uncommon. For heavy-hitters like Nebraska any time there’s an opening there’s an assumption that a) that school can get whoever it wants, and b) all of the top candidates should be lining up to get there. In this case, getting a clear 5-star candidate would’ve introduced a different dynamic to this staff. And that’s not meant as a slight to anyone on the staff or Tuioti, I just think it underscores how aligned he seems to be with the coaches he’s joining. 

Position battle (LB): How do you see both OLB and ILB shaking out this spring? In your opinion, who do you think our best four are? (@KiroffMichael) 

DP: I think three of the four spots are pretty safe bets at this point: Tyrin Ferguson, Caleb Tannor and Mo Barry. I could be convinced JoJo Domann takes the other outside spot opposite Ferguson, but right now I think Tannor earns the starting spot. Which leaves the other inside position up for grabs, and I really think Nick Henrich can challenge for the spot but I would guess Will Honas wins it if he’s able to get and stay healthy.  

BV: Best four right now: Domann, Barry, Miller, Ferguson. That said, with another spring under his belt I think Tannor can do enough to win that job and allow them to really find the best role for Domann. Honas also can’t be far behind among the inside linebackers. 

JP: It will be interesting to see what they do with Domann moving forward. Everybody made a big deal about the “position change,” but Domann and the coaches said that wasn’t really what happened. Basically, Nebraska played nickel with Domann as an in-the-box safety off that side of the formation. Do they continue to add weight to his frame and move him to linebacker, or does he stay where he’s at as a safety and utility guy. When Domann was on the field, he was basically playing Tyrin Ferguson’s role. I’m not sure Ferguson and Domann as opposite ends is what Nebraska wants to do considering that would be a pretty small look. Caleb Tannor grew into Luke Gifford’s back-up as the rush-end type of ‘backer. All of that is to say I think Ferguson and Tannor get the first look at those jobs and it will be on them to keep them. As for the inside linebackers, Mohamed Barry has one spot locked up. The other will depend heavily on the health of Will Honas, the growth of Collin Miller and the readiness of Nick Henrich. 

I’m not a fan of the one and done in college basketball. My idea is kids can go to NBA right after high school, or if they choose to go to college, they have to wait three years. Thoughts? (@IBeLionsBeats) 

DP: I completely agree with you. One and done is dumb. If the kid is ready to go to the NBA Draft out of high school, there should be nothing preventing him from doing so. And those kids know, the current one-and-done prospects know they’re ready when they’re coming out of high school. There won’t be a rash of kids trying to go to the NBA who have no business going, like some detractors of a lowered age limit suggest. The ones who need developmental time at the collegiate level, for the most part, will go that route. And if college is the path, it needs to be a commitment to college.  

JP: I’m fine with players being able to go to the NBA whenever they want after high school. I definitely would oppose forcing them to stay in college longer. Trae Young last year showed he had no reason to play college basketball any more after one season, but before getting to Oklahoma he wasn’t even looked at as a potential one-and-done. Why should that guy have to play one or two more seasons? It would make no sense.  

Could anyone on staff last more than 10 seconds on a mat with Nash? (@TheWeeksy) 

DP: I could. Just 10 seconds? That’s easy. I’ll just run like two laps around the mat to run out the clock. 

ES: If you meant Nebraska’s football staff, I’ll take Jovan Dewitt. If you meant our staff, I’ll take Derek because of his reason listed above. He also provided some more specific answers in person in the office, so he seems like a good bet.

BV: I forfeit. My experiences wrestling as a youth were so traumatic that I vowed to never set foot on a mat again. 

JP: LOL nope. 

If you had to choose one team member from your work place to go into a battle royale with the rest of the Nebraska media people who would it be and why? (@btran0524) 

DP: Chris Gorman. The beard would scare some people, plus I feel like he knows some sneaky stuff he isn’t letting on to. 

JP: Definitely Gorman.  

Since the 90s, what three players would you choose to add to this team for this year? (@HuskerHawg77) 

ES: I’ll take Ndamukong Suh, Dominic Raiola and Ameer Abdullah. That would give you a player to run the 3-4 (and dominate it), a center (who also won the first ever Rimington Trophy) and a running back to carry that room. 

BV: Suh is a must-pick and the best player of that time period (I’m assuming 2000 and on). Lavonte David isn’t far behind. He’s my second pick. It’s tough to leave Abdullah off, but I will for the sake of variety here. I’d look hard at adding some experience at safety, maybe Daniel Bullocks or DeJon Gomes. Niles Paul also intrigues me. A wide receiver at Nebraska, he now looks like a better fit as a hybrid tight end, a skill set that’s become prized. He’d do a lot of damage in this offense, and I think that’s my pick as it elevates Nebraska’s 2019 ceiling the most. Gomes’ jack-knife versatility would be really welcome, too, if I had a fourth pick. 

JP: I missed the glory days so Ndamukong Suh and Lavonte David are the two best players I’ve watched in a Nebraska uniform, so they’re automatically one and two. I think they both can play in any system. Adding someone like Prince Amukamara would boost the talent level and give the Huskers that lockdown corner they’ve lacked, but the Huskers already have two pretty decent corners and I don’t know if that would maximize value in this exercise. Ameer Abdullah is probably the right answer, but what about one more year of Stanley Morgan Jr.? 

What will Coach Tuioti’s first order of business be? Getting out to see some 2020/2021 targets or maxing out his time getting to know current players and prepping them for spring camp? (@md_schmidt) 

BV: Recruiting calendar mandates a quiet period post-signing day, so getting out to see recruits isn’t really an option until April. But that’s OK, because there’s plenty to do in Lincoln. On the recruiting front he can see if any of his existing prospects are also a fit at NU and help populate the big board with the rest of the staff. The higher priority, however, is probably getting himself familiar enough with personnel and scheme to be ready to go for spring practice. 

JP: The last point Brandon mentioned is an important one: he may be coming from a 3-4, but that wasn’t Nebraska’s 3-4. He will get a chance to put his own spin on how he teaches Nebraska’s linemen, but he also has to fit into what Erik Chinander wants to do schematically so Tuioti has to learn the playbook before he can really get started teaching. 

Who are your most curious players to watch during football spring practice? And yes, there's a difference between curious and interesting. (@Sal_Vasta3) 

DP: Cam Jurgens at center, because as interested as I am in the position battle, I have no idea what he looks like in that position and I want to find out. I’m curious where JoJo Domann ends up playing. And I’m very curious what kind of spring the Daniels brothers have on the line. 

JP: I’m most curious about all of the young guys coming off injuries last season. Would any of them have had the talent to make an immediate impact if they were healthy? Where do they fit on the depth chart? I suppose you could expand that to all the players who redshirted last season. 

You get to pick 5 Husker football players for a snowball fight. With the risk of them not caring about the snowball part, who do you pick? (@CoryHonold) 

DP: Adrian Martinez, Noah Vedral and Andrew Bunch for their arm talent, Jaron Woodyard for his speed, Damian Jackson for his tactical ability and intimidation skills. 

BV: My five are Damian Jackson. Who do we fight and when? 

Which media member would you trust the most to return your snowblower filled back up with gas? (@SipplesLostT) 

DP: Absolutely not Jacob. 

ES: Mike’l Severe. 

BV: Mike Babcock. 

What bowl game should I make reservations for? (@MacCanDu) 

BV: Citrus or Outback. Basically just plan to spend New Year’s in Florida and you’ll be able to get to whichever one Nebraska ends up in on Jan. 1. 

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