Mailbag: Volleyball Projections
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Mailbag: Volleyball Projections, Building the Perfect Husker and Quarterback Timeshares

August 15, 2018

It's another full mailbag as Brandon Vogel, Erin Sorensen, Greg Smith, Jacob Padilla and Derek Peterson are back to answer some Husker questions. This week they touch on whether the Huskers will rotate quarterbacks, what would make the perfect running back, the volleyball squad and more.

What are your thoughts on volleyball’s win/loss record? See them winning the Big Ten, [what are their] repeat title odds? (@Dustin_Huber)

JP: Conservatively projecting, I could see Nebraska going something like 8-2 in the nonconference (losses to two of Florida, Oregon, Creighton and Iowa State) and 16-4 in the Big Ten (at Illinois, at Penn State, at Wisconsin, at Minnesota, vs. Minnesota, vs. Penn State are losable matches) for an overall record of 24-6. That being said, you can’t ever count out a John Cook team and while he hasn’t put championship expectations out there in the public, he really does seem to like this group. I could see any of Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota or Penn State winning the conference this year. Considering the Huskers are ranked second in the preseason poll, I’d have to think their title odds are as good as anyone’s. Stanford does bring quite a lot back, however. For Nebraska, it’s all going to come down to the setter position.

BV: Jacob’s conservative projection feels pretty fair considering we’re not quite sure what the Huskers are going to get at setter, so let’s be unfair and go the optimistic route. Nebraska has some tough matches (as usual) in nonconference play, but I think 9-1 is doable if the setter transition comes along more quickly than expected. The Big Ten’s much tougher to project, especially on the high end, but if Nebraska splits with Minnesota, splits with Penn State, sweeps Illinois and loses to Wisconsin that would put the Huskers at 26-4 and would be another great season considering the key players Nebraska must replace. But it’s really the difference –– just two games –– between Jacob’s “conservative” estimate and my “optimistic” one that tells you how much trust this program has earned over the years.

What’s the current scholarship count (counting Watt) and who could get one if available? (@CoryHonold)

DP: They’re at 83 with Dominick Watt. I’ve got a couple walk-on guys I think should be on scholarship watch this season: quarterback Andrew Bunch, defensive back Moses Bryant, defensive back Ethan Cox and lineman A.J. Forbes. Early returns on the lot not named Bunch is that they’re working their tails off and pushing for snaps. And Bunch, obviously, is fighting in the quarterback competition. We now know he won't win the starting job but don’t overlook his talent.

JP: If a walk-on is going to get a scholarship, I think Bunch would be first in that line. As far as I know, the plan was to place Moses Bryant on scholarship next season. Cox is making a strong push for a legitimate role on the two-deep, whether it be at corner or nickel, so he definitely wouldn’t be a bad choice. Hunter Miller is another option who is trying to earn a role in fall camp.

What position group has to show up every game for us to have a winning season? Whether that’s because they’re the weak group or the group that’ll carry us. (@sweetermanders)

DP: This is a really good question. The easy answer is the quarterback, whoever that may be. I’ll go with the secondary instead. You saw last year how costly a porous secondary is to a team with an offense trying to find its footing. I would suspect the offense will be a bit of a work in progress if not for the opening few games, so another leaky secondary could spell early trouble. If that backend is improved — or, frankly, just not so matador-like — and holds up throughout the season, I like the team’s chances of having a better-than-average year. I think the front seven is going to be good enough on defense and the offense will eventually find its way.

ES: I agree with Derek on the secondary, but I’ll take another group just to offer another opinion. How about the offensive line? Like any season, the success of the quarterback, the running backs, the wide receivers (basically, the entire offense) is reliant on a strong offensive line. Can the offense work without a strong offensive line? Sure, but it’s not an ideal situation and probably can't work long term. If Nebraska has the quarterback and has the weapons at running back and wide receiver, I think it’s especially imperative for the offensive line to be a group that can carry the offense on its shoulders.

If you could build the perfect quarterback for the Frost system using traits (i.e., throwing power, throwing accuracy, speed, acceleration, etc.) from all the quarterbacks from Husker football past, whose traits would you use? (@Rawker8)

GS: I love this question. I’ll take Tanner Lee’s size, Tommy Armstrong’s arm strength, Taylor Martinez’ speed and Zac Taylor’s guts.

BV: Give me Frost’s football IQ (it’s his offense so he should be good at it), Dave Humm’s passing ability, Eric Crouch’s running ability and Tommie Frazier’s playmaking gene.

With the running back room sitting at eight-deep, what qualities would you take from each player to create the perfect Husker running back for this team and coaches? (@Corn_Huskers)

DP: Give me Greg Bell’s frame, Maurice Washington’s quick-twitch ability and lateral quickness, Devine Ozigbo’s work ethic and Tre Bryant’s lower-body strength. Good grief that would be some kind of running back. Position coach Ryan Held talked last week about having a bunch of different guys who can fill a bunch of different roles and when you list everyone out, that much is very obvious.

GS: That’s a great combination that Derek built. I’d also take Maurice Washington’s hands. Gotta catch the ball well to play running back here now.

What’s up with Jaylin Bradley? Haven’t heard him mentioned much and that’s usually not a good sign. (@tmoborny)

DP: In terms of his playing time in 2018, yeah, it’s not a great sign. That doesn’t mean he’s not a good player, just that there are better options that have jumped ahead of him. I wonder if Bradley might be due for a redshirt sophomore campaign given the depth in the room.

ES: I’m not sure it’s a completely terrible sign you haven’t heard a lot about Bradley. I think it’s simply a result of a crowded running backs room. He has to compete against seniors and junior college transfers for playing time, and that’s a challenge to begin with. Add in the hype surrounding Maurice Washington and I’m not surprised he’s not getting a lot of attention right now. Bradley showed his strengths against Purdue in 2017, so we know the talent is there. An ankle injury sort of put a damper on his big coming-out party last season, but he’s healthy now and could be a contributor as needed. He just has a lot of people to get around to find that playing time.

Do you see the Huskers continuing to bring in 2-3 JUCO players each year or will that end up being a strategy to assist in flipping the roster for 2018 as quickly as possible? (@md_schmidt)

JP: I think the answer is a little of both. With Ryan Held’s connections, there’s no reason not to recruit the junior college ranks if they can land a difference maker or two every cycle. That being said, I doubt we see a recruiting class with five junior college players again in the near future; their aggressiveness with bringing in those JUCO players was certainly because of a desire to quickly flip the roster, as the question puts it.

GS: Two to three sounds about right to me. They didn’t give Ryan Held the title of JUCO Recruiting Coordinator to do a one year deal. They will continue to do a good job of finding impact JUCO players because of Held’s connections. Anything more than two or three in a class beyond 2019 signals they’ve missed with some high school recruits.

How does our special teams look? (@mike_ehmke)

JP: Check back on Thursday. I’ll have more on special teams then.

What things would you “do” if Frost wins a Big Ten title this year? (Be creative.) (@Dustin_Huber)

ES: I would likely be in Indianapolis for the game, but if I was in Nebraska? I’d go to 72nd and Dodge in Omaha and see if anyone tears the street lights down like they did in 1997. That was for a national championship, but I imagine a Big Ten Championship would be good enough for now. Right? Other than that, I’d book my flight to whatever New Year’s Six game Nebraska was playing in and bring an extra bag because those New Year’s six games give you A LOT OF FREE STUFF and I’m all about that.

I feel like you were hoping someone would say they’d get a tattoo or something, yet here I am saying I’d rather just watch other people be destructive while I get free stuff from Chick-Fil-A.

DP: I’ll get a tattoo.

Do you think the offensive and defensive lines will be better just for the fact that a lot of them have been playing for a while now? (@IBeLionsBeats)

JP: Experience never hurts, but if Nebraska takes a big step forward in the trenches I’d say it likely had more to do with the scheme and strength and conditioning changes. The players are bigger and stronger on both sides of the ball after one offseason with Zach Duval and it doesn’t look like they’re going to be pushed around quite as easily as they were last year. Scott Frost’s offense is supposed to make things easier on the offensive line and the defensive linemen will be more in attack mode than they were last year. All of that should result in better performance overall.

I think Martinez and Gebbia are both going to see quite a bit of time this year. With the different styles of defenses we're going to face, Frost might just play the hot hand. What do you think? (@hardpore_corn)

JP: I’d be surprised by any kind of hot-hand strategy. I think both probably see the field, but that would be because Frost has shown he’s willing to give his backup quarterback a chance to play any time the game is no longer in doubt. Frost said he’s not going to let the battle spill over into the season, and a two-quarterback system doesn’t sound like something they’re interested in. He’ll pick his starter and ride that guy until an injury or until that guy shows he can’t get the job done to an acceptable level.

DP: I just don’t think the quarterback rotation thing works. Guys need to get into a rhythm. Guys need to have the confidence that one or two bad throws won’t get them yanked. Frost knows that. Mario Verduzco knows that. That’s why they’ve publicly said there should be a decision made a week before the season. Like Jacob said, you’ll see both on the field this year but not in any kind of timeshare.

GS: No, I can’t see any scenario where that happens. I also don’t think this battle will keep going into the season. We’ll see if they announce it, but I think there will be a No. 1 QB by this time next week and that guy is the guy barring something extreme.

As an unintentional benefit to development, do you think the OSU coaches and players caught a break from the media blackout? (@CoryHonold)

DP: I’m sure in some instances the offseason hype machine can be harmful to a team if unrealistic expectations are built up. In the case of Ohio State, the expectation is to win it all or the season is a disappointment. I don’t think any amount of media exposure would change that. If we were talking about a young, up-and-coming team that hadn’t been there, done that, they might be helped a bit by a media blackout but that’s not the case here.

JP: I think everything going on in Columbus right now is much more of a “distraction” than talking to the media after practice might be. If normal media responsibilities would impact your team’s development in any way, then your program has issues.

Does Carmelo Anthony hurt or improve the Rockets this year? (@Dustin_Huber)

DP: I think he’ll help. He’s not yet terrible and he talked often last year about going through an adjustment period with his game. If they ask him to be a role player who isn’t closing and he accepts that, I think he’ll be fine for $2.4 million. But, if he’s stubborn enough to force his way into a starting role and a closing role, the defense could be problematic, as was the case in Oklahoma City, and Houston doesn’t have the defensive pieces the Thunder did last year to compensate.

JP: Anthony still doesn’t seem to think he should come off the bench so I’m not holding my breath for him to make a positive impact. Going from Trevor Ariza to this version of Carmelo Anthony is a downgrade, especially with what that team needs.

GS: It hurts them and I could not be happier as a fan of a team chasing the Rockets. He won’t accept his role and he’s a complete liability on defense. Win-win in my eyes.

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