Huskers Use Bye Week to Re-Establish Fundamental Foundation
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Mailbag: What Needs to Improve More for Nebraska to Win Big?

July 17, 2019

It’s time for a new mailbag. Let’s get to it.

Which team in the West is hardest to predict this season? The East? (@InDaWilderness) 

Erin Sorensen: Nebraska? Wisconsin? I think you could make a case for either in the West. Nebraska because, well, the Huskers were 4-8 last season and it’s hard to predict exactly what will happen. Lot of potential but still difficult to know if we’re overhyping this Nebraska team or not. As for Wisconsin, I’ll point you to the question in Derek’s Big Ten storylines on Wisconsin. Sums that up well. As for the East, probably Michigan. Will the Wolverines live up to the hype? Will they not? It feels like they should, but it feels hard to predict whether or not Jim Harbaugh will finally turn the corner in the Big Ten. 

Mike Babcock: I’ll say Minnesota. Where it ends up.  

Derek Peterson: I think Minnesota is the hardest for me to peg. I understand why computers love the Gophers, all that makes sense to me. I also see the returning production and a potentially great offensive line and an already great Tyler Johnson (who’s a receiver, even though someone recently tried to write he was a running back). But I also don’t know whether Zack Annexstad is going to be the quarterback or Tanner Morgan. And I didn’t think either was a Big Ten-winning quarterback in the immediate future when watching them last season. As for the East, it’s Michigan. I ranked the Buckeyes ahead of the Wolverines in my preseason power ranking. I vouched for Big Blue last year and got burned, and I thought they had a better team then. I just have to see it before I buy it. 

Besides Martinez, which current Husker(s) do you think have legitimate shots at snagging all-time career records by the time they leave? (@InDaWilderness) 

Jacob Padilla: JD Spielman is the obvious answer. If he stays healthy and stays at Nebraska for the next two seasons he’s going to run away with all of the receiving records. If Nebraska’s offense gets to where Scott Frost wants it to be, perhaps Barret Pickering has an outside shot of passing Alex Henery on the career scoring list. 

MB: Jacob beat me on this one, definitely Spielman.  

Is Jahkeem Green Lubbock bound or does he still come to Lincoln? (@Go_Big_Red) 

JP: Last I heard from Greg Smith, he still felt like Green was Lincoln-bound. The fact that he hasn’t publicly decommitted from Nebraska following the visit to Texas Tech is probably a good sign as well. 

Based on your expectations or your hopes and dreams for the football team's offense and defense this season, what movie best describes each side of the ball? (@Corn_Huskers) 

JP: For the offense, I’ll go with John Wick – just mowing down everyone who is in their way. I’ll let someone else pick the defense movie. 

MB: I never go to movies. I just watch Turner Classics when I have time. Animal House is among my favorites, so that can be my offensive movie, how the Delta Tau Chi frat guys destroy the parade at the end. Defense? High Noon, with the marshal (Gary Cooper) dealing with that gang of killers at noon. That was on Turner Classics not long ago. 

Which do you think will show the most improvement: defense or special teams? (@dmhusker1) 

JP: I’ll go with special teams. It seems like Nebraska is in a good place at kicker and punter based on what saw at the end of last season. I think Nebraska has the athletes to generate some kind of return game if they can simply block a little bit. Other than blocking for returns, coverage is where we need to see the biggest jump. Special teams coordinator Jovan Dewitt has had his own battle to fight this offseason, but hopefully with his recovery and with the other coaches pitching in, Nebraska will have a better feel for who needs to play where on special teams. It seems like there was a pretty regular rotation last year whil Nebraska was trying to find something that worked. There are a lot of young defensive backs and linebackers with potential as well as walk-ons with experience; there’s really no reason for Nebraska not to field competent special teams units this season. As for the defense, I expect to see an uptick in playmaking, but with so many experienced guys gone it’s hard to expect consistency from that unit, at least early on. 

DP: I like Nebraska’s defense. I’m high on that group. It’ll be improved by a pretty noticeable margin. 

MB: Defense needs to show the most (slight edge on special teams in that category), so I’ll say defense, too, though I’m not as optimistic as Derek. 

Which two walk-ons do you expect to contribute the most to the team this year? (@dmhusker1) 

JP: Trent Hixson is the easy first answer as a guy who is poised to lock up the starting left guard spot with a strong fall camp. Isaac Armstrong (or if he gets beat out of the starting punter job, William Przystup) is my second answer. 

MB: Has to be Hixson at the top of the list. He’s in line (no pun intended) to receive a scholarship. Probably more blocking than catching, but I like what Kade Warner contributes; he’s reliable, right place at the right time, where he’s supposed to be. 

If Nebraska wins the division is it because of the defense or offense improving more? I know both is the best answer but I’m curious if we had to isolate one side of the ball. (@Sal_Vasta3) 

JP: I’ll actually go with the offense here. Nebraska’s offense was better last season, but the Huskers were still only sixth in the conference in scoring. Scott Frost teams are driven by their offenses, and the goal of the defense is simply to get the ball back to the offense as quickly as possible. To get where they want to be, the defense certainly has to make massive strides. But if the defense can get to say, middle of the conference, that should be good enough most years to compete for a conference title if the offense is where Frost wants it to be. 

MB: The defense has to make the most improvement for the Huskers to win the West Division. I’m assuming, of course, the offensive line develops sufficiently.  

DP: You can simply outscore the Illinois and the Indianas and the Marylands of the Big Ten (and Minnesota last year) but you can’t just walk into a game against Wisconsin or Ohio State and think “We’re going to keep scoring and they have to keep pace with us.” Nebraska is going to need big plays from its defense in big moments this season. If it’s going to win the division, it needs more improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Case and point: most people say that if the Husker offense had the ball last against the Buckeyes last year Adrian Martinez might have been able to win it, which means we’re operating under the belief the offense was good enough already last season to win that game. But Martinez didn’t get the ball last because the defense couldn’t get it to him. (That sounds harsh; it’s not meant as harsh as it sounds.) 

So with a lot of off the field things happening and even more issues this past week, where does Frost and the team draw the line of discipline? (@natethomas1) 

ES: This is a hard question to answer, because the reality is we don’t know. We’ll know soon though, because Frost will start to draw the lines. My assumption with Wan’Dale Robinson, Marquel Dismuke and Jeramiah Stovall is that there will be a suspension of some kind. Probably for a game. Maurice Washington is harder to project, because his is also reliant on the legal system. I’ll wait to guess what happens there until we know more. 

MB: As Derek wrote in the yearbook about last season, the players have to step up and hold each other accountable, and that doesn’t appear to be happening. I would be more concerned about that as it relates to the marijuana stuff. Why are these guys not responsible to their teammates? As Erin points out, Washington is a different matter. Stovall is the third with weed—and I guess it was in Dismuke’s vehicle, so Dismuke, too? A walk-on has an even more difficult line to hold, I would think, especially after the matter has come up a couple of times. Plus, Stovall is a senior—and a criminology and criminal justice major; I’m especially disappointed in him, to work so hard to contribute on special teams and then do something stupid in the context of team. I would expect a line to have been drawn, but guys are still crossing it. 

What’s the prediction for the 19-20 season? (@bupward50) 

JP: I’m boring. I’ll go with 8-4 until I have a better idea of what Nebraska looks like when we see them hit the field. I think they’ll be better, but also it’s hard for me to pick more than eight wins considering that’s their total from the last two years combined and we’re still looking at a lot of the same players from those teams.  

MB: If the Huskers can go 8-4, that’s a dramatic enough turnaround. 

DP: 9-3. 

ES: I’m still at 8-4.

If you could form a band with three Nebraska football players who would it be and what would each of you play? (@HerbieHype) 

ES: Give me these three and no instruments. We’re an acapella group.  

As a wedding gift, my dad got tickets for me & him to go to the Nebraska vs. Ohio State game this fall. He was born in Nebraska and has been a lifelong fan, but has never been to a game. I’ve been raised a Husker fan my whole life but have never even been to the state. What are the top things to do, sights to see, and places to eat while we’re in Lincoln for the first time? (@brooks_layne) 

ES: If you’re in Omaha at any point, Block 16 is a must. If you’re flying in and out of Omaha, for example, that would be a stop on the way to and/or from Lincoln. Once you get to Lincoln, I’m a big fan of Honest Abe’s and The Watering Hole. Neither disappoint. As for the sights, check out the capitol building. It’s pretty awesome. The Haymarket and Railyard are also great spots to wander and hang out. As for what to do, game day provides a lot. The marching band practices five and a half hours prior to kickoff inside Memorial Stadium. Public can attend. I often see them rehearse from the press box, and it’s worth getting there early to see for yourself. Once you’re done, head outside to the Unity Walk. You can cheer the team on as they arrive at the stadium. It originates on the east side of the stadium. If you miss the band’s rehearsal in the stadium, they do a pregame concert and warmup at Kimball Hall about an hour and a half before kickoff. Hope this is enough to get your started. I might circle back on this in-season, just because it’s a great question that benefits a lot of people. Stay tuned! 

MB: Erin’s got you covered. Honest Abe’s is a can’t miss. Misty’s in Havelock is a part of Husker tradition going back to the mid-60s and Bob Devaney (who was a friend of the people who opened it, Bob and Grace Milton). There are Husker displays there still, I think. Oh yes, I think it’s on the track, or in that area, there are often pre-game functions with a former player or two on-hand. I’ve never gone over, so I’m not sure. You got the Ohio State game. Two enthusiastic thumbs up on that. You’ll have a great time. And congrats. 

Is there any new information from the softball team? (@AplineAddiction) 

MB: None I know, just former players and a couple of other coaches coming out in support of Rhonda. 

With NBA 2K20 coming out and all the changes in the NBA landscape, what team are you playing for on MyCareer and what archetype are you using and how does that fit with your team? (@JJStark8) 

DP: I don’t think I’ve played a second of MyCareer in a few years. MyLeague is where it’s at, and I am itching to play with the Atlanta Hawks. The four-out, pick-and-roll-based offense with Trae Young and John Collins is exactly how I like to play. And I am also absolutely trading Russ back to my Thunder where he belongs. 

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