Hail Varsity Mailbag
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Mailbag: What to Take Away From Maryland? Individual Growth? Alternates?

November 27, 2019

Another week brings another mailbag. Let’s get to it.

Do you think it effects the wide receivers when Martinez drops his release point to an almost sidearm throw? Seems he's doing it quite often even when it appears unnecessary. (@Corn_Huskers) 

Brandon Vogel: Good question. I’m sure it looks a little different, but I’d guess I’d be surprised if it had a big impact on catching the football. From the quarterback perspective, I know Nebraska practices throws from all sorts of body and arm angles. Part of their training is to prepare for the rare instance when you have to do things like that, so I don’t think it’s a matter of freelancing on Martinez’s part. That said, it’s a tougher throw to make, which might be the ultimate source of lesser numbers on those throws. 

Do the Huskers break out the alternate uniforms on Friday against Iowa? (@Corn_Huskers) 

Mike Babcock: Hope not. And not sure why they would. 

Greg Smith: I hope they do. It’d be cool. 

Derek Peterson: Some have been pushing for it.

With the dominating performance from the football team over Maryland this past weekend it seems like we are finally seeing the team we have been waiting for. Did the team finally learn to play as one team and will this continue into the Iowa game as well as next season? (@rybread120) 

Jacob Padilla: I’d caution against seeing that game as some big turning point because of how bad Maryland was and how much the Terps seemingly wanted to give that game away. That being said, that was Nebraska’s most complete game of the season with very few self-inflicted mistakes. I think we need to see the Iowa game before knowing whether that was simply a case of the competition or the start of Nebraska putting some things together, but if the Huskers have a good showing against the Hawkeyes I think the feeling heading into the offseason will be very different than it would have been otherwise. 

MB: I agree with Jacob on taking into consideration the opponent. And I’ll leave it at that. 

BV: Between a loss against a good opponent (Wisconsin) and a blowout of a poor one (Maryland), I think there was enough there for increased optimism going into Iowa. Evidence this team has turned a metaphorical corner? I’m not quite ready to go there yet, but I do believe Nebraska has a good shot against the Hawkeyes and I do think a win there—when you look at the stakes and the recent history of that series—could be a bit of a springboard for the future. And I’m generally not a believer in springboards, especially in bowl games. (See Also: Texas, Sugar Bowl, 2019) But this feels a little different. 

With the season almost over, who has improved the most and who never really panned out? (@InDaWilderness) 

MB: Dedrick Mills was a little like Devine Ozigbo by season’s end, more comfortable in the offense and hence more productive. Also, the offensive line made significant strides, contributing to that. I’d rather not describe anyone as not panning out. 

JP: I’ll echo Mike on Dedrick Mills. I think his success had a lot to do with improvement up front (so I’ll echo Mike on the offensive line) as well as Nebraska committing to him and learning the best way to use him, but he has absolutely made big strides individually as well. Khalil Davis is another guy who showed some flashes last year of being disruptive but has really taken it to the next level. He’s up to 8.0 sacks this year (only five players in the conference have more) and could be playing himself into getting drafted. As for not panning out, I’ll go with two position groups: the wide receivers and linebackers. Outside of JD Spielman and Wan’Dale Robinson, nobody in that receiver room emerged as a consistent, reliable option. On defense, I thought inside linebacker would be one of the team’s strongest groups and that has not been the case. Outside of some flashes from JoJo Domann, Nebraska hasn’t gotten nearly enough from its outside linebackers either. 

I came across an article saying Jaron Woodyard still has a redshirt available and has only played in 3. If this is true, then why would he be classified as a senior this year? (@Go_Big_Red) 

MB: Yes, he has played in only three games this season and could be redshirted. Even so, he’s a senior in class. So maybe he plans to move on. I’m surprised that Christian Gaylord isn’t listed among the 22 seniors—he might be able to get a sixth-year medical, but I’d think he’d be included among the seniors because he is. That’s why I’m guessing Woodyard has indicated he’s moving on. If he completes his degree, he could play somewhere as a grad transfer, right? 

JP: Gaylord does plan on applying for a sixth year and with everything he’s been through this year, it’d probably be a bad look for the NCAA to say no. As for Woodyard, he could get an extra year of eligibility if he wants, but he’s played in 11 games in two seasons at Nebraska and has four receptions for 19 yards. If he doesn’t feel like anything would change with his role next season, I don’t know that he’d want to return. 

Nebraska seemed to intentionally kick shorter kickoffs to limit returns against Maryland. I think they consistently got the ball at the 35. Will this be the strategy against Iowa? How do we win the field position battle? (@nebraskicker) 

JP: I think that strategy had as much to do with Javon Leake proving to be a dangerous returner this season as it did with Nebraska being unable to consistently get the ball into the end zone. Ihmir Smith-Marsette isn’t quite as dynamic as Leake, but he has shown some ability as a returner so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar strategy if Nebraska doesn’t feel it can consistently cover deep kickoffs. 

MB: As Jacob said, strategic as much as anything. 

BV: I’d be a little surprised if that strategy showed up again against Iowa. The Hawkeyes almost always win the field-position battle. It’s part of the blueprint for them. I’m not sure Nebraska can give away those yards. Against Maryland there were two incentives to kick short—avoid Nebraska’s own shoddy kickoff coverage and avoid Leake. Against Iowa, there might just be the first one. 

Hypothetically, if we beat Iowa and get our bowl eligibility, which bowl would be more likely and who would you like to see us play? (@Go_Big_Red) 

MB: Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium? Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit? Either would have an opponent from the ACC or FBS independent.  

BV: Those are the two most likely options. Detroit is probably more likely than New York, but Nebraska’s fan base and support could elevate it a spot or two in the pecking order. 

Have you ever seen this much negativity in the Husker football fanbase? (@md_schmidt) 

MB: The fan base was divided during Bo Pelini’s time. Folks weren’t happy with Shawn Eichorst/Mike Riley. The Steve-Pederson-as-AD era had plenty of negativity. Tom Osborne had his detractors at times because of Oklahoma losses and then a seven-bowl-game losing streak. Boosters circulated a petition to get rid of Bob Devaney in 1968 after he wouldn’t replace any assistants. And any negativity these days is magnified by social media. 

JP: Things were pretty negative that last year under Mike Riley. And Mike raises a good point: the negativity might not be any more prevalent than it has been in the past, but it’s certainly more visible with social media.  

GS: Things were worse during Pelini’s time and at the end of Riley to me. The big difference has been a section of the fan base that never seems happy even when good things happen. Perhaps its due to the up and down nature of the program recently. It feels like there is always a sense of waiting on the bad thing to happen even when things are good for a moment. 

What was the breakdown by class of the Maryland travel roster? And does it tell us anything about the future of this team? (@knapplc) 

DP: Here’s the breakdown: 14 freshmen, 12 redshirt freshmen, 14 sophomores, 17 juniors, and 17 seniors. I don’t think it says much more that we didn’t already know: this is a team with a lot of youth.  

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