Who's one under-the-radar Husker that could have the biggest impact in 2018? Brandon Vogel, Greg Smith, Jacob Padilla and Derek Peterson tackle that and a few other questions in this week's mailbag.
The year is 2038, twenty years after Scott Frost's first season. What will be written about the last 20 years of Husker Football? (@Corn_Huskers)
BV: A tough one right off the bat. I guess my first question in response to this is if Frost is still the coach at Nebraska in 20 years? Odds are that almost no coach will be at his current job 20 years from now, so assume he isn’t. Even if he isn’t I think what won’t be being written in 2038 will matter as much as what will be. What won’t be being written has been the primary narrative of the past decade or so: Can Nebraska still be a national football power or have all of the old advantages that made it so eroded? I’ve never believed that but always understood why it was a viable topic. Nobody could definitively prove otherwise. One good coaching hire is often enough to erase that question, however, and Nebraska has made one in my opinion. I don’t know how many titles or what kind of titles the Huskers will win over the next two decades, but I’m betting there will be enough that the question of “can this program still be nationally relevant in today’s game?” goes away. So I guess what will be being written is a story of Nebraska’s return to something close to its historical standing.
JP: Well, you’re no fun, Brandon. Saying a coach won’t be at any one place for 20 years in today’s college football is a pretty fair prediction, but the Nebraska-Scott Frost marriage seems like a pretty special case. What would prevent Frost from still being in Lincoln in 2038 considering he’s only 43 now? If Frost isn’t able to turn the program around, then it’s possible he could jump ship or the university could move on at some point, in which case I think the program will probably look like it has been and we’ll see a bit of “If Frost couldn’t fix it, can anyone?” before things settle back down to what’s been written locally and nationally over the last 20 years. I find it hard to believe Frost would take another college job if he’s successful because if he does resurrect Nebraska the university is going to pay him whatever it takes to keep him around. In that scenario, we’ll get a lot of “Nebraska is back” stories early and then you’ll see the Huskers included among the top programs in national stories and discussion.
Something else to consider if Frost is successful is a potential jump to the NFL; if Frost feels like he accomplishes what he was hoping to do in Lincoln – put Nebraska back at the top of the sport – then might he look for a new challenge, knowing he’d be leaving Nebraska in a good place moving forward? If that were to happen, what is written largely depends on who they hire to replace Frost. Nail that hire and plenty of good will continue to be written. Make the wrong choice, and we could see the discussion fall back closer to what it has been.
Fan expectations for the Husker football coaches’ record seem to be a moving target. Which is more of an outlier stat to you: Urban Meyer being 73-8 in Big Ten with only two championships or Bo Pelini winning four division titles in seven years and 0 (1) championships? (@Cory_Honold)
DP: I don’t think Bo’s division titles were outliers just because of division composition. So I guess my answer is Meyer winning everything in conference play and only two conference titles. There was the bowl-ban, unbeaten first year and the rest haven’t really mattered because they’ve appeared in three College Football Playoffs; that’s Meyer’s ultimate goal. But you’re right about expectations. We’ve reached that sweet spot of the offseason where people who wanted to remain realistic are slowly breaking and giving in to the optimism. The only outcome for Husker football in 2018 that I would view as an outlier would be something like another four-win season because it would no doubt look and feel loads different than the last one.
BV: I’ll go with Pelini’s run as a slightly bigger outlier. As Derek mentioned Ohio State wasn’t eligible for the championship game in 2012, so you can pull 12 wins and one season off his total. That leaves him 2-for-5 in terms of championships-for-seasons. When one loss, if it’s the right one, can keep you out, 40 percent doesn’t seem that unlikely. Nebraska’s 0 percent under Pelini, however, still strikes me as a little unfortunate. The Huskers were underdogs in both of Pelini’s Big 12 appearances but were right in those games. Play goes a different way here or there in either of those, and the Huskers’ title drought ends. Then there was the silver-platter game in 2012 against a ho-hum Wisconsin team (worth noting that Nebraska still wasn’t a heavy favorite in that game, so I'm not implying it was a juggernaut). And it results in one of the most humiliating defeats in school history? What are the odds of that alone? Change the outcomes of just one of those games and you drastically change how the past five seasons played out.
Which under-the-radar (sleeper) player will have the most impact this season? (@Rawker8)
GS: Tyrin Ferguson. I think he has a sneaky chance to be a starter in game one after a really strong spring. If he gets real game action and performs well, it will be hard to get him off the field.
DP: What’s the best compliment you can give an offensive lineman? Not talking about them. It seems almost strange that Brenden Jaimes has gone so unnoticed through much of this offseason considering the youth and flip from right to left but I think that’s ultimately the biggest sign that left tackle spot is pretty secure. When we have heard Jaimes’ name, it’s been to say he’s much more comfortable at left tackle. He’s my pick here given the upside and the line-friendly system that we've heard so much about.
BV: Is it crazy to say Cam Jurgens? Considering Husker fans have been following the local kid closely for what feels like forever now, it might be. Perhaps it’s due to his injury, but I don’t hear his name mentioned often. Meanwhile, I look at that tight end position behind Stoll as pretty wide open. If Jurgens is at full strength come fall, his skill set seems like a natural fit and I bet he puts up some numbers. (Now that I’ve written that, maybe I should just go with Cam as the under-the-radar player. One of the new Cams will be very good in 2018.)
JP: I’ll go with Jaevon McQuitty. I was high on him heading into last season before he got hurt and I remain so despite the increased depth of the wide receiver position. He brings something different to the table from guys like JD Spielman, Tyjon Lindsey and Mike Williams and I think he’ll carve out a consistent role because of it.
Did the last few regimes work as hard as Frosty and company? This coaching staff is everywhere and doing everything: camps, recruiting, foot surgery. What other college coaches or school would you compare to these guys? (@RAND_ELL)
GS: I like to try to keep up with other programs as best I can and still be immersed in what’s going on in Lincoln. From what I’ve noticed Oregon, Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia all do a similar amount of work that this staff is currently doing. It’s not a coincidence that all of those programs are successful. I will say this staff outworks previous regimes which should lead to some good things in the program.
Do we get Nick Henrich? And if not, will the sky fall? (@thawildbunch)
GS: Funny you should ask. Last night I went ahead and put in a prediction for Henrich to be N. Nebraska has all the momentum right now based on what I’m hearing. Keep an eye out if he makes any other trips this summer. If he doesn’t, the decision is between Wisconsin and Nebraska. If this happens, there will be no more questions about whether or not Barrett Ruud can recruit for a while.
BV: Greg has pushed his chips to the middle of the table! If it were to be Wisconsin the Huskers lose out to here, emotionally it would hurt (local kid, division rival) but rationally it’s not hard to see the appeal. Look at the Badgers string of successful linebackers. Look at their string of success. I think it would be hard to ignore for anyone with Henrich’s skill set, and Nebraska got a late start given the coaching change. For that reason, I view Henrich-to-the-Huskers as a much bigger win than Henrich-to-the-Badgers would be a loss. Don’t get me wrong, it would still hurt plenty. He’s a heckuva player. But objectively it makes total sense that Wisconsin has a lot of appeal.
JP: It would be pretty tough losing in-state prospects to Wisconsin in back-to-back years and would certainly put a damper on the recruiting win that was Will Honas’ commitment. But Barrett Ruud’s presence gives me a good feeling about Nebraska’s ability to bring Henrich in. Also, happy birthday to Nick.