A big mailbag and a full staff on hand to answer, let’s just get to it.
Coach Frost has given everyone Hail Varsity the opportunity to design and call a play during the season. What is the play you will design and what is it called? (@Corn_Huskers)
Derek Peterson: Nebraska is in the gun, Adrian Martinez has Wan’Dale Robinson offset to his right. Andre Hunt is wide left to the boundary, Jack Stoll is inline on the field side, JD Spielman is right next to him off the line and Dedrick Mills is wide right lined up at wideout. Mills motions into the backfield pre-snap, setting up left of Martinez. It’s a fake Statue of Liberty. Mills goes left to block, Robinson fakes the behind-the-back handoff from Martinez, who rolls to his right with the ball. But Martinez has an option — Andre Hunt starts to block before running a deep post and if the safety has diagnosed what’s going on and covers Hunt over the middle, Martinez keeps the ball and runs right, but if the safety commits to the run, he can flip it over the top to Hunt. It’s called the Boomer Buster, on account of the team who was beaten by the original play this draws inspiration from. Please send to Coach.
Mike Babcock: Bouncerooski 2019, Martinez throws a pass-like lateral on one hop to, say Wan’Dale Robinson or JD Spielman, who scoops up the ball and passes downfield to Jack Stoll, or . . . fumblerooski, with Cam Jurgens snapping to Martinez, who sets the ball on the ground for Boe Wilson to pick up and run . . . wait, that’s no longer legal, so only the first one.
What storyline do you most wish to see come out of fall camp (regardless of how likely it is)? (@InDaWilderness)
Brandon Vogel: Cam Jurgens is ready to start the season opener. With the way he has been talked about this offseason, you almost feel that if he isn’t able to go at center then you aren’t seeing the full force of what this offense can be.
Greg Smith: I will also pick being able to see what happens with Cam Jurgens. That has really become the No. 1 storyline of camp for me which is something I didn’t see coming after we got done with spring ball.
Erin Sorensen: I would have also taken Jurgens, so I’ll pick something else. How about Cam Taylor living up to all that hype around him? Mo Barry said he has the potential to be a breakout player this season, and I think Barry’s right. Fall camp will be big for Taylor to solidify himself on this team, both in his skill and as a leader. That doesn’t mean he won’t have plenty more opportunity to grow throughout the season but it’d be nice to have him settling into the role so many think he can have early.
Jacob Padilla: Since Jurgens has been taken, I’ll go with a pair of receivers truly separate themselves to complement JD Spielman. A handful of guys will get a chance to play in Frost’s system but I think they need at least three go-to guys that will produce every game. Perhaps that’s Kanawai Noa and Andre Hunt, or maybe one or both of the junior college guys make the leap heading into their senior year or maybe Wan’Dale Robinson lives up to or exceeds the hype right out of the gates. No matter who it is, Adrian Martinez needs more than one guy he can count on to make this offense go.
MB: Jurgens as part of the development of the offensive line, including identifying a couple of players capable to rotating in at guard and tackle; perhaps Benhart showing enough in fall camp to be one of those players. A solid offensive line will ensure success given the “skill” players available.
DP: I’m not going to pick the Jurgens storyline for two reasons: everyone else did and though it’s an important variable that needs sorting out, I’m more interested in finding clarity at the running back spot. Because there is no clarity at the running back spot.
With fall camp on the horizon, do Brody Belt and Andrew Bunch make the 110? Who are team captains for the season? Not much talk on specialists, but other than Chase Urbach, who is "second" string long snapper? (@Go_Big_Red)
ES: Yes to both Brody Belt and Andrew Bunch. Belt will add depth at running back, which is needed with the uncertainty of Maurice Washington this season. I think it helps a lot more than hurts to have him on the 110 and getting extra practice. As for Bunch, he was on the 110 last fall (alongside Tristan Gebbia, Adrian Martinez, Matt Masker and Noah Vedral). He’s a lock for this year too. When it comes to the specialists, there’s little talk because there’s little to talk about. Barret Pickering, Chase Urbach and Isaac Armstrong are pretty much guaranteed at their spots—although I guess Armstrong could see some competition from transfer William Przystup—so there isn’t much to share right now. Cameron Pieper and Cade Mueller are your two long snappers behind Urbach. Both redshirt freshman. Both from Nebraska. Take your pick.
JP: I haven’t sat down and tried to project out the 110 yet, but I’ll go ahead and say both of those guys make it. Andrew Bunch will definitely make it ahead of the other walk-on QBs and I’m sure they’re taking more than three QBs into camp. As for Belt, based on what he did in the spring I’d say he probably earned himself a spot on that fall camp roster. At long-snapper, Nebraska has a pair of walk-on redshirt freshmen in Cameron Pieper (Lincoln Southwest) and Cade Mueller (Gretna) who will battle it out to back up Urban this year and perhaps succeed him as the starter next year or in case of injury this year.
DP: Brody Belt and Andrew Bunch are both on the 110 without a doubt. Mohamed Barry, Darrion Daniels, Matt Farniok and Adrian Martinez are my picks for the team captains.
MB: Agree with Derek on both counts, though maybe Carlos Davis instead of Darrion Daniels.
When do you think the next round of recruiting commitments occurs? All after OSU game or do we get some before then? (@Sal_Vasta3)
GS: I’m sure there will be commits before the Ohio State game. There are two home games before then. That includes the season opener, which prospects will be really excited to check out.
What’s the best scenario for the Huskers to make the College Football Playoffs this year? Is it 12-0? Winning a BIG Ten title? Or a one-loss team can still get us through? (@CedestasCedric)
BV: Starting from where Nebraska is starting (i.e. not in the top 10), a conference title is probably a must. I want to say 11-1 is enough, but Ohio State started in the top 10, won the conference and had only one loss and that wasn’t enough last year. Let’s put it this way: A one-loss team is for sure in the discussion for a Playoff spot and that’s about all you can say without knowing how crowded that contenders group might be.
MB: Agree with Brandon, a conference title is a must, with at least an 11-1 record.
How much will we actually learn about the football team once fall camp begins? Or do we need to actually see them in the first two games to know if the hype has been legit? (@Sal_Vasta3)
BV: We’ll learn a lot of details—how's Mills look, how is the depth chart shaking out, etc.–but I oftentimes get to the end of the season and don’t feel like I’m sure how good a team is (and thus if any hype was legit). I’d look at it this way—if anyone is telling you that the hype appears to be legit based on what we can see and hear at practice, I would be pretty skeptical of that sentiment.
GS: We will learn a lot of things that matter. Who is playing where in the secondary, are any freshmen making moves, which wideouts are standing out, are the new running backs as good as advertised, etc. The biggest key to if “the hype” is legit or not may be health coming out of camp at center, tackle and inside linebacker.
JP: Like Greg said, fall camp is useful for learning smaller things, like where versatile players are spending most of their time or what the depth chart looks like early on. We won’t be able to watch every practice ourselves to know how well guys are truly playing, but you can bet the guys who have their names brought up repeatedly by the coaches are guys the staff expects a lot of once the season rolls around. I would advise against trying to draw any larger conclusions than that because we’re looking at a situation where Nebraska is playing against itself, or against air.
MB: We’ll get a sense of who’s playing where and who’s in the mix. Otherwise, we need to see the team in some games, and not just the opener against South Alabama. We’ll have a sense of where things stand by the Ohio State game . . . probably.
Is Jurgens injury snake-bitten? Over/under 6 games he plays center in this season? (@Sal_Vasta3)
ES: I’m too superstitious to be willing to answer the first question or the second. I’m not jinxing anything.
DP: I don't think he’s snake-bitten. He’s just a big guy with foot problems. That’s pretty common. I’ll take the over while knocking profusely on my wooden desk at home.
What’s the chance we go undefeated in football at home this year? (@_Prestonp85_)
MB: No insight here, probably. It’s not going to happen.
DP: I think there’s a far better chance Nebraska goes unbeaten on the road than at home. Just for the sake of it, the home schedule is South Alabama, Northern Illinois, Ohio State, Northwestern, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa while the road schedule features Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue and Maryland. Three of the four projected lowest win probabilities by S&P+ are for home games. If they win out at home Nebraska will play in the CFP, which is basically to say it’s not likely to happen.
Would the football team ever take a preseason trip like the basketball team is doing or like Michigan has done in the past? (@InDaWilderness)
GS: I couldn’t see them doing this but I actually don’t think it’d be the worst idea from a marketing standpoint. All in all, I think it’s a great experience for the student-athletes so I’d be all for it. I would just be pretty surprised if Frost did that here.
MB: I’d be surprised if it happened. That’s a considerable expense for a football team, not like basketball or volleyball.
DP: A basketball trip overseas would be expenses for 25-ish people. A football trip overseas would be, for this roster, pushing close to 200 to bring everyone? Or you just bring the scholarship guys (and you’re still in the hundreds) and leave the walk-ons at home and probably do more to cause division within the team than build togetherness.
What is the dream destination for a basketball preseason trip? (@natethomas1)
MB: I think the Huskers might be taking it. Italy is pretty cool I’d say.
DP: My dream destination is Italy, so yeah, Nebraska’s already on it.
Realistic expectations for the basketball team this year and how much, if any, will the Italy trip help? (@Spacker22)
JP: Fred Hoiberg went 16-16 in his first season at Iowa State, padding the nonconference with easy wins but struggling in league play. I think this roster at Nebraska is better than that one at Iowa State, but there isn’t a single player on this roster that has proven he can be a difference-maker at the high-major level at this point. Above-.500 and towards the middle of the pack is what I’d set as the baseline for Year 1, but I think the ceiling is higher than that. As for the Italy trip, I think it will help a ton even without having the full roster to experiment with. Hoiberg will have a much better feel for the talent he has and how it fits together, meaning there will be a lot more fine-tuning come preseason practices as opposed to having to completely start fresh. He’ll also get a chance to see if some leaders emerge. I think he has an idea of who he wants those guys to be, but it has to happen out there on the court and in the locker room.
MB: I agree with Jacob on all things hoops-related (and if Derek chimed in, I’d go with him, too). Leadership is a significant thing on such a trip.
Buy or Sell? 2019 Nebraska Volleyball makes the NCAA finals again. 2019 Nebraska Baseball makes NCAA regionals? 2019 Nebraska Soccer returns to NCAA tournament? 2019 Nebraska Football wins B1G West and 10 games? $400 4-star hotel downtown Lincoln Ohio State weekend. (@Shortguy1)
ES: I’ll buy on Nebraska volleyball and Nebraska baseball. I’ll sell on a B1G title for football and winning 10 games, as well as the $400 4-star hotel in downtown Lincoln for Ohio State. I’ll pass on soccer to Derek because he knows way more about it than me and I trust his judgement.
MB: Like Erin, I’m looking for investment advice from Derek on soccer returning to the NCAA Tournament for a 13th (?) time, though I could ask John Walker, I suppose. Buying volleyball (always), selling football, baseball and the hotel.
DP: Logic would say sell on volleyball making it back to the finals after losing two players as important as Foecke and Maloney, but the team lost Kelly Hunter and kept on keeping on. John Cook is a pretty important constant. Sell the baseball take. Buy the soccer take. Partially buy the football take (10 wins is a stretch for me but the division is more than winnable at 9-3). Buy the hotel, GameDay will be here.
What's the schedule for camp look like? When are the guys at practice? When are they in the weight room? (@uni_klaus)
ES: Good question. We'll know tomorrow, or at least I assume. We typically get the fall camp schedule on the first day everything kicks off and that’s, well, tomorrow.
It seems many members of the Nebraska media dislike P.J. Fleck. Is it simply because he can rock monk strap shoes and they can’t? (@4ThisJustIn)
GS: I think this is the first time I’ve laughed out loud reading a question, especially because I’m envisioning myself wearing monk strap shoes. The general consensus for why many people in or outside of Nebraska media aren’t fond of Fleck is because things are always about him. Despite all the flowery words, Minnesota football is all about PJ Fleck and he is happy to let you know.
BV: Monk strap shoes are not for me, but they make sense for Fleck (if that makes sense). Despite our differing tastes in footwear, I’m pretty neutral on Fleck. I think he’s a good football coach. Derek and I were talking after Big Ten Media Days about his responses to questions and how he’s typically saying something of value (far from a given). Greg hit on the central concern. The whole Row the Boat thing is a personal mantra that has somehow ended up on the uniforms of two different programs now, which is strange. I’m sure the team took some meaning from that mantra in both places, but Fleck cared enough about it as a brand (which WMU owned) to basically pay to get it back. Either those words are magic and you can’t win without them, or there’s a good deal of personal branding going on here and to put it on the helmet, alongside the school logos, gives me pause. That said, Fleck is a net positive for the conference in my eyes. I like him just fine.
MB: I’ve never said a bad word about him. In fact, I’ve never said any word about him until this answer.
DP: Fleck, like Brandon hit on, is consistently saying something of value. Which I appreciate. I don’t much care about the optics that other people knock him for because if the worst thing we can say about a guy is that he talks a lot, there shouldn’t be a problem. His players like him, he’s always overly complimentary of other people in the profession and seems a good dude from my interactions with him. And monk straps are awesome. I have a pair of brown suede double monks that will be worn Thursday.
Who will be the volunteer coach for Husker Baseball? (@jacobkrueger5)
MB: Curtis Ledbetter remains the volunteer assistant, Tanner Lubach remains Director of Operations (Ledbetter’s former position).
If there was a NCAA version of NBA Jam, which players make up the Huskers team? (@AsianJoeEvans)
DP: Adrian Martinez, JD Spielman.
If the Huskers announced that Nickelback was playing during halftime of the South Alabama game would the sellout streak come to an end? (@Corn_Huskers)
GS: No, there’d be a surprisingly high number of people that knew all the words to the songs they played.
BV: Greg’s right. It feels like I hear an advertisement for a Nickelback concert happening in downtown Omaha every four months, and every time I ask myself, “Why is Nickelback back again? They were just here.” Clearly people are going. I know Jacob loves them.
MB: No, because the tickets would’ve already been sold, and if not, a well-heeled booster would buy up the extras to keep the streak alive—that would be the case whether Nickelback or Los Del Rio made a comeback at halftime.
DP: No, because Jacob would buy up all the open tickets.
If Nebraska had a live animal for a mascot, what animal would it be? (@IBeLionsBeats)
BV: Probably has to be the bull bat, aka the common nighthawk. According to history.nebraska.gov, that was the origin of the Bugeaters nickname:
Years ago University of Nebraska football players were called the Bugeaters, after the state-wide nickname which came from Nebraska's numerous bull bats (caprimulgus europaeus), called bugeaters because they fed on bugs.
I am not an ornithologist, but I believe the Latin name provided in that excerpt above is incorrect because it corresponds to the European nightjar, aka the common goatsucker. (Maybe I should be an ornithologist. Bird names are amazing.) The nightjar isn’t native to North America, but the common nighthawk is.
So if the Auburn Tigers can have an eagle fly around before the game (pretty cool), I think the Nebraska Cornhuskers can have a bull bat (or nighthawk). Only potential problem is that the nighthawk may not be quite as majestic as an eagle. It’s somewhere between a robin and crow in size. But I’ll trade that for regional relevancy and a nod towards tradition.
MB: Another version, unofficial obviously but more reasonable, is that Bugeaters (and the reference in a newspaper account I found was “bug eaters”) was a reference to how hearty folks here were, that during a dust-bowl situation in the late 1800s, they refused to leave, that they would “eat bugs” if they had to in order to survive. So not birds, hearty folks—like the bullbats, I suppose. The early teams were also supposedly called (writers applied their own nicknames) Golden Knights, Rattlesnake Boys and Antelopes. So how about a rattlesnake?
Any news regarding Rhonda Revelle? (@KimMarco19)
MB: Have heard nothing, sorry.