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Mailbag: What’s the Impact of Nebraska’s Ready Now Program

March 11, 2020

At the outset of spring football, the Hail Varsity staff took some time away from transcribing a mountain of audio to answer your Huskers questions. Feel special. 

Coaching, teaching, managing, etc are all driven by building relationships. As "kids" become more individualized, potentially disconnected, more intrapersonal plus more awareness on mental health, how are coaches going to deal with players moving forward similar to JD Spielman? (@Corn_Huskers)  

Brandon Vogel: It’s a tough line to walk right now. It’s seems pretty clear that the heavy-handed approach to team building—fall in line, the team over the individual, the “old school” way—doesn't resonate as it once did. Nebraska volleyball might be one of the best examples in the country of straddling that line right now. John Cook had to adjust to a new generation of athletes and it wasn’t easy, but he still builds incredibly tight-knit teams year in and year out in a way where the players don’t seem to feel like they’re losing their individuality. I think there are two key pieces to that, and many smaller pieces overall, but Cook is excellent at delegating and using the resources Nebraska has (sports psychology being one of those). The second piece is, he constructs ways for the team to be together often. The locker room is designed to be a place the players want to hang out, which brings them together. There are also offseason team-building events and trips. 

When you look at trying to apply that to football the challenge is pretty obvious. Doing those things is way easier with 15 players than it is with 150. But Scott Frost has made efforts to do some of the team-building things, including bringing in The Program to lead those exercises the past two springs. I think the new facilities could help with that just by being big enough for more of the team to get together. We’ll see how it plays out, but so far Nebraska’s approach to Spielman’s leave feels pretty appropriate. 

What percent would you give that McCaffrey plays another position this season? What about switching for the remainder of his career? (@Sal_Vasta3)  

Erin Sorensen: I've been thinking on a percentage for too long now, so I’m just going to give it a 50-50 chance. But let’s just consider what Scott Frost said to kick off spring football.  

"We talked to Luke about his role,” Frost said. “I think there may be a time to talk about something else for him for down the road but right now he is competing to be the quarterback. That's where he is in our eyes so we want to give him every chance in the spring to do that. Come fall if he is not the guy then I'm sure there are some ways we can use him." 

Is McCaffrey the starting quarterback come fall? I doubt it, so does that mean the Huskers will move him to wide receiver? Maybe. I could see them still creating some specific packages for McCaffrey at quarterback even if he isn’t the starter, and maybe they do that for him at wide receiver too. We saw some of that in 2019, although in a limited sense. Frost and Matt Lubick could get much more creative in 2020 if they wanted to. So I think McCaffrey is a quarterback first and foremost but I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see him taking some reps at receiver, especially if depth is still a concern at that spot come fall. 

Greg Smith: This is a hard question to answer after a couple practices but I’ll say the chances are high, like 75% that he plays another position at some point this season. I do think he will get a real look to be the quarterback first. I’m giving him a punchers chance to take the job from Adrian but it will not be easy. At some point, they will need him to play quarterback at Nebraska.  

Mike Babcock: I’m on the other side. He might line up on occasion elsewhere, but he’s a quarterback. Plus, if Martinez were to have injury problems, Luke is the best option—yes, let’s play some option . . . just kidding. 

Do you think we’ll see more redshirt freshmen and freshmen play this season (similar to Jurgens, learn trial by fire because the upside is better in long run)? (@Sal_Vasta3)    

Jacob Padilla: I do because I don’t think the coaches will have much of a choice. Nebraska has as many scholarship freshmen (both true and redshirt) as it does sophomore, juniors and seniors, and obviously there are a handful of players in those older three classes that have not yet seen the field or even appeared on the depth chart. I think we’ll see freshmen on the field at running back and wide receiver for sure. Greg Austin said the goal is to move Matt Farniok to left guard, and the easiest way to do that is for Bryce Benhart to win the starting right tackle job. We could also see freshmen at defensive back and inside linebacker, at special teams for sure and maybe on defense depending on how many guys the coaches rotate in at that spot. Ty Robinson has an opportunity to work in on the defensive line as well. It’s going to be up to those players to show they’re ready to go and deserve the playing time, though. 

With the derailing of the HyPe TrAiN, do you think we could get more truth out of coaches and players this spring? A sense of calling it like it really is? (@Sal_Vasta3)   

JP: My fear is that it will just lead to the coaches saying less overall more than the coaches speaking up honestly. I mean, Frost directly referenced Tom Osborne’s “he’s going to be a pretty good player” style of answering questions. I don’t think that’s any better than the “hype” as far as painting an accurate picture of the status of the program. It’s a cat and mouse game between coaches and reporters. Coaches aren’t ever going to spill everything and you’ll always have to wade through a certain amount of coach speak. Hopefully, the coaches are confident enough in their process and their development to have real conversations with us. Once they start winning games, that will probably be easier too. 

ES: It also depends on the coach. Erik Chinander, for example, is often far more candid than other coaches. Same with Greg Austin. I don’t think any of that has changed with those that have always been more open and candid prior to this season. In Frost’s case, Jacob already explained what he said and he’ll probably be more reserved in what he shares to a degree. 

GS: I think that we have gotten a lot of honesty already from the assistant coaches overall. They have generally said when things are good and when they aren’t. However, most people don’t parse through every word that Travis Fisher says. They do that with Frost and he’s the one that has to find that balance.  

MB: It’s the nature of veteran coaches to “be honest” to a point, but I think there’s always going to be a “party line” that no one is going to cross. The tendency is to be more positive than not. 

How many 3s will Noah Vedral score as he leads Nebrasketball in winning the Big Ten (@eliash10)  

JP: I know we shared a video of Noah getting some shots up and hitting most of them, but he was better attacking the basket than he was as a pure shooter in high school. Charlie Easley was a terrific 3-point shooter in high school and that has not yet translated to playing in the Big Ten, and he didn’t spend the last three years playing football. If you’re setting the over at 0.5 made 3s for Vedral, I’ll take the under. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get in the game at some point though, depending on how the game plays out. 

ES: He’s going to make the game-winning 3. Obviously. I’d listen to Jacob though, and Thomas Viglianco. While the 3 was part of Vedral’s game in high school, attacking the rim was too (and it’s something Viglianco mentioned in our story yesterday. Aside from what happens, I just hope we get to see him in the game at some point. He has the heart to do it. Anyway, watch our video again. 

https://twitter.com/HailVarsity/status/1237459216484503553 

MB: I wonder how much of an opportunity he or Banks will get. 

Can you put into context how big the Ready Now announcement is in regards to recruiting? (@nebraskicker)  

ES: It’s big because it’s telling recruits that Nebraska is dedicated to them now and to their futures. The Huskers want to set their players up for success far beyond their four or five years in Lincoln, and they’re going to invest in helping them build their brands. That's a big deal. But I would go beyond that to say this will be an even bigger deal for sports beyond football (or to a walk-on football player, to be fair) because Nebraska’s announcement is for ALL student-athletes. Some universities have started helping with brand-building, but only in hyper-focused situations like a player preparing for the NFL Draft, etc. This is Nebraska committing itself to every student-athlete on campus to help them build their brands, no matter what they choose to do post-college. That’s a big selling point for every sport, football included. Plus, the Huskers can now say they are the first to do this. That goes a long way with recruits, because it shows innovation and dedication to being ahead of the curve. 

And if none of that matters, the Huskers can just show recruits the cool logos they’ve started making for athletes (and I imagine we might see that rolled out beyond football at some point) and that’s probably a selling point all on its own. Kids love those things. It’s why the bootleg recruit graphic makers on Twitter exist. 

GS: Erin did a great job in her answer so I’ll approach another angle. Part of why this will be huge for recruiting is how well the educational aspect of this will play with parents. Nebraska already some of the best academic support and LikeSkills programs in the country. Parents rave about it consistently. Adding this as another way to educate student-athletes and give them tools to succeed will be big. 

How much does the team free throw percentage increase with the addition of Banks and Vedral? (@andrelunchbox)  

JP: I don’t have a career free-throw percentage for either one of them, but I remember Vedral being a pretty decent free-throw shooter. The one highlight clip I found of Banks from his sophomore season includes a couple of free throws so he was capable of making them at one point. But hey, Nebraska’s shooting 81.3% from the line over its last two games. Problem solved already! 

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