It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time for another mailbag. Let’s get to it.
Do you think there will be more conference realignment among the Power Five during this decade? What about the Big Ten? (@dmhusker1)
Derek Peterson: Maybe we see some reshuffling on the board whenever conference TV rights deals start coming up in a few years, and as we learned with Nebraska, anything can happen at the end of the day, but I don’t know that we’ll see something again quite like the early 2010s unless the conferences collectively get on board with my “Four Super-conferences” idea. (Read: no.) Notre Dame has it too good to want into a P5 conference. Maybe Cincy can get an invite if Luke Fickell stays long enough. There isn’t a clear-cut candidate for cannibalism like the Big 12 was.
Erin Sorensen: I’m still not convinced that the Big 12 doesn’t fully dissolve at some point. This decade? Hard to say, but that is the Power 5 conference that gives me the most pause in terms of its longevity. I also think there are a few schools in that conference that would go elsewhere if given the opportunity. That’s not inside information. It’s just a hunch.
Which three Husker football assistant coaches would fill your golf foursome and why? (@RandallKoldman)
Greg Smith: Mario Verduzco, Erik Chinander and Ryan Held. I want to see Mario swing a golf club with a cigar in his mouth. Also, the stories between those three would be pretty epic. I wouldn’t need to talk much allowing me to focus on my below-average golf game.
Would you rather have a kicker that makes 80% of his attempts or a 1,000-yard receiver? (@sweetermanders)
DP: Kicker, easy. Nebraska plays in a bowl game last season if it makes 80% of its field goals.
GS: Definitely kicker. If you had given me two 1,000-yard receivers I would have picked that just for the fun that could be.
ES: Kickers are people too.
Brandon Vogel: Hmmm. My gut reaction was to take the set-it-and-forget-it kicker. But, in a very basic sense, the ability to move the football is generally more important to a team’s success than the ability to make field goals. If you’re average at moving the football (or even just finishing drives), better have a pretty good kicker (see: Iowa, 2019). But if you’re good at moving the football a field-goal kicker can have lesser value (though you’d still like a good one). If and when it gets up and running, Nebraska’s offense strikes me as more of a touchdowns-not-field-goals outfit. Having a 1,000-yard receiver doesn’t guarantee that the offense is running at top speed—NU had one in 2018 and went 4-8—but it’s not a bad sign by any means.
Jacob Padilla: I think Brandon makes some really good points. You definitely need a reliable kicker in specific moments, but my team doesn’t plan on kicking a lot of field goals so give me the guy that helps provide me with more chances at finding the end zone. Alabama has had a kicker make more than 80% of his kicks once in the last decade and they managed to get by all right. Now, if you tell me the receiver goes for 1000 yards but only scores three touchdowns, and if you tell me that kicker is also a nearly automatic touchback guy on kickoffs, I might re-think my choice.
I don’t understand why the Team Recruiting Rankings work the way they do. There appears to be more value given to the number of recruits or size of the class over the quality (ranking) of the recruits. How would you restructure Team Recruiting Rankings if you had the opportunity? (@Corn_Huskers)
GS: Those rankings are a combination of number of recruits and recruit ranking. If I’m not mistaken those rankings only account for your highest 20-25 recruits in a given cycle so that it’s not slanted towards just signing as many as possible. The one thing I’d like to see added is a “fit” category. We know that certain schools are historically good at developing positions even if they bring in recruits at that spot that are lower rated. There needs to be away to account for that.
BV: I don’t understand either. Why isn’t there any progress here? The biggest evolution in recruiting rankings so far was simply combining all player ratings rather than just looking at one. That’s it. Beyond that, it’s the same counting stat with a rating multiplier we’ve always used. Why have we agreed to live in a world where the team rankings are extremely noisy for the first seven months of each recruiting cycle because quantity carries too much weight? I agree with Greg, a model that measured “fit” would be very intriguing. I’d be interested in a model—and this one would be easier to build—that looked at a team’s recruiting, position-by-position and overall, compared against a five- or 10-year average. Things would get flattened out a bit at the extreme ends—it’s hard for Alabama to recruit much better or UMass to recruit much worse—but for most teams this could be useful information. I would be interesting to know if, and this is purely a hypothetical example, Nebraska is recruiting 6% better at running back than it had over the previous five years. You’d still want the traditional rankings to serve as a measure of total talent acquisition, but one of these supplementary measures would give everyone a better idea of the teams that are recruiting very well (or not) in way that the basic model doesn’t measure.
Nice little run of NU baseball commitments. Thoughts on the team for next spring? (@Sal_Vasta3)
Mike Babcock: Will Bolt is making a difference, even with the pandemic, as evidenced by those commitments. The team figures to be young, depending on which seniors ultimately decide to return. The future looks bright, in my opinion.
Does NU get a player selected to First Team All-Big 10 this season? (@Sal_Vasta3)
DP: I’m going to say no, but not because teams need a big number in the win column to land a kid on the top team, I just don’t know right away who’s going to be playing at an elite level for Nebraska this season to warrant preseason all-conference pub. Offensive and defensive lines are regularly stacked throughout the conference, maybe Jaimes has a shot if he has a huge senior season. Justin Fields will be the first team quarterback. Two of Rashod Bateman, Rondale Moore, and Chris Olave should grab the first-team wideout spots assuming good health (hoping for good health with Moore, specifically). Nebraska hasn’t used the tight end anywhere near enough so far to think those guys have a shot. Shaun Wade and Ambry Thomas and maybe Tiawan Mullen are the guys I would have atop my corner watchlist. Maybe Nebraska’s best chances are Dedrick Mills (all those elite running backs leaving) or one of those safeties (I keep trying to tell y’all Deontai Williams will be good).
MB: Derek has broken it down. I think Jaimes is the best bet.
JP: I think Derek laid it out pretty well. There are some big names or productive players on elite teams returning throughout the conference, so It’s going to be tough to go from a 5-7 season to having players break into the first team in one year. Perhaps Ohio Stare spreads the ball around a bit more and somebody like Wan’Dale Robinson or (if we want to go full scarlet-colored glasses) Omar Manning sneaks into that third receiver spot. Maybe Brenden Jaimes has a shot if Nebraska fields one of the best offenses in the conference, but that’s still a steep climb to break through onto that first team. Dicaprio Bootle would need to start grabbing interceptions if he wants to be considered. For 2020, I think Nebraska probably needs to focus on taking a step forward in the win column, place multiple players on the second or third teams (hopefully some of them underclassmen) and then carry that momentum into 2021.
I believe people are of two minds this season: either the season will start and end as scheduled; or it may be a condensed schedule (ending early, starting later). If the later should occur (or begins to look likely) do you think coaches should consider playing younger guys to give them the opportunity to learn/grow on field now (especially if not significant drop off in play) – similar to Jurgens last year – and likely Benhart this year? (@Sal_Vasta3)
ES: Why not? I’m of the belief that football kicks off on time and goes until it either hits Thanksgiving or until it simply can’t anymore due to the liability, whichever comes first. If there’s a potential that the season is impacted, why not get those younger players the opportunity to see the field? Obviously you don’t want to push older players out of the way for the sake of experience, but if able, get those younger players on the field.
MB: If the season is shortened, the approach should/will be different: be competitive, try to win, but with an emphasis on development.
JP: Considering the program is still looking to turn the corner and every win counts when you’re trying to provide proof of concept to players and prospective recruits, I doubt we see the team go full youth movement regardless of how long the season is unless the upperclassmen just aren’t getting it done and the younger guys are clearly beating them out in practice. I think Frost and his staff identified Jurgens and Benhart as truly special prospects and were willing to live with the growing pains to fast track the payoff. I’m not sure if Frost feels the same way about too many guys on the team right now considering how important maintaining redshirts was for him in 2019.
Do you think the same quarterback will start all 12 games this season? (@Sal_Vasta3)
DP: You’re always running the risk of injury with the way Nebraska utilizes the quarterback, and Adrian Martinez hasn’t yet made it through a full season healthy. So, the safe answer is no, but not because someone starts the year and gets benched. If Martinez wins the job, and stays healthy all season, he’ll have the job all season.
GS: Agree with Derek that no is the safe answer because of injury. I’ll go out on a limb and say yes. Adrian Martinez starts every game Nebraska plays in this season.
ES: I feel like this is a coy way of asking if Luke McCaffrey will take Adrian Martinez’s job this year and the answer is no. Martinez is your starter unless an injury takes him off the field.
MB: Only thing is, if Martinez believes he has the job no matter what, that’s not good. No one should go through a season with that attitude, not that Martinez would.
JP: What Derek said – no is the smart answer based on Martinez’s injury history and the role he fills, but I do believe he holds onto the starting job as long as he’s healthy.
Hail Varsity is rewarding the staff by purchasing everyone the vehicle of their choice. What vehicle are you choosing? Year and price aren’t an issue for The Magazine. (@Corn_Huskers)
DP: There were two very different cars I dreamed about growing up, I said, “Imma be a lawyer so I can afford this,” and the plan was to someday have one or the other. On the high-end, I wanted a Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG. On the other side, I have always and will always want my own Eleanor; a 1967 Shelby GT500. Thanks for your generosity, The Magazine.
GS: I have always dreamed of owning a Porsche 911Turbo S. You have to get the ‘S’ model because while you pay almost $40k more, it can go up to 205mph. The Magazine is really coming through in the clutch.
ES: I would like a Range Rover Sport. Depending on the bells and whistles, it starts around $68,000. The electric version is close to $100,000. No big deal.
BV: A 1980(-ish) Ford Bronco. There’s a little wiggle room there on the year, but it has to be pre-1982 because I like the F-O-R-D front emblem better than the blue oval and I also like the bronco badges on the fenders, both of which were gone with the 1982 edition. My family had two 1980s Broncos when I was growing up, so there’s a little nostalgia there, but I also just think they look great. It wouldn’t be my daily driver, but I’d pack a lot of fun into the times I did take it out.
MB: BMW, any BMW . . . any.
JP: I’m not much of a car person, so how about a private plane? I’d even let the HV crew take it on road trips.