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Mailbag: Which Kind of Play Will Nebraska be Better at in 2020?

February 12, 2020

It’s Wednesday. That means it’s mailbag time. 

What do you think the Huskers will do or possibly have done regarding the Special Teams analyst position? (@Corn_Huskers) 

Erin Sorensen: Sean Snyder’s decision to take the special teams coordinator position at USC over the analyst role at Nebraska obviously shifts the Huskers’ plans. From what I’ve been told, he wasn’t the only person Nebraska interviewed for the analyst position, though, so hypothetically the Huskers would have other prospects to consider. It’s hard to know exactly what’s happening behind-the-scenes without being there to witness it firsthand, but it has been quiet. Maybe that means Nebraska will handle that by committee in 2020. I know plenty of fans who would not be pleased with that possibility, but I do believe it is one. Time will only tell what ultimately happens here though. 

Brandon Vogel: Snyder would’ve been a great get as an analyst. USC hiring him as a full-time coach indicates the type of quality the Huskers would’ve been getting. For that reason, I’d expect Nebraska to be pretty patient in looking for the right fit because almost everything feels like a bit of a gamble compared to Snyder’s track record. 

Which play or plays, or even types of plays do you believe will be more successful next season? Will it be because of returning players and experience? New players? More skill? (@Corn_Huskers) 

Greg Smith: Swing passes will be more successful in the 2020 season. They aren’t going away so they just need to be executed better. More talent will help but better blocking will, too. The play is quite effective if run properly. Plus, it opens up the offense because the defense has even more to worry about from sideline to sideline. It’s all a numbers game with that play. 

BV: I’ll expand on Greg’s answer a bit and say Nebraska’s horizontal passing game as a whole needs to improve. The addition of Matt Lubick could help with that. He knows the role those plays have in this offense and he knows how important it is to execute them well. That said, I’m not sure I’m ready to say I believe that will happen, but with a fresh set of eyes and maybe some new techniques in play with wide receiver blocking, there could be an uptick with the swings and bubbles Nebraska runs often. 

Jacob Padilla: It’s not a specific play type, but I do think Nebraska will be better at passing for touchdowns in the red zone if Adrian Martinez can get back on track. Nebraska didn’t really have a guy that could go up and win a 50-50 ball last year and the addition of Omar Manning and perhaps Travis Vokolek will give Nebraska some bigger weapons to target in the end zone. Nebraska only scored 27 touchdowns on 51 red zone possessions, and most of them were rushing touchdowns considering Nebraska only had 14 passing touchdowns in total. That has to change. 

Derek Peterson: Can I just take the cop-out answer and say the RPO? (Calling it a cop-out because so much of what they do has an element of optionality baked into it.) I think Nebraska has the ability to be much better in this area. Another year of on-the-job training for Adrian Martinez gives him another 12 games worth of data to be able to work with this offseason, piecing together what he sees and fine-tuning how he responds to each look. Just the natural development of a quarterback in a situation where he’s being asked to read and evaluate things in fractions of seconds. I think he’ll be helped by an improved quarterback-center exchange. Cameron Jurgens got better as the season progressed but it was one of those things where every time a high snap happened, it was costly. Timing is everything. Talked about fractions of seconds before? Losing those to locate a ball that isn’t where it’s supposed to be can hurt. I think Nebraska’s going to have a different-looking tight end rotation in the fall mainly because I see Travis Vokolek and Chris Hickman emerging as serious pass-catching options; those guys as threats down the seam with a run-pass option element would be helpful. Nebraska was good at generating big plays a season ago but it wasn’t consistent moving the ball incrementally on the ground; with a commitment to Dedrick Mills I think that has the potential to change as well. 

Do you see a (semi-)pro football league with both American and Canadian teams ever happening? Maybe like an XFL-CFL merger sort of thing? Will football ever have the international appeal for that? (@InDaWilderness) 

Mike Babcock: I don’t see a merger of the XFL-CFL (if the XFL survives). The games are different, beginning with the obvious, 12 on the field in the CFL. And the logistics, right now, of including a team or two from Canada in the XFL don’t fit from an expense-travel point of view, even if Canadian cities were interested in supporting a team in a non-NFL league. I see the XFL possibly providing an alternative for players who don’t want to spend three years in college, as a potential means of getting to the NFL. But that requires the XFL’s survival, which is suspect—or so I think. 

What is your take on the Mel Tucker hire at MSU? (@InDaWilderness) 

GS: I can’t fault someone for doubling their salary and joining a better conference. However, it looks so bad after his comments recently, being at a booster function Tuesday night and saying in October that there is no transfer portal in real life. Had he not taken the moral high ground approach, I’d have no issues. 

MB: Coaches do what they do. I’m reminded of Nick Saban indicating he was sick and tired of being asked if he was leaving the Miami Dolphins for Alabama, he wasn’t . . . then he did shortly after. As we’ve said before here, the only thing is, players he recruited to Colorado should be free to go elsewhere (just not to Michigan State). 

ES: I don’t have a take necessarily, but I have a tweet. 

https://twitter.com/88DrewPearson/status/1227584981809147906 

Amazing. It’s like poetry. 

BV: There are no sure things when it comes to coaching hires, good or bad. For that reason, I try to resist reacting too strongly to them. I usually fail in that pursuit. The “knowns” here leave me pretty cautious. Based on the reporting around this search, Michigan State’s top candidate was likely Luke Fickell. Didn’t get him. Pat Narduzzi was in the mix. Didn’t get him. 

Tucker passed on the job, too, until Michigan State made a second push. Tucker has one season as a head coach under his belt. He’s following one of the most successful stretches in program history. Add it all up and there’s just a lot to overcome here for Tucker to even come close to maintaining what the Spartans were under Mark Dantonio. 

DP: Didn’t like the interest in Pat Narduzzi because what has he shown at Pitt to suggest he’s ready to lead a Big Ten side in the murderous Big Ten East? Absolutely didn’t like the Pat Shurmur talk. With Cincy’s Luke Fickell turning the Spartans down, you can choose to read the Tucker news one of two ways: 1) Michigan State turned to a secondary option, Tucker, and fell in love and wouldn’t take no for an answer, or 2) Michigan State missed on its top guy and got a little desperate. The no-then-yes decision is always a curious one to me. Though I thought Colorado was slightly overrated last season, I liked what little of Tucker I heard. It’s going to take something special to win in East Lansing—the top three in the division are set in stone right now—and that’s ignoring the fact Tucker has to follow in the footsteps of one of the program’s most beloved coaches. Tucker’s a splashy hire, but this one could take some time to sort out.

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