Hail Varsity Mailbag
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Mailbag: Wideout Thoughts, a Nebrasketball What If, and Sports Drinks

January 22, 2020

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s mailbag time.

Looking into my crystal ball, it tells me that Coach Frost will be in the running for 2020 CFB Coach of the Year. How does he do it? (@Corn_Huskers) 

Brandon Vogel: Wins the Big Ten. I don’t think simply playing for a conference title or vaulting Nebraska to 10 wins is enough specifically because Frost has already won a handful of these awards. To win it again on a national level, just three years removed from the last time, he’d have to do something nobody could ignore. Winning the league, and likely landing a Playoff berth in doing so, is probably enough. Brian Kelly basically won his second such award that way. Two years removed from a 4-8 season at Notre Dame, he took the Irish to the Playoff. Now, how does Nebraska win the Big Ten? That would require much more space to answer, but the ultra-condensed version is the offense takes off and Nebraska gets huge contributions, like all-conference level play, from some defenders we haven’t seen much of yet. 

Mike Babcock: Agree with Brandon. Nebraska would have to win the Big Ten. Then he’d probably be considered. But in this day and age, your team might have to be in the playoff in order to win Coach of the Year. 

Do you think that Moos and Frost will have a conversation about what options they have when it comes to the Minnesota game being on during the week-night in 2023? Do you think they keep it or change it; or perhaps schedule a completely different opponent? (@Go_Big_Red) 

Erin Sorensen: For those potentially not in the loop, Nebraska and Minnesota have that 2023 season-opening matchup set for Thursday, Aug. 31. If that sticks, it’ll be the first Thursday opener for Nebraska since 1995. I don’t expect either to schedule another opponent, because it’s a conference matchup. The two programs probably can’t just tell the Big Ten “thanks but no thanks” on playing each other. And is there really anything wrong with a Thursday matchup to kick off the season? It usually gets a lot of attention from major networks, so I’m not necessarily opposed. Maybe it gets moved to Saturday, but I think it’ll depend on TV and money. 

BV: It’s Minnesota’s home game so they get to call most of the shots if Nebraska’s willing to move it to a Thursday. I’m not surprised that the Huskers are willing given that they’re going all the way to Ireland for a season-opener in two years. For a long time Nebraska didn’t really need to play the exposure game. With new leadership in place, however, it appears as though things are changing. 

MB: Follow the money. Nebraska isn’t in a position to say no to the B1G about much of anything. 

Powerade or Gatorade? (@Go_Big_Red) 

ES: My preference has always been Gatorade, for no other reason than that’s how it’s been for me and I’m a brand loyalist. Plus, I love the story of Gatorade and how it came to be. Nothing like a tie to a college football team and trying to keep it hydrated. With that said, Nebraska had its own version called “Huskerade” at one point (a common thing for other programs to do over the years) and apparently UNMC tried to hire the creator of Gatorade away from Florida at one point. 

BV: Gatorade, specifically Citrus Cooler because as an impressionable kid I read that it was Michael Jordan’s favorite flavor and thus it was my favorite flavor. Celebrity endorsements work, folks. 

MB: The Nebraska story is that George Sullivan started the Gatorade thing by adding Kool-Aid to some sort of salt solution players were given at the time during practice. Florida refined the idea and got the credit. 

Greg Smith: Gatorade. Specifically, light blue Gatorade Zero because I don’t taste the difference. 

Jacob Padilla: Gatorade all the way. I’ve never really found a Powerade flavor I love, and I’ve grown up drinking Gatorade. The best flavors are Strawberry Lemonade and Green Apple, though those aren’t as common as the traditional flavors. I also enjoy Fierce Grape, Lemon-Lime and Orange. 

Derek Peterson: Clean sweep. Funny story, I had to go with Powerade one time at Target because their Gatorade shelf was empty (never go to the Target on 40th and O, they never restock anything) and I get to the checkout line and the person in front of me seemed upset about something, I don’t remember what, and I say something joking to him to lighten the mood, I don’t remember what, and he turns, looks in my basket, and says, “What kind of idiot buys Powerade?” It’s a thing.

Special Teams advisor/coach…thought we’d hear something by now. (@navymousel) 

BV: I don’t think there’s any cause for concern. Unlike the on-field coaches, who have to be able to get out on the road and recruit, there’s typically no hard deadline for an analyst other than so they can get to work. I still think that if Sean Snyder wants the position he’ll probably get it. 

How is special teams going to shake out? Who will be handling the punting? With Barret Pickering, Dylan Jorgensen, and incoming Chase Contreraz, are we going to see a kickoff specialist and a field goal specialist? (@hawg777) 

MB: Wouldn’t be the first time Nebraska had one kicker handling kickoffs and another field goals and extra points, or even different kickers depending on the distance. 

GS: I have a hard time picturing Pickering being back in the mix but with a new coach, who knows how it could go? If I had to guess right now I’d say Contreraz and Przystup handle kicks and punts. 

DP: I would caution not to forget about Matt Waldoch. I don’t think we can rule anything out when it comes to the kicking portion of Nebraska’s fall Saturdays. They used a kickoff specialist last year but didn’t like the results. Whoever can consistently draw touchbacks will handle kickoffs, I think, regardless of what his duties elsewhere might be.

Do recruits get to keep some of the gear they wear to games on OVs? (@RandallKolman) 

ES: They do not. The gear they are provided is to wear for the visit only, then it has to be returned. Typically that happens behind-the-scenes and you’ll never see recruits changing on the field, but it has happened once in my memory of covering the team. I can’t remember what game it was (or maybe it was a spring game) but the gear made its way to the field and was laid out on the sideline for the recruits to pick from. It was a bit of a mess (and probably why this doesn’t happen normally in that environment) but it was interesting to watch. Regardless of how the recruits acquire the gear that day though, they turn it back in. Anything they take home with them was probably purchased at the campus bookstore. 

GS: Erin is 100% correct here. The last time I remember someone even coming out for an official visit without Nebraska gear on was Luke McCaffrey. He was quickly ushered back inside and given Husker gear. This staff is pretty particular about the recruits wearing Nebraska gear while in the stadium for the OV. 

Wide receiver development has been pretty bad. (I mean, McCaffrey even played some.) But, there appears to be a lot of young talent in that room. Does the new OC finally bring out that talent, and do you think we'll see more packages for the freshmen (even if they still redshirt)? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

JP: It seems like that’s the reason Frost went out and brought Lubick to Lincoln. I’m not really sure who established the barrier to get on the field (was that Frost himself or Troy Walters? Or Both?). I also don’t know what exactly it was about last year’s freshmen (Wan’Dale Robinson being the exception) that kept them off the field or if this class is going to be different. That being said, Nebraska needs at least five or six wide receivers to emerge and right now they’ve got three of them (which includes Kade Warner). We’re assuming Omar Manning will be the fourth, so that means Jaevon McQuitty, the three redshirt freshmen and four true freshmen are battling it out for at least one or two spots. 

DP: Does the new offensive coordinator bring out that talent? Yes, with the young guys Jacob mentioned. Will we see more of the freshmen in 2020? Just based off the complexion of the wide receiver room, it’s sort of necessary. 

What would the Huskers look like had Isaiah Roby stayed for one more year? (@Spacker22) 

MB: Jacob or Derek can answer this best. Nebraska could use his athleticism, shot blocking and rebounding, especially. Not sure he could create the consistency the Huskers lack at times by his presence. But the Huskers would obviously be better with him. They’d still be 13 new guys with two returnees instead of one. Could that have been the solution to the issues we’ve seen? 

JP: Roby would certainly help. Maybe they’d have come out on top in some of their closer games. The frontcourt production just hasn’t been good enough, though that’s understandable because they’re relying on two true freshmen, neither of which is ready to consistently contribute in the Big Ten. That being said, I’m not sure how much Roby would help the overall cohesiveness or the consistency of the perimeter players, which are big problems as well. I think Roby could be pretty good in this system, but I don’t know that his numbers would have been dramatically different than what he did last season. Ultimately, though, I don’t think Roby was ever going to come back. Perhaps a more relevant “What if?” is Shamiel Stevenson since he’s actually on this team and I can’t understand why his waiver would have gotten denied. He’d make a big difference on this team too I think. 

What do YOU think of the Lubick hire? (@ZaneSerhan) 

BV: I’m intrigued, a word I chose carefully. He and Frost obviously have a rapport, which I think can be important particularly when it comes play calling. That said, Lubick’s results are pretty encouraging but they’re somewhat tough to really break down. Yes, he was part of Oregon offenses that were very good, but almost all of Oregon’s offenses were very good. How do you handicap that? And this is a consideration for a lot of former Duck assistants until, like Frost, they go out and do it on their own. Lubick did, sort of, in a co-coordinator role for Washington. So, I reserve a little room for caution, but that’s probably a good idea for any hire. By making the Lubick the pick, I think Nebraska increased its chances of that hire having an immediate impact just based on familiarity. 

GS: I’m cautiously optimistic about the hire. On paper he should be very good at Nebraska. He’s been a good recruiter and a great developer. Lubick has also helped lead good offenses at multiple stops. The thing that makes me cautious doesn’t have much to do with him but rather we have seen assistants come to Lincoln who feel like “can’t miss” guys and it hasn’t worked. I’m very intrigued because the wide receiver situation can’t be much worse than it was last season. 

DP: It’s safe. Safe isn’t necessarily bad or wrong, it just is what it is. Safe. Lubick won’t have to put in much time to learn the scheme, and I think that both will greatly help him learn the team and was one of the reasons Frost went this route. He’s done some pretty darn good things with wide receivers in his long run as a wideout coach, and not just at Oregon where he was given a Ferrari. He’s a good coach, a strong recruiter, and players seem to very much enjoy playing for him. Nebraska has good talent at the position. There’s no reason that room can’t put everything together. 

Was there conflict that caused the mutual agreement to change OC? Or does it boil down to a need for better recruiters? (@westgatehusker) 

ES: Without being privy to those private conversations, it probably had to do with recruiting and it also probably had to do with development of the wide receivers over the last two years. Nebraska hasn’t been able to replicate that offensive success Frost saw in Year 2 at Central Florida, and that's an issue when Frost is known for his offense. Not saying there couldn’t have been conflict because of the lack of success, but I’m guessing it had more to do with not seeing the results Frost wanted and decided to move forward in a different direction. 

MB: I’m perplexed by staff changes just two years in at Nebraska. 

Who is the most likely true freshman to get playing time and not redshirt this year? (@eclark1234) 

ES: My money is on Zavier Betts. 

BV: And mine’s on Keyshawn Greene (see the second half of my answer above about what it would take for Nebraska to win the Big Ten).  

MB: Betts. 

GS: If Betts and Greene are off the board I will take Alante Brown. 

JP: If Betts, Greene and Brown are off the board, I’ll take one of the two running backs. Take your pick which one. 

DP: I don’t want to say a name anyone else said. Blaise Gunnerson. Speak it into existence. 

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