What Would Be On Nebraska's Holiday Wish List?
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

What Would Be On Nebraska’s Holiday Wish List?

December 24, 2019

I will not make a Frosty joke because that is low-hanging fruit and I am better than that. I will not make a Frosty joke because that is low-hanging fruit and I am better than that. I will not make a Frosty joke because that is low-hanging fruit and I am better than that. I will not make a Frosty joke because that is low-hanging fruit and I am be…

But it is the holiday season. And that means Jack Scott Frost most likely has some form of holiday wish list because every normal person has at least one thing they want, a significant other in their life they want to get something from. Maybe a stress ball is on there. Call of Duty and a case of Mountain Dew Game Fuel is definitely on there. Maybe a new Husker hat from Adidas that will never be made publicly available, at least not in large enough quantities to matter, even though doing so would result in a massive, massive profit for the company unlike anything they’d ever seen from one team-specific hat (totally spit-balling with that one).

If that list were football-related, this is probably what it would look like.

The Tip-Top of the List: Health

We don’t talk enough about the health of the 2019 team. At least, not in the way that the lack thereof’s impact on the season merited.

Just speaking on injuries we publicly knew about, Nebraska missed starting center Cam Jurgens for the beginning of fall camp and it didn’t have receiver Kade Warner to begin the season. Warner, a redshirt sophomore, played once he returned to a clean bill of health so it’s probably safe to say he would have played those first four games if he was right.

Deontai Williams, who some on the team believe to be Nebraska’s best overall defender, was lost for the season in the first half of the first game and Nebraska used a hodgepodge of converted cornerbacks and walk-ons to help make up for the absence all year.

Starting quarterback Adrian Martinez missed games and didn’t play anywhere close to healthy to close the year, with Frost confirming last week the sophomore had offseason surgery. Starting wideout Wan’Dale Robinson missed games. Fellow wideout Kanawai Noa missed games. Starting defensive tackle Darrion Daniels missed games. Can I call Cam Taylor-Britt a starter? In role, maybe? He missed games. Safety Marquel Dismuke played through the end of the season hurt.

There was that game against a really good Indiana team where Frost asked his quarterbacks in the fourth quarter “Who is less hurt?” (An all-timer of a line, honestly.)

There was the kicking situation all year.

It’s not very original to hear a coach say they just want to get through a season healthy, and it’s not really all that likely. Any team in any conference in any given season can use the excuse, “But if we were healthy…” because no one ever truly is.

But it seems like Nebraska has been hit with key injuries at inopportune times a little bit more frequently than one would expect to be the case, so if Frost could have one wish for 2020, it’s likely a team that’s fully healthy from the get-go, allowing time to coalesce, allowing the outside world to see the full picture.

It’s the Playstation I ask for every year. I know I’m not getting it, but I still want it.

The Thing You Really, Really Wanted and You Wanted it So Badly You Got it Before You Were Supposed to Actually be Getting Anything: A Tall Receiver

Lucky for Nebraska, Christmas came early. The 6-foot-4 Omar Manning and the 6-foot-3 Zavier Betts signed with the Huskers in the early signing period.

Both will be summer arrivals, and both have already been written about pretty extensively so far (here and here and here and here) so at the risk of belaboring the point, all I’ll say now is this: Nebraska really liked the 6-foot-1 Stanley Morgan Jr., and Nebraska really missed his downfield presence when he left.

Nebraska got not one, but two of that same mold of big, throw-it-up-and-he’ll-catch-it kinds of receivers this cycle.

Greg Smith
This is Omar Manning and he is tall.

 

The Thing You’re Supposed to Already Have Because it’s Kind of a Necessity, But You Don’t Have it, So You Have to Ask for It As a Gift: A Kicker

For your consideration, two statistics:

  1. Of the 53 programs to attempt to convert as many or more fourth downs than the Huskers did last season, only seven had a worse pick-up rate. Nebraska went for it on fourth 23 times and only converted 10. (Could be worse, Bowling Green tried 32 times and only picked up seven fourth downs. If at first you don’t succeed…)
  2. This is a cheat because it’s a bunch of numbers equalling one conclusion. Nebraska was 111th in touchback percentage on kickoffs, 100th in touchdown percentage on red zone trips, and 110th in field goal kicking percentage.

Those two different grafs are directly related.

Because something happened to Barret Pickering before the season began (still hasn’t been publicly shared what), Nebraska was without its starting kicker for the first seven games of the season. The Huskers had six different players attempt a field goal in 2019. Consider this: five other Big Ten teams had more than one kicker attempt a field goal in 2019, but no other Big Ten team had more than two kickers attempt a field goal.

Six is insane.

Frost seemed at times annoyed by the situation, at times at a loss for words. He made jokes about the lack of clarity at the spot seemingly every week. Nebraska found Matt Waldoch—a dude who was working at a local Lincoln restaurant and kicking it with the club soccer team when the football season began—late in the year and used him cautiously down the stretch. He went 4-for-4, but only took one kick from more than 29 yards out.

In 2020, Nebraska desperately needs stability at that spot, whoever it ends up being. It makes play-calling easier and it makes the math easier when you get into that in-between range between the red zone and the part of the field where it’s socially acceptable to punt the football away.

It’s the pair of socks you get from your grandparents. You don’t want to have to think about them until you don’t have them and need them.

The Thing I Can’t Come Up With a Creative Subhead For: A Few Bounces

Nebraska is 3-9 under Frost in games decided by seven points or less. (A kicker would have helped a few of these.)

Nebraska is 8-8 under Frost when posting a better yards-per-play clip, one of the clearest indicators of team success, than its opponent.

But Nebraska is 6-2 when winning the turnover margin.

Even if it's just a friendly roll on a punt or a favorable spot on a key down or a ball that doesn’t get tipped at the line or a snap that isn’t off-target, a few of these things that are supposed to be coin flips need to start going Nebraska’s way.

The Thing You Don’t Actually Need and Won’t Have Much Time for Anyway but the Heart Wants What the Heart Wants: The New Call of Duty Game

If someone hasn’t gifted this to Frost yet, we all need to be better. Someone mail one to Memorial Stadium.


Have thoughts on what should be on this hypothetical Nebraska wish list? Let us hear them on the forum below.

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