Photo by John S. Peterson
Nebraska Football

Mailbag: Lots and Lots of Husker Freshmen Talk

May 8, 2019
4,376

It’s mailbag time. 


Which Nebraska football defensive stat will increase the most in 2019: sacks or interceptions? (@Corn_Huskers) 

Derek Peterson: I think interceptions are much more random in this case. Dicaprio Bootle had 15 pass break-ups and no interceptions... how many times would that happen again if you simulated it? Probably not many. And Nebraska jumped from 14 to 25 sacks year-over-year in 2018. I think best-case scenario is they top out around 30 this season, but Luke Gifford was the top sack-getter last season and I don’t yet know which one guy is replacing him. I think the Huskers could get the picks up to the 17-19 range, partially because the safe bet for me is saying Bootle converts some of that ball-hawking into a few pick this year. 

Mike Babcock: The increase numbers could be similar, which means based on percentage probably interceptions, for the reasons Derek acknowledges. 

Brandon Vogel: Because the interceptions were lower last year, mathematically speaking, that is likely to be the bigger change. If the Huskers get just five more—16 compared to last year’s 11—that's a 45% increase. Nebraska was trending in the right direction over the back half of the season in terms of creating those opportunities. Now they just need to retain that and for luck to regress to the mean a little bit. 

Jacob Padilla: I’d agree that interceptions is the right answer here. Nebraska lost its best pass-rushing outside linebacker and I don’t know that they’ve added anybody will is a difference-maker in that role. Perhaps they’ll take a slight step forward because of improved defensive line play and more comfort in the system, but I wouldn’t expect anything dramatic. But like Derek said, there were a ton of pass break-ups last year and I’d expect the Huskers will turn more of those into picks this season. The corners appear posied for a big season and Deontai Williams is a playmaker at safety. 

Outside of Wan’Dale Robinson, what true freshman makes the biggest impact on the 2019 season? (@christopherfort) 

DP: I think the two spots with the most opportunity for a true freshman to come in right away and contribute are wideout and safety. If Wan’Dale is out, I think someone like Darien Chase or Jamie Nance fit here. I think they’ll get plenty of opportunity, be it on special teams or offense. At safety, give me Noa Pola-Gates. 

MB: Offensive tackle is a need so Bryce Benhart if he can pick up things well enough in fall camp; I say for certain had he been able to enroll early. And Garrett Nelson, who was here. 

BV: I think you’ll see a freshman make an impact in the secondary. I’m going with Myles Farmer as my top pick, but Pola-Gates is in the running, too. I also think a true freshman will likely have to contribute at running back based on how that room looks right now. Mark me down for Rahmir Johnson. 

Greg Smith: There are some quality choices that everyone has mentioned. I’ll also go with Rahmir Johnson. I still think if not for Wan’Dale, we’d be talking so much about Johnson’s arrival and future impact on the offense. Running back is in flux right now so he feels like a safer choice by the day. 

JP: Nick Henrich might have been my answer had he made it through the spring healthy, but that obviously didn’t happen. With the uncertainty at running back, I’ll go with Rahmir Johnson as well. 

If you had to start at least one true freshman at every offensive position what would your team look like. (@ScNOTty_Frost) 

DP: Give me Bryce Benhart on the offensive line, Rahmir Johnson at running back, Wan’Dale Robinson at wideout and Chris Hickman at tight end. I think those are going to be popular picks... 

MB: Every offensive position? Then Luke McCaffrey at quarterback, too. That’s theoretical, right? Not replacing Adrian Martinez. 

With the incoming freshmen, who will be stars and who won't live up to the hype? (@JSAndersonMazda) 

DP: I don’t like projecting busts, but I think there are several guys in this class with All-Conference potential and beyond. Robinson goes without saying. Bryce Benhart is the kind of offensive lineman I looked for when I got here and didn’t see. He looks like a future early-round NFL talent if everything goes according to plan. I'd say the same for Ty Robinson on the defensive line. I also really like Ronald Thompkins, Myles Farmer and Jamie Nance.  

MB: I agree with Derek, particularly on projecting who won’t live up to the hype, even though we know there will be some who just don’t work out for whatever reason. If he doesn’t get discouraged behind Martinez, McCaffrey is going to be special at some point. 

GS: I’m going to dance around the bust thing too but I’ll be very curious to see how many flat out busts Nebraska has going forward. Part of what I think Nebraska has to get better at is bringing the “bottom” of the the roster closer to the middle so that you have more overall contributors. Not everyone has to be a star but they have to contribute something. As for future stars from the 2019 class, Bryce Benhart, Wan’Dale Robinson, Nick Henrich and Ty Robinson feel like future All-Conference players to me.  

How is our depth chart so lacking at certain places when we have close to the full scholarship count? Do we have more players at certain positions than we should? Where? Or is it just a lack of skill? (@InDaWilderness) 

DP: It’s about rebuilding what was a dangerously small roster when the staff took over. If you look at the scholarship chart, there are positions where half of the scholarship players are freshmen with no experience at all. Six of the 10 scholarship wideouts are freshmen. Eight of 17 defensive backs are freshmen. There are also four scholarship seniors who haven’t added much outside of special teams contributions and depth in any of their four years in Lincoln and two other scholarship seniors who transferred in and have made virtually no impact on the field. This is a product of poor retention and poor development from the last staff. Nebraska is still trying to get its numbers right. 

MB: As Derek says, it’s a reflection of where things stood when Frost and staff took over. Some of it is development and retention, some of it is system, what this staff wants to do compared to what previous staffs wanted to do. The demands were different under Riley, which were different under Pelini, and so forth. 

GS: I’ll echo what Derek and Mike said. So much head coach and position coach change really hurts continuity with the roster. Everyone is looking for something different so it’s part of the rebuild. 

With the uncertainty of Dedrick Mills' qualification to transfer to D1, what is the best-case scenario? Worst-case? (@_LilBigRed12_) 

Erin Sorensen: At first I thought you meant best-case, worse-case for him, and I was going to say coming to Nebraska versus not coming to Nebraska. Ha. But after a second read of your question, I’m guessing you meant best-case, worst-case at the running back position for the Huskers. The best-case scenario for Nebraska is obviously everyone making it to campus and being available. That means Maurice Washington’s legal situation is handled (although I still think he’ll face some kind of suspension regardless) and Mills raising his GPA enough to get to campus. If both of those turn out in Nebraska’s favor, the running back position will be in a good spot, so that’s your best-case. As for the worst? Well, Washington is removed from the team, Mills never makes it to Lincoln and neither Rahmir Johnson nor Ronald Thompkins pan out when called on. 

MB: Worst-case is Washington and Mills aren’t available, in which case Johnson and Thompkins would have to mature quickly. If they didn’t pan out, that would be a disaster, beyond worst-case, although there’s Jaylin Bradley, Wyatt Mazour and Brody Belt and Duck-R guys. Held would figure out something. 

BV: Wrote about this Wednesday morning actually, but with where things stand now I think Nebraska will kick the tires on a few players in the transfer market. There’s just too much uncertainty right now to not at least give it a look and start some conversations. So the best-case/worst-case scenarios could change some. Or at least the best-case could. The worst-case may not. That’s if NU goes into the season with two true freshmen, two other scholarship backs and two talented walk-ons as the options at running back. That would mean no Mills or Washington. 

Seems like every week brings a new high-profile quarterback transfer. Is there actually more this year, or just more press? Nebraska is going to be facing a couple of these transfers and many quarterbacks with limited experience, how much of a leg up does that give us on the field? (@InDaWilderness) 

ES: The new redshirt rule is going to create more opportunity for transfers, so I think there are going to be more and more every year until that’s addressed. With the way the quarterback position has evolved where players keep looking for new landing spots that guarantee more playing time, it’s sort of just become the new norm of college football quarterbacks. With that said, there is always more and more press every year so it’s a little of that too. As for facing transfer quarterbacks, it’s hard to predict exactly what that will mean for opponents. For instance, Illinois added USC graduate transfer quarterback Matt Fink on Monday. Fink is joining two other USC grad transfers, including wide receiver Trevon Sidney. The benefit for Illinois here is that opponents won’t have film to study of these players in the Illini’s scheme. I shouldn’t assume Illinois will be Fink’s job either. He’ll have to beat out Matt Robinson, who has a little experience for the Illini, but I digress. The point is that it could be a positive for an opponent like Nebraska, or not.  

JP: Quarterbacks transferring has always been a thing. Unlike a lot of the other positions on the team, if everything goes according to plan only one quarterback will take all the meaningful snaps. We’ve probably seen an uptick in the numbers because that has been the case across the board. We’re definitely seeing more of those transfers receive waivers for immediate eligibility, though. I’ve always been in favor of freedom of movement from players, but I can’t say I’m a fan of high-profile quarterbacks getting waivers whenever they want them while players at other positions, often with better reasons behind their transfers, seemingly have to sit out a year far more often.  

At what point will we know the status of Maurice Washington? (@LeftCoastHusker) 

DP: I think everyone involved would like a resolution before fall camp begins, and we won’t know anything about his status with the team until the legal case has been resolved. His next listed court date is Monday, May 13, for appointment of new counsel. His previous attorney doesn’t have a license to practice in California. Once he has a lawyer for the case, things can move forward. 

If you could sit anywhere in Memorial for a game, other than the press box or sideline, where would you sit? (@ChuckandM) 

ES: My family used to have three seats in South Stadium, closer to the curve that heads toward West Stadium. I’d pick that spot, because the people that sit around those seats are great. It’s fun how many little communities exist within the stadium in various sections, and that’s one. I always enjoyed it when I was there. 

MB: Pretty much anywhere except up in the top section of the East Stadium. I’ve been up there once. Once. When I was a sophomore, I had a ticket low in the South Stadium toward the east side. That was OK. I was happy to be in the stadium. When I was in grad school, I had a ticket in the lower East Stadium toward the north end. That was great. But I’d be OK just about anywhere, except up high in that mistake of an East Stadium add-on. The money should’ve been used to make seats in the rest of the stadium more accommodating. By the way, I would adjust things a bit, turn the press box into suites and move the press to the north end. More suites in the West Stadium could be sold for more than those in the North Stadium, I’m guessing. Maybe not. I’ve never been in those in the North Stadium. One last thing. I’d have a tough time sitting anywhere in the stands if folks started booing players or questioning their effort. 

GS: I’ll go very specific and say Fred Hoiberg’s new box. I assume he will have one but it’d be cool to hang with him and talk hoops while enjoying the game. 

 
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