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Nebraska Baseball

Love or Hate: Roby's Move, Hoiberg's Reset, Erstad's Fall

May 10, 2019
8,869

It’s Friday, so let’s get to it.

Roby’s Move

Isaiah Roby has an NBA Draft Combine invite. He’s one of only 66 players to have that. He’s hoping to become the first Husker drafted since 1999.

A report from Syracuse.com’s Donna Ditota gave a pretty good indication of what that combine invite means for Roby’s draft prospects:

  • In the last five years, 43 of the 60 draft picks on averaged were combine participants.
  • In the last five years, there have only been a total of 11 college players drafted who didn’t participate in the combine (international guys are growing in popularity).

I think Roby’s decision should have been made after securing a combine invite. He’ll test well in the athletic portions of the event, set to take place May 15-19. He looks the part of an NBA player, possessing the size and versatility a team will always take a chance on. ESPN’s recent mock draft has him 37th to the Mavericks. 

While that’s second round, it’s still early second round, which means good things. According to NBC Sports, 65 of the 72 college players selected between 31st and 45th of the last six drafts (90.3 percent) signed a guaranteed contract from an NBA team, and only two college players taken in the top 40 since 2012 didn’t get a guaranteed contract during their first season as a pro.

Creighton’s Khyri Thomas went 38th to the Pistons last season and signed a three-year, $3.92 million deal with the first two years guaranteed. One spot earlier — Roby’s projected spot — Gary Clark Jr. went to the Blazers and signed a fully guaranteed three-year deal. The Nets drafted Rodions Kurucs with the 40th pick in the draft and gave him a four-year, $6.96 million deal with the first three years guaranteed. 

All these things are good things for Roby. Playing in the NBA is the dream and he seems incredibly close to achieving that dream. He doesn’t really owe Nebraska much at this point; the team he’d be returning to would feature one player he’s played with at Nebraska, a coaching staff he doesn’t know and a system he’s new to. 

The NBA’s looking better and better.

Future Prospects

I disagree with Adam Rittenberg.

ESPN’s Future Offense Rankings are out for 2019. Rittenberg looked at the next three seasons (2019-2021) and factored in current players, potential NFL departures and incoming recruits to his evaluation. Nebraska came in 10th. It was unranked in 2018.

Part of the rise is attributed to skill players like JD Spielman, Wan’Dale Robinson and Jack Stoll (all mentioned by name) and multiple-year-eligibilty guys on the offensive line like Matt Farniok, Brenden Jaimes and Bryce Benhart. 

That one’s fine. I don’t really have any qualms with that ranking. It might even be a little high given some of the unknowns still around the team. But the other component of those rankings is quarterback play — and future quarterback play — and in that category the Huskers ranked 8th

That’s too low. 

Again, Rittenberg looked at the next three seasons. He wrote: “I place a premium on proven players already on the roster but also consider incoming recruits.” 

Programs listed ahead of the Huskers:

  1. Clemson and Trevor Lawrence
  2. Oklahoma and Jalen Hurts plus Spencer Rattler and Tanner Mordecai
  3. Alabama and Tua Tagovailoa
  4. Georgia and Jake Fromm
  5. Stanford and KJ Costello
  6. Texas and Sam Ehlinger
  7. Ohio State and Justin Fields

Lawrence is fine. No arguments here. Oklahoma is weird — though Lincoln Riley’s reputation with quarterbacks is becoming something of a legend at this point — because Hurts has a year before turning the reins over to two unknown commodities and using those unknowns as justification for a high ranking after saying proven players benefit more seems strange.

Alabama is fine. Same for Georgia being where Georgia is. 

But I’m taking three years of Martinez over two (more likely one) of Costello and two years of Ehlinger. And I’m absolutely taking three years of Martinez over not knowing what to expect from Ohio State. 

Justin Fields ranking above Martinez in a future quarterback ranking is a head-scratcher. One was a Freshman All-American. One has yet to start a game. Regardless of how you feel about Fields’ ability, a premium was placed on proven players, no?

Martinez is a top-five quarterback in the country next year, assuming good health and health of important pieces around him. He has the potential to climb even higher the following year. He seems a little undervalued here.

Hoiberg’s Reset

It sounds harsh. 

A coach calling in players to tell them one by one they no longer have a spot on his team. When put that way it sounds very harsh. Freshman forward Brady Heiman was told he should look at other opportunities. First-year guards Karrington Davis and Amir Harris were told the same thing. All three have entered their names into the transfer portal

It’s possible they could choose to return, though it’s not likely. There’s likely not a future here in Lincoln. And if that’s the case, while harsh, Fred Hoiberg is doing the right thing by his players in telling them it’s time to move on. 

Per NCAA guidelines, a first-year coach can do this, but only in his first year. He can essentially reset the deck by pushing out players from the old regime. A first-year coach can choose not to renew the scholarships of previously-recruited scholarship players, and, in the long run, I think that’s the best move for players the new coach wouldn’t have recruited otherwise. 

The alternative here is telling Brady Heiman, “Yeah, you can work super hard and try and develop a 3-point shot and bust your butt in the weight room and there might be a rotation spot waiting for you at the end of that line,” while knowing the end of that line is never coming and there won’t really be a rotation spot. You could tell Amir Harris he could work really hard and it might work out purely because you need that extra bit of depth in case of injuries. But that would be misleading. 

Hoiberg “forcing kids out” is at the same time Hoiberg suggesting kids look for better opportunities. One wording sounds harsh, one wording sounds forward-thinking and player-driven. It’s all about how you word it. 

Nebraska’s (Maybe?) Last Stand

I took an optimistic approach with baseball last week, saying this is the exact moment you play for and this situation is the kind of situation you want to be in as a team. The Huskers sat just a couple games behind first place in the Big Ten with a road series against the worst team in the league and a home series with the top team in the league all that stood between them and Omaha. 

Beat the bad team (Northwestern), set up a showdown with the good team (Michigan) for all the marbles. 

Instead, Nebraska lost the first two games of the Northwestern series (the Game 2 clincher 10-2) and dropped its third straight conference series. Michigan has won 13 straight, continuing to pummel opponents. In that 13-game winning streak, the Wolverines have outscored opponents 105-29. 

It’s looking less and less likely that final series will be pretty.

A hot-hitting team versus a team that has lost its offense. Since that 10-2 loss to Creighton on April 9, the Huskers have averaged 3.4 runs a game. The batting is even less appealing. If the pitching rotation struggles, the Huskers have no chance. That’s a hard situation to put yourself in. 

Head coach Darin Erstad seems to be losing supporters by the game, but I don’t think Athletic Director Bill Moos wants to make another major coaching change. Doing so would mean he fired and replaced coaches in each of the top three male sports in his first two years. 

Congrats are in Order

Each year, for the last 10 years, the Football Writers Association of America has given out “Super 11 Awards” to the “best performing sports information departments in the Football Bowl Subdivision.”

Calling SIDs at programs the “media relations people” would be oversimplifications. When we tweet out historical facts after games, they’ve most likely come from one of Nebraska’s SIDs. When we tell a story, it absolutely came from Nebraska’s SIDs. When we need help with something, we ask Nebraska’s SIDs. They put together press releases and media guides and operate every aspect of the Huskers.com site, they make sure events run smoothly, they make sure players are where they need to be. I’m leaving stuff out but just know these are some of the unsung heroes of game days. 

Fittingly, Nebraska is one of 11 recipients of the 2018 Super 11 Awards, the department’s sixth since the 2009 inception. 

The availability at Nebraska is second to none, while the media coverage is maybe as intense as it is anywhere. Striking that balance is, I imagine, very difficult, but Nebraska has found a way to do it well. 

 
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