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Nebraska Baseball

Mailbag: Who's the Top Pick in Nebraska's Search for a Baseball Coach?

June 12, 2019
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You asked, we answered. Hail Varsity staff memebers Mike Babcock, Jacob Padilla, Greg Smith, Erin Sorensen and Brandon Vogel tackle your questions about the latest news in Husker Nation.

Which side of the ball will see more true freshmen play this season? (@Corn_Huskers) 

Erin Sorensen: Offense, because the safe bet is that you’ll see Wan’Dale Robinson on the field quickly for both the offense and special teams. Maybe Rahmir Johnson and/or Ronald Thompkins, especially depending on what happens with Maurice Washington. Even Jamie Nance could see time early on special teams. There are a couple of guys I could see getting playing time early on defense, but I think the offense will see more playing time overall with true freshman. 

Jacob Padilla: I think Robinson, one of the three other wide receivers and Johnson will likely play this season, so three total. I don’t think we’ll see Bryce Benhart unless Matt Farniok either gets hurt or regresses. On defense, I think one of the inside linebackers, two of the defensive backs and potentially Garrett Nelson will see the field between defense and special teams. I’ll give a slight edge to defense. For reference, last year, two true freshmen on each side of the ball plus one on special teams played enough to burn their redshirt, though a handful of others saw action in up to four games.  

Greg Smith: This is tough. I honestly want to say it will be a push with Robinson, Johnson and Benhart playing on offense plus Nelson, Noa Pola-Gates and Quinton Newsome playing enough not to redshirt on defense. I’ll break my own tie by saying that the offensive guys will have more production overall this season. 

How does the Hail Varsity staff think that the marijuana situations should be handled? (@Go_Big_Red) 

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Regardless of how people feel about marijuana, Frost and company are gonna have to make some statement, right? Maybe it’s some of the elder team leaders helping to take the lead? How would you handle these recent events? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

Brandon Vogel: Internally, like most programs do and Nebraska has in the past. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence in college athletics and it’s probably going to continue to become more common as the legal and social landscape around this issue continues to shift. Every college coaching staff has to know they’ll have decisions to make around marijuana infractions. It would be foolish not to confront that reality ahead of time, and I’m sure this is something the coaches have thought about. If I were the one making those decisions, and I felt the culture on the team was strong enough, I would hope a lot of the ramifications here would come from the players themselves. 

Mike Babcock: I’m among those who don’t think marijuana use is a big deal, except in an obvious context such as this: its use is illegal in Nebraska and certainly against team rules. Frost has emphasized recruiting character as well as ability, and “character” means following the law and team rules. It’ll be handled internally, I’m sure, as Brandon says. But it’s a bit more of an issue for a still-new coach who’s trying to show he and his team are doing things the right way. Folks need to have confidence that “being handled internally” actually means something. I would expect team leaders to step in. We’ve got a great story in the yearbook by Derek Peterson that will show how such things should be handled—internally.  

GS: Handle it internally and inform the players (again) that the spotlight is on them at all times. Then I’d let the internal team leaders handle the rest.  

Why add a transfer tight end? (@InDaWilderness) 

ES: Why not? I’ve seen a lot of commentary on this on Facebook and Twitter, and the general reaction is that it’s unnecessary with the depth Nebraska has at tight end. While true, a lot of the tight end depth is still unproven overall. Kurt Rafdal and Austin Allen, for example, had only six catches between the two of them in 2018. If nothing else, Travis Vokolek provides additional competition for guys like Rafdal, Allen and Katerian Legrone. Vokolek will have to sit out this year, but you’d hope he’d be in the mix by next spring and that would only push the other tight ends to get better. That isn’t a bad thing, right? Plus, Iowa wanted him and Nebraska got him. If for nothing else, there’s that. 

BV: Because Nebraska knows the sort of season Jack Stoll is going to have in 2019 and that he’ll be headed for the NFL next spring. Kidding. Sort of. I view this almost as a replacement for losing Justin McGriff. Nebraska took two tight ends in that first class for a reason—it wanted two tight ends. Vokolek will have two seasons to play after sitting out, which is only a year beyond where McGriff would’ve been had he stayed at Nebraska. Depth is always best viewed in the present tense only because it doesn’t take much for that to change quickly over the span of a few weeks. 

JP: “Why?” was my initial reaction as well, especially when I saw Vokolek’s meager production at Rutgers. But he fits the physical profile of what Sean Beckton wants in his tight ends, he’s proven he can play in the Big Ten, he’s got connections to Nebraska and the Huskers had the scholarships to take him on. Additional depth is rarely a bad thing. So in the end, I guess the questions is “why not?” 

MB: I’m in the “why” category still, but I’m sure Nebraska accepted Vokolek’s transfer for a reason other than just his connections. There’s competition with Hickman here too, and redshirting, I would think: Stoll, Allen, Rafdal and Legrone. Even so, I’ll defer to any reasoning by others. 

With the numerous camps coming up and players hoping to make decisions before season gets started, when do you expect a large number of the commitments to come in? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

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Prediction time: how many commitments will the Huskers have by September 1st? (@dmhusker1) 

GS: I expect June and July to be productive months on the recruiting trail for Nebraska in terms of commitments. I think they pick up at least 3 this month and a couple in July. With that being said, I’ll put them at 8 commitments when the first game kicks off. 

What’s the chance we go three-for-three with Watts, Hutmacher, and Gunnerson, especially with Watts and Gunnerson predicted going elsewhere? If we do go three-for-three, what will our final rank be? (@InDaWilderness) 

GS: I don’t have Watts and Gunnerson predicted to go elsewhere, so I can’t speak to that. I think the chances are good that they go three-for-three. My order of confidence is Hutmacher, Gunnerson, Watts.  

Tell me more about what to look forward to regarding the VB team. With Foecke gone, who's going to take over? Stivrins? How about the youngsters? Who stands out? Can Sweet continue to raise the level of her game? (@thawildbunch) 

JP: I think Lauren Stivrins is certainly anxious to take up a leadership role (she certainly has the personality for it) and she had really elevated her level of play down the stretch of the season. She should be an All-Big Ten performer this year at middle blocker. Jazz Sweet and Lexi Sun both showed what they’re capable of last season, but without Foecke, Nebraska needs them to be consistent contributors; they can’t be as up and down as they were as sophomores. Two freshmen enrolled early and both have a chance to be big contributors as freshmen. Kenzie Knuckles will compete with Megan Miller to succeed Kenzie Maloney at libero and Madi Kubik, a top-five recruit, should compete with Capri Davis for the second outside hitter spot. We’ll have more on volleyball on Wednesday evening, so stay tuned. 

How long until we know who the new baseball coach is? (@InDaWilderness) 

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Is Childress an actual possibility? (@jordangaard) 

ES: I would say soon and no. If Nebraska is close to finalizing a deal with someone, it would be beneficial to get that news out with the College World Series about to start. Never hurts to be the talk of the town with national television cameras around. That’s what happened with basketball and the NCAA Tournament, and that worked out nicely (because you had Tom Izzo talking about Fred Hoiberg in interviews while Michigan State was still in the whole thing). So, again, I’d expect a hire soon. I just don’t expect it to be Childress, because all signs point to him staying at Texas A&M. 

BV: It seems like things are getting close, but the way the wind blows continues to change. In the past few days I’ve gone from Childress is out to maybe he’s in to he’s back out to I don’t know at this point. It doesn’t seem like the most likely outcome to me, but things seem like they are still pretty fluid. 

MB: Erin’s suggestion of an announcement in conjunction with the CWS seems likely, so I’d expect we’ll know in the next few days. I’ve had a source tell me Childress is locked up and Moos is just waiting until the CWS weekend. But I’m not convinced that source, though sincere, had valid information. Not sure if Childress has a buyout in his A&M contract, which is worth $800,000-plus. Anyway, I don’t expect it to be Childress, though Moos indicated early on he was looking for someone with Power 5 head coaching experience. That made me reconsider my initial expectation, Will Bolt’s return. Have I confused you? If so, join me. Tomorrow, I might say Childress. But not today. Bolt, but he doesn’t fit what Moos said. 

Did Nick Nurse calling a timeout in the middle of a 12-0 run blow this series for the Raptors? (@tklim2430) 

BV: No. They’ve still got a one-game lead against a diminished squad with the home-game hammer if it goes seven. If they lose despite all of that, maybe then we can look at the timeout as the turning point, but the Raptors still would’ve had 96 minutes of basketball (at least) to make it a non-factor. 

JP: First of all, Toronto still has two more chances to close out the series, and Kevin Durant obviously won’t be playing in either one. Also, it looked like Kawhi Leonard and/or Kyle Lowry may have asked for the timeout; who knows if the run would have continued if they hadn’t burned the use-it-or-lose-it timeout considering it seemed like Leonard – the driving force behind the run – was exhausted? 

GS: Cost them the series? No. I do think it had an impact on the game but I can be swayed because the team (Kawhi in particular) looked gassed at that point.  

MB: Nurse did not blow the series with the timeout call. As folks have suggested, the Raptors might’ve needed the break. But I don’t question Nurse’s coaching, anyhow. Did the Toronto fans’ cheering Durant’s injury make the Warriors, my Warriors, play harder? No. Did Leonard travel and not get called late in the game? Yes. Did Ibaka deflect a shot before it hit the backboard and still get called for goal-tending? Yes. Things happen in games. Toronto lost, by the slightest of margins. But the Raptors have two more tries at wrapping it up, and I’m guessing they get the job done tomorrow night in Oakland. The Warriors’ bench can’t score. They don’t have Durant. And I’m not sure but what Toronto isn’t the better team even if Durant were playing (given Golden State’s bench and the Warriors’ propensity to turn the ball over and not always hustle back on defense when they think they’ve been fouled).  

What are the NCAA rules regarding drug testing? Or when an athlete is ticketed for possession? How much do they get involved or notified of these last two instances? (@uni_klaus) 

BV: My understanding is that the NCAA isn’t involved unless a student-athlete fails a test administered by the NCAA. Any internal testing or punishment for local infractions are up to the institution and they are free to set their own policies. 

MB: Almost sure Brandon is right. So at playoff time, the NCAA might test. 

 
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