Nebraska Baseball

Mailbag: Tell-All Games on Nebraska's 2020 Schedule

February 26, 2020
2,303

It’s Wednesday, let’s get to it.

Do you think the new transfer legislation will pass? (@Go_Big_Red) 

Mike Babcock: Yes, I think it will. It’s probably reasonable enough, though we’ve already got the transfer portal creating some issues. Philosophically, I think student-athletes ought to have some control, as coaches do, and sometimes don’t. But transferring makes it difficult on programs for a lot of reasons.

Jacob Padilla: There’s still a lot of details to iron out, but I think there’s too much momentum for it not to happen, especially because it would clear up a complex, time-consuming exercise for the NCAA – sorting through all the waiver appeals. Coaches despise the current process and I’m sure those in the NCAA office that have to do it aren’t fans either.

Derek Peterson: Jacob’s point about momentum is key. There’s too much momentum right now for the NCAA to continue to oppose common-sense changes any longer. At some point it becomes about damage control. I personally think it’ll be a rush job and poaching problems will sprout up and we’ll be back in a few years talking about how to put out a new fire. 

Which games on the Huskers' pre-Halloween football schedule will tell us the most or the least about the team and potential for the season? (@Corn_Huskers) 

MB: Purdue and Cincinnati. Purdue right away is obviously really important to what needs to be accomplished this season. 

Greg Smith: Purdue would get my vote. How Nebraska starts the season––with urgency or easing into it––will tell me a lot about the makeup of the 2020 group.

Brandon Vogel: Give me South Dakota State for one pretty simple reason––there’s virtually no upside to that game for Nebraska. One, it’s against a “local” FCS school that has plenty of names from Nebraska. Two, because it’s an FCS team and people tend to lump those all together no matter how good the actual team might be, a win is simply expected. Three, but winning isn’t good enough; Nebraska has to do so impressively because of the same stereotyping in Reason No. 2. Four, based on the available evidence, it would be hard to argue that South Dakota State isn’t ahead of Nebraska in terms of its team culture at this point. (It should be based on not having had three different coaches over the last six seasons, but see Reason No. 2 again.) That is precisely the sort of FCS team that is a threat. Nebraska will be a solid favorite in that game––even if some might be surprised the spread isn’t larger when it comes out––and it will be expected to outperform that expectation. All of which makes this a vital early look at how ready Nebraska may or may not be to simply handle its business against a team that will, due to classification, be undervalued as an opponent. Before a team can start being ready to play well in big games, it has to show it can play well in games in which that’s the expectation. The Huskers haven’t cleared that hurdle yet.

DP: See Vogel, Brandon.

Give me two players (one on each side of the ball) who are facing a make-or-break situation this spring for football. (@Sal_Vasta3) 

GS: Keem Green and Austin Allen. Green needs to make a move to solidify a spot in the rotation on the defensive line. It’s weird to say this but he is in danger of being lost in the shuffle. Allen needs to hold off Chris Hickman and Travis Vokolek plus supplant Jack Stoll. Not to mention that tight end room gets much tougher in the future if a certain borderline 5-star from Iowa joins the fold.  

BV: I think Allen is a potential breakout candidate for 2020, but that’s not my answer to the question, just bonus speculation. It’s a little bit hard coming up with one of these on offense, but I’ll go with Kade Warner. He’s showed promise at times, but if he’s going to become an important part of the wide receiver rotation for the remaining two years he probably needs to start staking that claim this spring. Defensively, I don’t know if it quite reaches the make-or-break threshold, but it’s an important spring for Braxton Clark. Based on experience, you’d give him the inside track right now for the open cornerback spot. Is it still that way at the end of April? There’s a lot of talent in that defensive backs group.

JP: I’ll take Caleb Tannor here. That starting outside linebacker spot opposite JoJo Domann is wide open with Alex Davis moving on. Tannor’s gotten a chance to play quite a bit his first two seasons, but his production hasn’t exactly stacked up to his perceived talent as a recruit. With young guys like Garrett Nelson, Blaise Gunnerson and Jimari Burnett behind him and a junior college transfer in Niko Cooper joining the room, now is the time to solidify his role as a starter. It’s a little early to talk about a “break” situation, but I’ll be watching Rahmir Johnson closely. Can he grab that No. 2 spot behind Dedrick Mills (assuming they commit to Mills as the starter)? Does Ronald Thompkins get healthy and make himself an option? Can Sevion Morrison or Marvin Scott III jump ahead of him right away?

I was wondering a few weeks ago if Yvan Ouedraogo might benefit from a redshirt season next year, once the 2019 transfers become eligible. But the last couple of games it seems his progress is leaping forward faster than before & maybe he’ll be too good to redshirt. Thoughts? (@ScotAlanJohnson) 

MB: I thought he should have redshirted this season, so . . . Don’t know what his mindset would be having to sit out regardless of how he’s done of late.

JP: I think both Ouedroago and Kevin Cross Jr. would have benefitted from redshirting this season, but Nebraska didn’t have the luxury. We’ll see how the frontcourt rotation plays out with Derrick Walker joining the lineup but Nebraska seems dedicated to developing Ouedraogo as best they can and getting the most out of him. The extra work he’s done with Armon Gates seems to be paying off recently. At this point, I don’t think a redshirt season would help him all that much more than just continuing to play would. The coaches will get a chance to really work with him in the weight room for the first time since he was with his national team last summer, so that will be huge for his continued development. 

Nebraska football released that promo video for Cam Taylor-Britt early on Monday which included his own personal logo. My question is do you think that videos and marketing like that could eventually lead to some sort of player compensation in the NCAA? (@gus_kathol) 

Erin Sorensen: No, but I see where you’re going with it. I think compensation will ultimately come from bills like the one currently being argued in the Nebraska unicameral to allow players to profit from their name, image and likeness. These videos and logos that universities are creating will only benefit the player then when they have the opportunity to profit from it by working with other brands, etc. It’ll also benefit the players when they graduate and pursue either a career in the NFL or elsewhere. Personal brands are a big deal now, and this is just a step in helping them get one started.

Is there any hope of the powers-that-be ever modernizing the uniforms? Does administration ever talk about it as an option? (I realize plenty of you want to perpetually stay in the 90s, I’m asking if there’s a chance for those of us who are open to change) (@AlipineAddiction) 

MB: Not sure what you mean by “modernizing” uniforms. Changing the school colors? Different ones each week? I think changing uniforms is often an option when success isn’t.

BV: What if they modernize by leaning more heavily towards tradition? If you have seen any of the football videos or graphics shared by the official accounts, they already have that flavor. Rather than the Iron-N, they favor the football-N. (I know plenty of people find the football-N boring, but I think it’s the only real untouchable piece of Nebraska’s look.) Not only do they use the football-N, but they’ll often put it on a 1970s-looking helmet with a two-bar facemask. When they use Herbie, it’s always old-school Herbie. Last season’s Blackshirts alternate was a good example, I think, of this modernization through tradition. The Blackshirts logo has been around for a long time, the tradition even longer. The traditionalists get that, but the team gets a slick black uniform with a skull-and-bones logo on it that feels new. And we found out long before the team even wore them that there were already plans for an away version for this season, meaning Nebraska might have its first full-time alternate and not just a one-off. That’s the direction I think the program is headed from a uniform standpoint.

DP: I can’t believe I’m about to argue with Mike freaking Babcock but here we are. It’ll be respectful. So a few years back when Nike was experimenting with those once-a-year FlyKnit/VaporKnit/WhateverKnit names they were using, Florida was getting a tweaked look, Alabama was getting a tweaked look, LSU was getting a tweaked look, Oklahoma was getting one. Each team was winning and thus getting tools to help them keep winning. As much as traditionalists want to wave their fists in the air and say “kids shouldn’t care about this stuff,” (not talking about Mike here) they do. It’s a recruiting tool. Win games, look good doing it, get more people to take notice and it gets a little easier to build a winning pipeline. A jersey overhaul isn’t breaking tradition. Alabama is the only major program I’ve seen who hasn’t done anything. Florida added an orange alternate. Oklahoma changed the fonts and logo on the helmet. Nebraska needs to update its look because all anyone of consequence associates the current Nebraska gameday uniform with is losing. I think Frost wants to move that direction. When he starts winning, I think he will.

What incoming freshman are you excited about and who makes the biggest impact? (@bupward50) 

GS: Keyshawn Greene has a chance to be an absolute star in this defense down the road. I’m excited to watch him play and develop. Turner Corcoran and Zavier Betts are another pair of players I’m excited to see too. 

JP: Greg’s got me excited about Alante Brown as well so add him to that group above, especially if we’re talking about having a chance to make an impact right away.

DP: Blaise Gunnerson.

Even with the difficult schedule, most people expect NU to at least qualify for a bowl game. If they don’t, why/how does that happen? And what kind of stress does that put on Frost and Co? Would year 4 be the make or break year? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

MB: Frost is set for more than four years. I don’t think year four would be make or break given the scenario you suggest, which I think is possible, though I’m going to take the “not likely” attitude at this point. This team should get six wins . . . I think.

BV: Nebraska still has much to prove at running back in 2020. The depth isn’t great for the spring and help doesn’t arrive from the 2020 class until this summer. I think last season showed us that a strong run game is pretty much a prerequisite for this offense. Nebraska’s running backs for 2020, unless it adds a transfer, is Dedrick Mills and redshirt or true freshmen. If those freshmen are ready to go, great, but if they’re not, or if there’s any sort of injury there, the Huskers could be hampered pretty quickly. And, with this schedule, one or two close games might be the difference between bowling and not. I do think Nebraska has a plan here that goes beyond four years––and that’s unusual in today’s game; few coaches get more than four years with three losing records––but another losing season would really force the issue.

How different will the men’s basketball team look next season? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

JP: Very much so. With the volatile nature of college basketball as a whole right now, you can’t really count on returning every player that has eligibility. I don’t have any names for you, but based on how this season has gone and what the coaches have done on the recruiting trail, I wouldn’t be surprised to see further attrition after the season in addition to the departures of seniors Haanif Cheatham and Matej Kavas. However, even if everybody does return, we’ll see a dramatically different lineup. I’d have a tough time projecting a starting five for next season right now. Teddy Allen will likely start right away and be one of the team’s best scorers. Cam Mack would start again next season. Derrick Walker’s experience probably gives him a leg up on Yvan Ourdraogo at the five. If Dalano Banton is taking advantage of this redshirt season to work on his body and his shot, he’ll likely slot in there at one of the wing spots. Beyond that, I could see any of several guys filling out the starting lineup. Nebraska will have a lot more length and versatility next season, and the coaches are hoping to have a bit more shooting as well.

Can NU’s pitching improve or are we in for a long baseball season? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

MB: The starters looked decent last week, given that they might not be “stretched” out yet. And a couple of relievers--or mid-week starters--showed something. But when a team starts 1-5, you have to wonder. Plus, the hitting has been erratic. I’d reserve judgment for now. Arizona State will be interesting. And then the Huskers are scheduled for some home games. Then we’ll have a better idea, maybe.

You have control over the Hail Varsity office music for a day. What ALBUMS do you play to fill the following 3 timeframes: morning, noon/lunch, and afternoon? (@Corn_Huskers) 

JP: Nickelback’s “All the Right Reasons” on repeat all day. 

GS: In the morning I’d play “Watch The Throne” by Jay-Z and Kanye West because we need pump up music to get the day going. Noon/lunchtime I’d play “The World of Hans Zimmer” the live version because who doesn’t love a good score while writing. Let’s close the day out with Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox.” I may have done this exact thing once or twice. 

MB: My associates do not want me in charge of office music, even for part of a day.

Any news on centers? You choose the sport. (@hspu6) 

JP: As mentioned above, Yvan Ouedraogo has played well recently, so I guess that counts as center news in basketball. Barring further attrition necessitating further moves, I think Nebraska’s set in the frontcourt for next season with Ouedraogo, Kevin Cross Jr. and Derrick Walker plus guys like Shamiel Stevenson and Lat Mayen if they need to go small. If the coaches find a talented 7-footer they really like, I’m sure they’ll go hard after him. But getting a true center just to have one doesn’t fit with what they’re trying to build and how they want to play.

 
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