It’s time for another mailbag, so let’s dive in.
What are the top three tasks Trev Alberts will tackle or at least put pressure on in his first month as AD? (@Corn_Huskers)
Erin Sorensen: I think he provided a pretty good idea of his first 30 days in his answer to Ronnie Green about what he hopes to accomplish within his athletic department in the next couple of years. I’ll link my Twitter thread on this if you want the full detail of what he said, but I’ll get a little more specific here. He mentioned four things in his answer, so I’ll also condense to three. He spoke about trust. I think the easiest way to tackle that in his first month is to make himself available not only to the coaches but to the student-athletes. He said the student-athletes come first and foremost, so I imagine he’ll spend a lot of time listening to them and reaching out. Specifically, he could (and should) meet with the Minority Student-Athlete Collective. Not only does he have a couple of key hires to make that will directly benefit the student-athletes in this space, but this is also a group that provided a list of requests to the athletic department last year that should be revisited. If this isn’t high on Alberts’ list for his first month, it absolutely should be. Another task would be setting the expectations for his new team (and he did say teamwork is going to be vital). By team, I mean the entire athletic department. The best thing he can do is quickly set the expectation for how his athletic department is going to work and run. Finally, I think he needs to do some sort of outreach for fans. Whether you’re a believer in the sellout streak continuing or not, the fact that there is any concern it might end tells you there is something happening with your fanbase. Alberts mentioned how vital Nebraska fans are to selling the vision to recruits, so he needs the fans. I imagine he’ll be present at Nebraska’s Fan Day on July 29, or at least I believe he should be present. Being visible, shaking hands, meeting people and extending that trust to those that support the university will be huge. He specifically mentioned that trust with fans in his introductory press conference, so I think it’s top of mind for him. There is a lot that will end up on Alberts’ plate in the coming days, but these are where I think the priority should be to begin.
Do you think Trev will schedule nonconference games with the Big 12 in football and basketball? (@CarnesRegg)
ES: I hope so, mostly because I find those type of things to be fun.
Greg Smith: Probably playing devil’s advocate here but I hope not. My initial thought is that it would only add fuel to the fire of the loud part of the fan base that wants to return to the Big 12. Maybe that’s too skeptical of me. I’d like to see Nebraska, especially in football, play some Southern teams where it likes to recruit. Home and home with Florida State, anyone?
What is something feasible that Trev Alberts could do in his first 30 days to win over the skeptics? (@FeitCanWrite)
GS: It depends on what the skepticism is about. If it’s directly related to Nebraska hiring another member of the “Nebraska family” then he can’t do anything about that.
ES: Going back to my first answer, I would say making himself available to fans. Be at Fan Day or maybe host some fans at the stadium for coffee. I think little things like that could go a long way but, as Greg said, it really depends on what the skepticism is about. He can’t change the decision he made at UNO to eliminate the football and wrestling programs, nor can he change how he handled it (which many have expressed their displeasure in how he told the wrestling team in particular) and I’m not sure that can be changed for some. I think he just has to focus on what he can control and let the rest be.
Mike Babcock: He just needs to be who he is and move forward. Maybe it will take a while. In the social media age, it’s sometimes difficult to determine the degree of skepticism. But Trev is genuine. He’ll do what he’s going to do, do what he thinks is right for Nebraska—for which he clearly has passion. And the skeptics should eventually come over to his side. That’s what Nebraska needs, everybody pulling in the same direction. When was the last time that was the case? Even Osborne had his critics, until he won three national titles. Devaney had critics after back-to-back 6-4 seasons. But for the most part, the fanbase was solid. It hasn’t been that way since Osborne retired.
Derek Peterson: I think he’s in a spot where he can’t really win over skeptics in 30 days. Alberts could go on a media blitz and get his message out there about how things are going to look and feel and what he’s going to do differently and what he likes and doesn’t like and the general reaction would probably end up being a lot of “Cool. Win some football games.” If he hunkers down and goes to work without the pomp and frills, he’ll be branded as inaccessible. I think one of the things that needs to be done is make clear that those football expectations Bill Moos gave a few months ago—more than just six wins—are still very much intact, that football needs to show tangible progress on the field this fall, not just behind closed doors during the week, or changes will come. There needs to be a sense of urgency from the top down. That’s not to say that Alberts should storm into his football coach’s office and say this season is of the “win or else” variety, but maybe putting the tools to start a fire under the chair in Scott Frost’s office wouldn’t be the worst thing, considering the statement that’ll be made in the next question. If that’s done in private, then good things should follow this fall, and that’s when Alberts can win over his skeptics. Because, in truth, those skeptical of the hire are such because they think he won’t push Frost and they thought an outside hire would.
Frost had runway will Bill Moos. Does that change with Trev Alberts? (@jdub_wolf92)
GS: I don’t think that changes but the runway won’t be extended because of Alberts taking the job in my mind. The problem for Frost is that the results are bad enough currently that there isn’t much gray area. If that continues it will force Alberts to make a change.
MB: Alberts will be more involved than Moos; he needs to be. Bill’s approach was laissez faire. That doesn’t work, except maybe with volleyball. John Cook has things under control there, obviously.
Brandon Vogel: I think it would’ve changed a bit with any new athletic director. The perception of Moos’ tenure is to a large degree tied to Frost’s tenure. They were aligned in that way, and it’s not true of Moss’ successor, who just happens to be Trev Alberts. But it’s not unique to him. I do think Alberts could be a good change for football, however. I think he’ll require some accountability in a way that may be unique, and familiar, between two former Huskers.
DP: Adding on to what Brandon said, I’ll add something he and I discussed on the day of: Alberts should walk in the door commanding a certain level of respect from his football coach that maybe another athletic director wouldn’t have had. I’m on the record as saying Alberts’ time as a Husker won’t bring him success as the AD on its own, but his teams paved the way for success for Frost’s teams. Brandon’s point about requiring accountability is a potentially important one because Alberts should have the cachet to pull that off.
How do you feel about our fans crapping on our new AD because of the backlash that he had to cut programs? (@TylerHedges)
MB: If that’s the reason, it’s sad. Trev didn’t make that decision on a whim, nor did he make it completely by himself. Folks should look at that as a positive. He made a tough, but necessary, choice. No way was an All-America football player happy about cutting football, and wrestling, programs.
BV: I get it for a certain segment of people. For those directly impacted by that decision—the players, coaches and families who were part of a program and then suddenly not—it would be hard to ever get over the emotion of it. For everyone else, however, I would expect them to take a more calculated approach and look at where Omaha athletics is today versus where it was at then. As Mike noted, nobody wanted that to be the best way forward for the department, and certainly not Alberts, but he should only be judged on if it actually turned out to be the best way forward. I think the results support the decision, difficult as it was.
Is Trev the slam dunk AD hire Husker fans expected, or needed? (@kinggib)
ES: It probably doesn’t feel like one to some, but I think it’s a better hire than many realize. Alberts isn’t one to mince words and he’s also not one that’s afraid to make decisions that upset some people, which I actually think is one of the biggest benefits of this hire. Hindsight is always 20/20, so we can revisit whether or not it was a slam dunk hire a few years from now. At the moment though, I can understand why it might feel a little lackluster for some but I wouldn’t be too down on the hire.
MB: In my opinion, yes. I know of a couple of the other seven “finalists” who would’ve been similarly qualified. But yes, definitely.
BV: That term gets used a lot with coaching hires, and the success rate with those across the country should indicate just how hard it is assessing such things. I think it’s even more difficult with ADs, given all of the different facets of the job. I won’t call it a slam dunk mostly because I’m trying not to rush to call anything a slam-dunk hire at this point, but I am optimistic about the future of the department under Alberts.
After seeing the rankings of the defense in the Big Ten, where would you rank the Husker DL/DB/LB groups among the Big Ten? (@jdub_wolf92)
DP: I’d put the defensive line in the 7-10 range, the defensive backs in the top three and the linebackers in the top five.
Who will make a bigger jump in improvement: the RB or WR room? (@jdub_wolf92)
GS: I’ll take the wide receivers. Samori Touré should be a good player this season. I like a lot of the other pieces in the room as well. The wildcard is what, if anything, Nebraska gets from Omar Manning. If he’s the guy Nebraska hoped for then wide receiver could be a strength of the team.
Which assistant football coaches are on the hot seat? (@jdub_wolf92)
MB: Staff loyalty is important, and so is loyalty to staff. I’d hope at this point, no assistants are on the hot seat. They were hired for a reason. Frost needs staff cohesion at this point, not coaches concerned about their jobs.
DP: I’d agree with Mike. There was so much pressure on Frost to make an OC change after the 2019 season, but in his heart and on a personal level I don’t know if he wanted to. That pressure is gone now, as it relates to assistant coaches. If it doesn’t work (I think it will, for the record) and a change is to be made, people will point to the head chair, not the assistants. But until we know what happens, I don’t know why you’d put any assistant on the proverbial hot seat. The defensive staff has done its job and then some to this point. Sean Beckton has developed and recruited well at tight end. Greg Austin is viewed nicely on the offensive line. Ryan Held is an ace recruiter. And Matt Lubick is, for all intents and purposes, brand new. If your quibble is with Mario Verduzco and you believe a quarterback can fix all, then so be it, but Frost doesn’t view it that way, nor should he.
Will we have an identity this year? If so, what will it be? (@jdub_wolf92)
MB: Don’t know, but an identity is needed. “This is what we do. We’re committed to it.” I’d like to see an emphasis on the running game. But if that’s not what the Huskers are best-suited to do offensively, so be it. Commit to something and stick with it.
ES: I don’t know what that identity is either (or even what it should be at this point), but the Big Ten needs Nebraska to figure it out just about as much as Nebraska needs to figure it out.
DP: Can it be a freaky fast, athletic team that’s highly volatile? I wonder if Nebraska can just magically fix the part of its game that causes short-circuits in one offseason, but I think they’ve addressed the lack of playmaking ability. So maybe in the long-term the identity will be different—it takes time to build these things after all—but for right now Nebraska might just be maddeningly fun, with a propensity for high highs and low lows.
What affect will NIL have on the transfer portal, if any? (@jdub_wolf92)
ES: Maybe a player transfers to another school where he or she thinks the money is more significant, but I really don’t see this being a huge issue. In feels a little bit like the bogeyman right now. It’s something we don’t know to be an issue but are afraid of it anyway (and I’m not implying that’s what you’re saying, by the way). We do dive into this a bit in the latest Mind Your Own Podcast episode if you want to give it a listen.
Who is the biggest threat to Ohio State? (My pick is Indiana.) (@jdub_wolf92)
ES: Itself. Allow me to use a quote from Trev Alberts when discussing Nebraska volleyball: “People often forget that it is way harder to stay at the top than it is to get to the top.”
BV: Penn State for me. I’m not scared off by a wonky 2020 for the Nittany Lions. It wasn’t as bad as it looked, and, in terms of talent and recent results, Penn State is still the closest to the Buckeyes. I think Ohio State has more questions this year than it usually does, so if there’s a year to get the Buckeyes, this might be it. That said, that program has built such a big lead on the rest of the league that it has a lot of room to figure things out.
DP: Indiana certainly has the best quarterback in the league and a strong defense. That’s probably the safe pick. Penn State has also been the only team in the league able to come close to Ohio State’s recruiting level consistently. But. . . and I’ll have to run away after typing this. . . I wonder about Iowa. Offensively, Northwestern and Wisconsin are mysteries and Iowa might be poised to fill the vacuum this year. While Wisconsin is trying to figure out what it wants to be with a more exciting quarterback and a less reliable backfield, Iowa plugs along with the boring quarterback and a bruising ground game. They’ll both have outstanding defenses, but that might be the difference. Tyler Goodson is the real deal and the offensive line has a pro playing center. They’ll be really good defensively. Spencer Petras just needs to manage a little better. I think Ohio State might be vulnerable defensively and sooner or later the quarterback play is going to experience a dip. Maybe. “Biggest” is relative here, a bunch of stuff needs to happen for Ohio State to actually feel threatened.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.