The last seven or eight months have been rather atypical for Nebraska football. Losing to MAC schools, or having schools like Minnesota hang fifty-burgers was unfamiliar territory. Likewise, the hiring of Scott Frost and his bringing his fusion of offensive philosophies from Chip Kelly and Tom Osborne to Lincoln with a roster that, for the most part, recruited by Mike Riley for 1980’s style professional offense leaves far too many questions going into the spring. (And let’s not even begin trying to figure out what-the-hell Bob Diaco was trying to do last year.)
Bottom line is that we don’t know what’s going on. We get little bits of practice reports, and we’re trying to reconcile what we, as fans, saw in the Peach Bowl with the players that got boat-raced by Iowa last Thanksgiving. (*shudder*)
After signing day, our fearless leader wanted the CornNation team to start writing previews of spring practice, but several of us stopped Jon at that time. Yes, we always have written these, but what were we supposed to write this year? I mean, we knew the names of players and what position they played or were recruited for...but we really have no idea how they will fit into Frost’s program. And to be honest, I’m not sure Scott Frost really knew either, going into the spring. He had his systems, and how players fit (or don’t fit) is all going to work it’s way out this spring and possibly into the summer.
So why spend any time trying to extract any meaning out of last season as to how it applies to 2018?
Troy Walters: "This is not a 4-8 team ... The standards are high here at Nebraska. We didn't come here to be 6-6, we didn't come here to be average. We're trying to win championships." #Huskers pic.twitter.com/GqKo3xmN6A— Derek Peterson (@DrPetey15) April 7, 2018
So we didn’t do any position previews, as there’s too much uncertainty. Some guys will change positions while others will take advantage of hitting the reset button and starting fresh. Take Peyton Newell, who spent the last three seasons buried on the depth chart and is now challenging for a starting position at nose tackle.
I’ve tried to do my best to go into this spring without any preconceived notions about who will fit where in this reclamation project and especially who won’t. After Tuesday’s practice, Frost discussed the quarterback room.
Frost on the 4 QBs who can play next season: "Gebbia’s doing some good things running and throwing. Pat can really throw it and is doing a good job learning it. Bunch has been doing a really good job as a walk-on here. Adrian Martinez is showing signs of being really talented."— Sam McKewon (@swmckewonOWH) April 10, 2018
I suspect the order Frost used is meaningful, especially with how he described each quarterback. Adrian Martinez might ultimately be the best of the group down the line, but he’s not ready to play yet. Andrew Bunch, the junior college transfer who walked on a year ago, is impressing, though Frost added the “as a walk-on” disclaimer. Patrick O’Brien, who’s the only guy who’s actually played, only gets a mention for his arm and picking up the playbook. I suspect that as the other quarterbacks with more varied skill sets pick up the offense, O’Brien could end up being the odd man out. And that seems to leave Tristan Gebbia as the quarterback slightly ahead in the race, going into the first turn.
But that’s reading between the lines and making some big assumptions that may - or may not - be correct. I’m trying not to buy into too much of the talk at this point; we hear every year how hard everybody worked and how impressive they look coming out of offseason workouts. Sometimes it’s true; sometimes it’s not.
And that’s why I’m still hesitant to draw any firm conclusions at this point. I certainly don’t believe the coaching staff has made many at this point, and frankly, there isn’t much need to. Plenty of time before August to do all of that.
Earlier this week, my boss asked me what my prediction for the 2018 season was, and I kind of had to parrot ESPN’s 6-6 prediction. Nebraska will undoubtedly be better in 2018, but with a rougher schedule (Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State), getting above eight wins would seem to be a major challenge. My way-too-early-swag guess thinks that Nebraska is more likely to lose to Colorado than to lose to both Northwestern and Iowa, but that’s probably nit-picking at this point.
So for now, I’m waiting, watching and listening to what’s happening. Trying not to get too excited or read too much into anything. And hoping that our three week run of weekend snows in Nebraska doesn’t stretch into next weekend.