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Nebraska Football: Bye-Week Thoughts, Reflections and Questions

There is a lot to chew through on this bye-week so here you go.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The bye-week is a perfect time for what I like to call “word vomit.” Here are my thoughts, reflections and questions about the Nebraska football team half-way through the 2019 season. These are not concrete bullet-proof arguments as we know that is not possible. However, I hope to provide some insight or maybe some conversation fodder for the Nebraska faithful.

Are there contradicting statements in here? Probably. That is why it is “word vomit.”

There has been obvious progress. I do not think you can deny that fact, though I believe some of you will. Would the 2018 Nebraska football team beat the 2019 Nebraska football team? I believe so. That still does not mean there hasn’t been progress. In my opinion —obvious progress.

The impact of the losses of Tanner Farmer, Jerald Foster, Devine Ozigbo and Stanley Morgan (none of whom were drafted by the NFL) appear to have been underappreciated and perhaps unexpected.

Starting with Tanner Farmer, we can now appreciate how important it is for a snap to not have to be a concern for a quarterback. You never know what you have until it is gone I guess. Jerald Foster was also a part of an interior line group which would be helpful right now.

The inability of wide receivers to get open in the first half of the year shows the hole that Stanley Morgan left. Also Devine Ozigbo likely covered up what still appears to be a shallow running back room.

The defensive side of the 2019 team is much further along than it was in 2018. You may want to point to the Minnesota game to refute that fact, but I will address that below. If it wasn’t for the defense in 2019, Nebraska likely has one win. This offense has now gone three straight games with only scoring a touchdown. Not even the 2009 Bo Pelini offense was that bad.

With all that said, I think there has still be obvious progress. You may want to call it the eye-test. The amount of youth being asked to contribute is unfortunate, but overall we have better players on the field than when Scott Frost took over.

I still believe that it all goes back to the South Alabama game and the issues with the snaps. If the snaps weren’t a problem then you probably wouldn’t have Adrian Martinez jumping on snaps when he clearly doesn’t need to. It was in his head and it really hurt the offense going forward. Then add that to the fact that he either put on too much weight this past year or he has been injured. Frost won’t talk about injuries so we may never know until the off-season.

If the bad snaps didn’t start from day one then we might be talking about an average offense instead of a well-below-average offense. That is how I would like to judge the progress. It isn’t which team is better. It is the state of the program and which direction it is heading.

Frost is willing to sacrifice the 2019 season for the future. Correct me if I am wrong but it appears that the only three members of the 2019 recruiting class that the coaches appear to be willing to burn their red-shirts are Wan’Dale Robinson, Garrett Nelson, Quinton Newsome and Darien Chase. Chase has played in three games and I would be surprised if he only plays in one more for the rest of the season. Luke Reimer, a walk-on, has already played in four games.

The following are players that apparently could be helping the team right now (as mentioned by coaches) but they have mentioned that they are trying to preserve their red-shirt: Luke McCaffrey, Rhamir Johnson, Bryce Benhart, Noa Pola-Gates, Chris Hickman, Nick Henrich, Ty Robinson, Jahkeem Green, Ethan Piper and Mosai Newsom. There likely are more. However, I listed 11 players that apparently could be helping Nebraska this season however the coaches are playing the long-game.

I believe that is the right move. We just need to get through this season and hope it doesn’t continue to be such a train-wreck.

If assume what I just said is true about those players then that means there are 14 members of the 2019 recruiting class that could help this team. While it is great that they recruited some good players, it also is illustrative of the level of talent on the team right now.

Now with five games remaining in the regular season, Coach Frost was asked yesterday at his media availability who among the freshman class could start seeing the field the rest of the season. His response, “any and all of them.”

From Brian Christopherson of 24/7, quoting Coach Frost:

“It’d be great to have a couple of the O-linemen – Piper, Benhart – and some of those guys start to give us some help. Some skilled guys. Rahmir Johnson still has a couple games to play in, and I’m going to want him to help us a couple games down the stretch. And guys on defense too. You might see a bunch of new guys later in the year. Defensive linemen like Mosai Newsom and Ty Robinson, there’s too many to count.

”But if those guys are ready to play, we can seriously use the help and the depth right now.”

So we should start seeing some young players the rest of the season.

Which brings me to the next thought.

The 2017 recruiting class continues to hurt the program. By my count (and you can disagree) there are only four contributors from the 2017 recruiting class. That is Brendan Jaimes, Deontre Thomas, Damion Daniels and Austin Allen. Broc Bandon might be added to that list going forward. Right now members of that class should be juniors or red-shirt sophomores. This is when the fruit of your labors should be showing on the field.

The following are the members of the 2017 recruiting class that either left or never showed up in the first place: Tyjon Lindsey, Avery Roberts, Tristan Gebbia, Keyshawn Johnson, Guy Thomas, Willie Hampton, Andrew Ward, Elijah Blades and Deiontae Watts.

So that is four contributors. Nine have left or never showed up. That is almost double.

I don’t think we can underestimate the damage that the 2017 recruiting class has done to the football program.

Right now we have kids playing earlier than they should. I think Exhibit A would be Cameron Jurgens. He probably shouldn’t be playing so early but he might be the best they have at this moment. That or Coach Frost is playing the long game like I mentioned above. If he’s the best they got then that says a lot about the lack of depth.

It is ideal to have your redshirt sophomores and juniors be the ones who are making their way onto the depth chart and making contributions. That means they have spent at least three years in the program getting bigger and strong and more mature.

If you don’t have those kids then you end up relying on kids that aren’t ready. Other nominees would likely be Maurice Washington, Caleb Tannor, Andre Hunt (who was slated to start until he was suspended indefinitely), Cam Taylor-Britt (though he has been really good) and maybe even Adrian Martinez.

Wan’Dale Robinson might be the one that would play regardless.

I am not worried about the lack of “power five coaching experience.” I have read enough about coaching, both basketball and football, that the coaches at the power five level aren’t necessarily better coaches than those at the FCS type level. I am not worried about the coaching staff at this point.

Maybe the concern is that you have a head coach that has not coached at a power five level. That to me is a different topic. The perceived benefit of having “power five coaches” is that they have the experience. Well I guess everybody on the staff is getting that experience.

To me it is more about the players than coaches. It is more about bringing in talented kids who fit your system and culture than it is about coaching. After bringing them in, then it is your time to shine.

If Mom and Dad didn’t put it in you, then the coaches likely can’t get it out of you.

Back to the coaches. P.J. Fleck was extremely successful at Western Michigan. He then was hired by Minnesota. Did the hiring make him a better coach? Or was he already a good coach to begin with?

Remember some of the assistants Pelini brought in? They were here for multiple years and thus received “power five experience.” I would bet everything in my bank account that there are football coaches that are currently coaching high school football in the state of Nebraska that are better than a lot of coaches with “power five experience” under Bo Pelini. I would say the same for coaches all throughout the country.

You can either coach or you can’t. As we all know opportunities can be created through hard work and competency. Opportunities can also be created merely through relationships.

That isn’t to say that our assistant coaches do not need to be better. I hope they are always trying to get better. However, don’t knock them merely because they didn’t have “power five experience.”

Firing coaches is not the answer. It is not going to happen. We don’t know what the staff is trying to do behind closed doors. You and I cannot and never will know better than Scott Frost on whether a coach needs to be retained or not.

One thing I am looking forward to is the fact that with the exception of Coach Tuioti, that these players are going to have continuity and consistency. Continuing to change scheme and technique is what we have been doing for the past decade. It doesn’t work. So maybe we should try allowing the coaches to develop players for once.

Just because you want a coach replaced doesn’t mean you want Nebraska to win more than I do. Unless you have taken the time to educate yourself on the X’s and O’s and technique of football, I kind of believe that you should have “no lines in this play.”*

I continue to see this from fans. The wide receivers are under performing. Troy Walters needs to be fired. The offensive line has been awful. Greg Austin needs to coach somewhere else. The inside linebackers can’t run fit. Barrett Ruud needs to become an insurance salesman.

These comments are why we cannot have nice things. By nice things, I mean a quality football program.

Coach Frost brought his entire staff over because he valued continuity, trust and loyalty. He didn’t bring them here because they are best friends. That would be idiotic.

But you probably know better right? You KNOW it was because they are friends. Because you got that information from where? Where? Oh nowhere. You got that information from nowhere.

Excuse me. I apologize.

*Of course this is a free country and you can have as many lines as you want on any subject you wish.

Talent level is not as high as we think it may be. This is pointing the finger at myself. I believe that I still am slightly biased to the point that if a player is starting for Nebraska that it means he is a really good player.

I think that used to be true and I need to change the way I process information because it simply isn’t that way anymore. I grew up knowing that if somebody was the starting running back for Nebraska, then he likely is going to be playing in the NFL. That is definitely not the case anymore.

I don’t know if that makes sense. Anywho...

Even with the injuries and the poor play at center I am still surprised that a Scott Frost offense would struggle this much. This might be one of the main sources of frustration with this team. We expected to have a football program that would have an up-and-down defense depending on the year. However, the saving grace was that we could depend on an offense that is going to put up yards and score a bunch of points.

Not only has the offense been under-performing, but it likely is the worst offense we have seen since Bill Callahan’s first year. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

I hope that the performance against Minnesota was a let-down game and not an indication of what is to come. Minnesota looked like it is going to contend with Wisconsin for the best team in the west division last Saturday night. However, the reality is that Minnesota is not a great team. Nebraska just made them look like it.

That game was more about the coaches either not preparing the kids for the cold or the kids merely gave up when things got difficult.

It is hard to continue to depend on the defense to win games. Especially a defense that while it was supposed to be improved was not expected to be a strength. Maybe when I looked at the offense and their continued inability to score and sustain drives that the defensive players merely gave in.

That also brings up mental toughness. I think the Minnesota game was a reflection on the mental state of the team than the physical state. That is on both the players and the coaches.

Maybe the bye-week came just in time. We shall see. You really hope that Coach Frost isn’t in the process of losing the team because that game looked like a team that didn’t want to be there.

Can I get an APB on Barret Pickering? Please! We need him back. Some have mentioned that we should redshirt him — so keep him away for one more game. I guess why not.