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Nebraska Football Post-Season Triage: Hope for 2020, Quarterback Competition and More

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What are my sources of hope? How does this roster look going into 2020? My criticism of Frost’s “no comment on injuries” rule and more in this rundown.

Iowa v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

It is hard being a fan of this program. It really is. I am a fan of a lot of other teams. This includes all of the remaining Nebraska sports, the New York Knicks, Lebron James, Chicago Bears and the Chicago Cubs. The Chicago Cubs is the only thing that even approaches the amount of emotional investment that I have in Nebraska football.

On a 1-10 scale of emotional investment the Chicago Cubs are an 8. The Bears are a 6. The Nebraska basketball team is a 5 and the rest are 3’s or 2’s. I wish I could get into Nebraska Volleyball (since they are an all-time great program) but I just don’t know enough about the sport yet. I have two young daughters so that will likely change some day.

On a 1-10 scale, Nebraska football might be a 12. Maybe a 15.

I remember tweeting out once how hard it is to be a Nebraska football fan and I received a lot of backlash. Generally, the responses were from fans of programs that never achieved very much. Like, “you think it’s hard to be a Nebraska fan? Try being a ____________ fan!”

That would be so much easier. There are no expectations. There isn’t a seemingly unending stream of fan support and money. The former unanimous coach of the year didn’t come home to right the ship.

Our expectations aren’t unrealistic. Our standards for the program might be.

Even if you disagree with that last statement, I think two seasons of 4-8 and one of 5-7 can rightfully be considered unacceptable.

That isn’t even that hard part of being a Nebraska fan.

It’s the hope.

Hope is really hard and I’m running out of it. It isn’t because of Coach Frost. It’s because there is only so much hope I can spend on Nebraska football. At some point my emotional investment is the program will have to drop to the level of the Chicago Cubs.

That will be a sad day. I hope it never happens.

Quarterback competition. It has to happen.

I don’t even care if Coach Frost and Verduzco have already agreed that Martinez is the presumed starter next spring.

Well actually now that I am typing this, I actually do care.

At least say publicly that it is an open quarterback competition. Noah Vedral, Adrian Martinez, Luke McCaffrey and incoming recruit Logan Smothers will not be worse because there was some competition. Bring it on.

Martinez had a rough year. It could have been because of health. It could have been because of scheme and coaching. It could also have been because of his teammates or his supporting cast.

Regardless, you cannot put that situation in front of Nebraska fans again. We (they) aren’t dumb and sometimes the eye test says a whole lot. So does having Coach Frost come off of the sideline and beg Adrian Martinez to run for a first down.

Something wasn’t right. Spencer Tillman even mentioned after reading into Martinez’s body language that Martinez intended to limit the amount that he ran this season.

So I ask to not treat Nebraska fans like children. We can see something is wrong. Don’t act like we are stupid.

With that said. If there is a legitimate quarterback competition and McCaffrey, Logan Smothers or Vedral beat out Adrian Martinez then I would expect Martinez to leave. Would you blame him? You go from having pre-season Heisman finalist expectations to being benched the following year by either a true freshman, redshirt-freshman or a junior.

How would you react if that happened? Freak out? Say “don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya?”

For what it’s worth I think a healthy Adrian Martinez will win that competition easily.

Speaking of injuries.

Scott Frost’s “no comment on injuries rule” should be revisited.

I hate the rule. I’ve brought it up before and people have responded with telling me how all of these other great coaches have that rule.

Cool.

Also, irrelevant.

I am not asking Coach Frost to start every Monday press conference with the following:

“Glad to get the win but we have a few injuries to report. First, Adrian Martinez’s right knee, left ankle, right shoulder and pinkie finger will continue to be examined by our doctors. I will let you know as soon as I can whether he will be able to play this coming week. Second, Cam Taylor-Britt? Dude’s left hip is a disaster. I’m surprised he can walk. Third, Barret Pickering’s clavicle is shattered. He still should good to go this week as we try and pooch some kickoffs. Fourth, Bryce Benhart’s tallness is becoming an issue as our ceilings are apparently too low as he has received multiple concussions from walking around campus. Lastly, Darrion Daniels will not be playing this coming week as he graduated last year and is currently playing for the Jaguars. Thanks.”

I completely understand the hesitation to talk about injuries. If you say that Adrian Martinez’s right knee is bothering him then guess what Iowa linebackers are going to do? Hit that right knee whenever they get a chance.

However, I think the application of the rule has really hurt the fan base’s perception of how Adrian Martinez played. Yes, we know that he wasn’t healthy as he missed multiple games with injuries. If you make a pie chart with all the reasons why Martinez played so poorly this year, I believe that injuries would be the biggest piece of the pie. It could be 50% or it could be 25% or whatever other number you may choose.

So when he is put into the game and plays poorly (this is assuming that I am right), then I think Frost really could have helped Martinez if he said something like the following:

“Adrian is playing hurt right now. The guys behind him are making a lot of progress but at this point, even with his health situation, Adrian still gives us the best chance to win the game.”

Take some pressure off the guy.

I mean it’s no secret that he is injured. He is wearing a knee brace and something on his arm. It ain’t a secret.

Better hope red-shirt freshmen are contributors next year. Because if they aren’t then this rebuilding process is going to take even longer. Here are the freshmen who did not burn their red-shirt and still have at least four more years to play college football. Keem Green would be the exception as he has two. Barret Pickering obviously is not a freshman but he also got to use his red-shirt this season.

  • Jamie Nance
  • Demariyon Houston
  • Luke McCaffrey
  • Jackson Hannah
  • Darien Chase
  • Rahmir Johnson
  • Myles Farmer
  • Ronald Thompkins
  • Noa Pola-Gates
  • Javin Wright
  • Garrett Snodgrass
  • Nick Henrich
  • Mosai Newsom
  • Bryce Benhart
  • Ethan Piper
  • Matthew Anderson
  • Brant Banks
  • Michael Lynn
  • Jimmy Fritzsche
  • Chris Hickman
  • Jamin Graham
  • Ty Robinson
  • Dylan Jorgensen
  • Zach Weinmaster

Quinton Newsome, Garrett Nelson, Wan’Dale Robinson and Luke Reimer are the only freshmen who played in more than four games.

It is safe to say that Frost chose to side with saving a year for many of these freshmen at the expense of helping the 2019 football team. I agree with the tactic. When we get to next year and the years after then we won’t care about 2019.

Search for a kicker. It continues and I really don’t know what the answer is going to be. I believe that Barret Pickering is the long term answer when it comes to kicking field goals. My biggest concern is kick-offs. We need to find somebody who can consistently kick it in the end-zone. I don’t think there is anybody on the roster who can do that at this moment.

Michigan State v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Chase Contreraz is a walk-on kicker commit from Iowa Western Community College. Can he kick it in the end-zone? I really hope so.

The offensive line gives me the most hope going forward. They improved throughout the year and it showed up against a couple of the best defenses in the country in Wisconsin and Iowa.

There were still issues finishing out drives but if the offensive line continues to improve then we are looking at likely the strongest group on the entire team because they have some future maulers coming up behind them.

We may also need to remind ourselves that the starting center was a red-shirt freshmen who had never played center in a game until this year. He made a ton of growth and we should start seeing dividends going forward. There were severe snapping issues for the first one-third of the season but Scott Frost placed a bet on Cameron Jurgens and I think it’s going to come up big in the end.

Nebraska v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Add in Bryce Benhart, Broc Bando, and Ethan Piper who all saw time this year. Supposedly the ideal position for Matt Farniok is for him to move to guard so Bryce Benhart can move to right tackle.

If you have a moment go look at the frames of the other freshmen in the 2019 recruiting class. I think we have some things brewing on the offensive line.

Regarding the 2020 recruiting class we have a border-line five star offensive line commit in Turner Corcoran.

If you want to bet the overs on win total for 2020, I think the offensive line the best reason to make that bet.

Speaking of win totals for 2020.

Nebraska starts the season off with Purdue. That’s different. Then the last five games go like this:

  • At Ohio State
  • Penn State
  • At Iowa
  • At Wisconsin
  • Minnesota

Brutal.

I know this probably falls under the category of “way too early” but I am thinking the over/under on wins might be set at 6.5. I’m not particularly enthusiastic about that.

The defensive line will need to reload for 2020. Unfortunately, I am not as confident in the defensive line as the offensive line going forward.

Nebraska brings back Ben Stille and Deontre Thomas. You could do a lot worse. Both of those guys could take a huge step forward and Nebraska will need them to do so. Keem Green is probably the front runner to replace Darrion Daniels. There were numerous comments about how big he was and how it was impressive that he could move like he could. My concern though is that they only used him in two of the four games this past year.

Maybe that had something to do with Darrion Daniels just playing really well. Who knows. The other upcoming bright spot is Ty Robinson. He sounds like he might end up being a beast and we have four more years of him. Good on Coach Frost.

Tate Wilderman and Casey Rogers are also looking like possible contributors as well.

I might have talked myself into feeling a little bit better about the defensive line but it isn’t close the offensive line in terms of comfort.

Depth will still feel thin at inside linebacker next year. After losing (one of my favorite Huskers) Mohamed Barry, the presumed starters are Collin Miller and Will Honas. I think Collin Miller has a chance to have a really good year. Remember, that he has played at defensive end, outside linebacker and now at inside linebacker. This is the first time he’s had a full season at one position. When he is decisive he just makes plays.

Honas was considered the most consistent inside linebacker in 2019 so that is nice to have one more year of him.

So that leaves us with a couple red-shirt freshmen. Nick Henrich, Jackson Hannah and Garrett Snodgrass. Hannah came into the 2019 season as a hot-pick to be a contributor and maybe play more than four games. He didn’t play in a single game. Hopefully that was health related.

Opportunity for this coaching staff to reevaluate themselves. Duh. It is perfectly natural. After going 4-8 and then 5-7 every member of the staff should be evaluating their own process. Why are things not working out the way that they should? What can you do to be a better coach and to put kids in a better position to succeed?

I hear people saying that this coach staff really needs to “take a look in the mirror” or something else like that. You think people who have been this successful or have climbed up the coaching ladder don’t do that every single off-season? I would bet that they do because they would like to continue to feed their family.

I would bet that Ryan Day at Ohio State will do the same thing regardless of their outcome this season. Same for Dabo Swinney.

One thing I bet Frost and friends will analyze is why they are 3-9 in games decided by a touchdown or less. That would be a great start.