So the 2019 season left us with a ton of questions. Then we had two coaching changes, transfers and and kids medically retiring among other things. So now we have even more questions going into spring football.
Here are ten questions I hope are answered by the end of spring football.
1. JD Spielman. Is he coming back or nah?
Right now that might have been the bombshell of the off-season. For those of you who haven’t heard, the Nebraska Athletic Department sent out the following statement
Senior receiver JD Spielman is away from the football team temporarily and at home with family in Minnesota. Spielman is unlikely to take part in spring football.
“JD Spielman is dealing with a personal health matter currently, and at this time is not expected to participate in spring practices,” Nebraska Head Coach Scott Frost said. “Everyone’s focus right now is on JD’s well-being and providing him with the appropriate support. We anticipate JD returning to the team in time for summer conditioning.”
Depending on how you are looking at it, this could simply be great opportunities for the rest of the wide receivers on the roster.
Regarding the question of whether he is going to come back, I think it would be wise to move forward with the expectation that Spielman will not return.
2. Answers at wide receiver. Are there any?
Right now the only returning experience from the 2019 season is Wan’Dale Robinson, Chris Hickman and Kade Warner. Hickman is labeled as a tight end but he could probably considered to be a hybrid of some type.
I guess if you want add Luke McCaffrey to that list then go ahead. Not counting the walk-ons those are the potential answers we will see in the spring.
Not exactly a source of confidence.
Maybe Demariyon Houston or Jaime Nance, who we did not get to see last year, could have benefited from a year in the weight room. Maybe they could have a breakout spring. We sure hope so because if JD Spielman does not come back then Nebraska might be putting a lot of hope in Omar Manning, who at this time is still working on getting academically eligible.
3. Will there be any changes regarding offensive play-calling?
It was announced that offensive line coach Greg Austin received the additional title of “run-game coordinator.” Also, as we all know there was the hiring of Matt Lubick as the official “offensive coordinator.”
It is my assumption that Scott Frost will continue calling plays in 2020, but maybe there is a chance he is thinking about giving up the responsibility. There were numerous post-game answers from Coach Frost which sounded like the following — “I don’t know, I was busy working on the next offensive possession.”
What is the role of Austin regarding his influence on the play-calling?
Maybe if Frost gives up responsibilities during the game that he could focus on special teams. Speaking of which...
4. How will the special teams duties spread out among the coaches?
One of the changes was the hiring of Auburn’s special teams analyst Jonathan Rutledge. Unfortunately he cannot be on the field coaching. He can’t be making in-game decisions. Of course I’m not sure how you can enforce that rule but it is a rule nonetheless. This means that somebody or a group of somebodies will have to coach the special teams.
Maybe this is something Frost an take on himself? Kind of an out of the box thought but you never know.
5. Find any answers to the kicking game?
One thing we might actually learn this spring is who will likely be the kicker in 2020. My guess is that it is going to be Chase Contreraz from Iowa Western Community College. He connected on 15-18 field goals and went 44-46 on extra points at the junior college.
Now can he kick the ball into the end-zone on kickoffs?
6. Who will be tasked to replace the Davis twins and Darrion Daniels?
I think Ben Stille is the only for sure thing going into spring. My other assumptions are that Keem Green and Ty Robinson will make their presence known. Apparently Ty Robinson was the highest graded defensive lineman in the game against Wisconsin.
Also look out for Deontre Thomas and Damion Daniels. They both made contributions in 2019.
Mosai Newsom still might be a year away as he continues to get bigger.
There is a lot of talent that graduated as they are preparing to be drafted by the NFL. There are some big shoes to fill.
7. Improvement from the inside linebackers?
Remember when everybody’s favorite Minnesota football coach said that they didn’t think Nebraska’s linebackers could run fit on outside zone running plays? I do. He was right.
We know that there needs to be improved play from the inside linebackers. They bring back Collin Miller and Will Honas but what about Jackson Hannah, Nick Henrich or Luke Reimer? Can any of them push Miller or Honas or straight up take their spot?
The wild card is Eteva Mauaga-Clements. He could be exactly what Nebraska needed at that position.
There are a lot of opportunities at this position.
8. If Dedrick Mills gets hurt should they cancel the season?
Among many topics that I am really looking for some reassurance, there is nothing that makes me more nervous than the running back position.
I am interested to know what is the plan for the running back position. After Dedrick Mills then the assumption is that Rhamir Johnson is more of a change of pace running back. After Johnson thre is Ronald Thompkins but he has had issues staying healthy.
Sevion Morrison and Marvin Scott III will not be showing up until the summer and maybe one of them will be able to contribute right away.
9. Will there be a starting five along the offensive line in place that we should expect to go forward into the fall?
There continues to be expectations that Bryce Benhart will be taking Matt Farniok’s spot at right tackle and Farniok will move inside as some see that he will be a future pro on the inside of the offensive line.
Has the depth gotten to the point that Nebraska can go seven or eight deep?
10. Is Adrian Martinez finally healthy? How much did injuries affect his performance last year?
This is a joke because Frost won’t be answering that one.