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World-Herald Sports Editor and Nebraska beat writer Sam McKewon answers Husker mailbag questions from Twitter or Facebook on a periodic basis. Here is the latest batch from the social media mailbag.
If Nebraska doesn’t start 4-1, does Frost have even a lukewarm hot seat?
Not starting 4-1 probably means 3-2, and under those circumstances I’d say it depends on how good Michigan State is. (Always the context with me, I know.) By then we’ll have an idea, since the Spartans have road games at Northwestern and Miami before they play Nebraska. I’m not expecting a bowl season from MSU in 2021, but Mel Tucker is a good coach who already beat NU once at Colorado in 2019.
A loss at Illinois would be a big problem. A loss at Michigan State might be too, but there’s time to turn 3-2 into 5-2 with wins over Northwestern and Michigan.
This should be a two-year evaluation. Frost has turned over the roster, making it bigger, stronger and longer. A brutish schedule in 2021 gives way to a kinder one in 2022. I think the magic number over two seasons is 15.
Bottom line: If Nebraska goes 6-6, this conversation is extended another year. Is the contract extended? That’ll be worth watching.
Four wins on the road by Frost in 3 years. Why is it that difficult? I see maybe one this year? Illinois isn't easy to start out with either.
I’m calling for two road wins in 2021 — Illinois and Michigan State. If I had to pick a third, Wisconsin.
In Frost’s first three years, Nebraska has lost seven road games by 10 or fewer points. Two to Iowa, two to Northwestern and one each to Colorado, Purdue and Ohio State. Nebraska’s defense faltered late in almost all of those games, especially the ones in 2018 and 2019. Those issues appear to have been resolved.
Perhaps raising money for a much-needed overhaul of Memorial Stadium, including bigger seats with backs and cupholders, will be easier if the sellout streak lapses.
What do you feel are the chances Trev (Alberts) adds hockey at UNL?
None. Alberts could try to get a UNO hockey weekend at Pinnacle Bank Arena though, and UNO gets the gate. One weekend. It’d be fun, and Mav fans would enjoy the Haymarket.
Any update on the big hoops visitors from June (Traudt, Biliew, Westry, Green, etc.)?
Nebraska’s addition of Ramel Lloyd might have been the biggest commit. NU prioritized Lloyd for his size and all-around skill set, and beat some high-level programs for his services.
Isaac Traudt, from Grand Island, is a major priority for Nebraska, but he’s indicated he’s going to dig deep into the process. A visit with Kansas may even be in the works.
Jasen Green, from Millard North, is sneaky good and a glue guy whose skill set resides somewhere between David Rivers and Isaiah Roby.
Chance Westry is a bit of a mystery, but the recruiting sites suggest he's a Syracuse lean.
Omaha Biliew is a 2023 five-star from Des Moines now plays for Montverde Academy in Florida and unofficially visited Nebraska in June. NU has a long shot with him — he was born in Omaha and has area ties — but NU has to show progress during the season. An NIT bid at least.
Has anybody ever asked Frost why he likes to call the screen/swing pass so much when there is no evidence that it works for Nebraska?
It’s not always a play call unto itself, but an option or read built into a play call. Many of NU’s plays are designed to beat any defense, regardless what it is, which is why you don’t see Adrian Martinez changing plays a lot at the line of scrimmage. Some plays have a running back give, a quarterback keep and a quick screen throw built into it.
Occasionally the running back swing pass is a play call, and against Iowa it worked many times. The Huskers caught the Hawkeyes in multiple blitzes during that game.
The wide receiver screen pass, typically thrown when NU has a favorable blocker-to-defender ratio on the edge of the field, worked for a touchdown against Purdue. Blockers Austin Allen and Travis Vokolek double-teamed a Boilermaker defender as Martinez faked to Dedrick Mills and threw to Wyatt Liewer, who ran outside the block for a score.
Nebraska could stand to execute the play better, but it’s a part of Frost’s system and functions like a long handoff.
Trev Alberts takes over the A.D. job as NU begins its second decade in the Big Ten. “It’s pretty natural to say, ‘Things aren’t working out,’ but Nebraskans don’t run from challenges,” Alberts said.
With UNL encouraging fans to follow players on social media to improve players’ NIL marketability, do you think there will be more negative interactions based on fans’ increased sense of entitlement?
Depends on the school, the sport and the fan base. Nebraska volleyball? Not really. Football? Much more likely, especially on Twitter, where it’s so easy to hide your identity while writing hideous things. Not all of them are fans either.
Cameo appears a little safer because players control the output there. That seems to be a decent little side business for players with decent fan followings.
Will we have a 1,000 yard rusher? How many running backs will rush for more than 400 yards this year?
I lean against it happening. Nebraska will more likely rotate two or three backs, with two of them topping 400 yards for the season. Martinez may top 400 too.
The Illinois, Fordham and Buffalo games are key. NU’s No. 1 back may have 350-400 yards by mid-September. Many 1,000-yard backs get there because they rack up major yards in the walk-over games.
What's the best thing at Runza?
Once a year I buy a plain Runza at a game, usually late in the season. The first game I ever attended, the 1986 Kansas State snow game, included a halftime Runza — my first one of those.
Remember Rock N Roll Runza in downtown Lincoln? The state tournament destination? All things Runza tasted better there.
Nebraska's hiring of Trev Alberts is about more than football, but “one of the most decorated defensive players in Husker history” has as much cachet as anyone who played in the famed '90s, writes Sam McKewon.