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Shatel: 'Buy or sell' Scott Frost, best Husker nickname and more fan questions
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FIRST DOWN AND SECOND GUESSES

Shatel: 'Buy or sell' Scott Frost, best Husker nickname and more fan questions

On the latest episode, World-Herald staff writers Jon Nyatawa and Sam McKewon sort through the issues facing the Jays and Huskers as the teams work to solidify a regular season schedule in the wake of the pandemic. Will the NCAA's blueprint work? Will Creighton and Nebraska play this winter? Jon and Sam also discuss why CU feels it has more to prove, and why NU will be much improved.

First downs and second guesses with a little help from my friends:

What’s a guy like me doing in a place like Twitter? Taking questions.

» “With Mike Leach leading Mississippi State to a big win over LSU in his first game, and Kansas State beating Oklahoma two years in a row, why do you think Nebraska is having such a hard time showing improvements going into Year 3 with Coach Frost?” — Jimmy1010.

Good question. Leach made a big splash, and did it against stubborn Bo Pelini, but let’s see how he does against the rest of the league. That said, it’s a good point.

The opening two weeks of 2018 set Frost back. Take away the rainout of the opener and the injury to Adrian Martinez, and that’s a bowl season. And the take on Frost is much different.

Lack of playmaker at receiver. Adjusting to the physicality and coaching of the Big Ten (many of whom are giving Frost their full attention). Youth on the coaching staff and lack of attention to detail (special teams, penalties).

Bottom line: This is still a young head coach and staff learning as they go in a good league. They’ve made mistakes and haven’t gotten a lot of breaks. They are also still acquiring talent. It will get better. It has to get better.

» “Should college football really be happening — is it really safe for the athletes and why are some staff on the sidelines even pretending to be wearing a mask?” — Tim Reznicek.

My stance on this all along has been yes, they should try to play until it’s shown that it is not safe.

So far, there has been no evidence that coronavirus is being contracted on the playing fields. A big part of that is, the athletes are all tested before the games. Nobody on the field should be positive.

In baseball, two teams were shut down for a while because those players went out socially where they should not have gone. But baseball continued on and finished the season. The NFL is playing. College football has had some postponements but is also going forth.

There will be more postponements. But most players and coaches know the routine and are being smart. I think the college football season will continue and finish with the national championship.

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» “Do you ever feel your column has too much influence on Husker sports? Or do you take no responsibility for the coaching changes in the last 20 years?” — Alex Shriver.

I love this question because it’s a compliment. And a huge misnomer.

If you want to give me credit for every firing that’s happened the past 20 years, go ahead. Put it on my tab. But there’s some things you should know.

True story: When I first came to Omaha I wrote that Tom Osborne should throw the ball more. Next thing I knew, Cory Schlesinger ran for two touchdowns and NU was the national champ.

I once called for Barry Collier’s firing once a year for three straight years. Three years later, Collier left NU on his own.

After the 2013 Iowa game, Bo Pelini dared A.D. Shawn Eichorst to fire him. I wrote that Bo was gone. Bo and I were both wrong. A year later, I thought he was staying. He was gone.

As for Mike Riley, I was stunned by his hiring. Not so much by his exit.

I’m not naive. I know administrators and coaches sometimes look to see which way the wind blows before making decisions. But if I’ve influenced any boosters or A.D.s, many more decisions have been made in spite of what I wrote.

I write opinions. I don’t make decisions. But do I sometimes wonder if what I said here comes out there? Sure. I know, what an ego.

» “What are the top three Husker nicknames of all time, i.e., Johnny the Jet, Sandman, etc?” — Bob Friend.

We don’t see many nicknames anymore and that’s too bad. College football lends itself to great nicknames. In the spirit of the the 1970 Nebraska team this season, I’ll go with Guy “The Fly” Ingles.

» “Where does Alex Gordon rank among former Huskers to play MLB? Better than (Darin) Erstad? Any older players in the conversation?” —John Gilroy.

I’ll put Gordon at No. 1. He and Erstad each played 14 years in the big leagues and were World Champions (Erstad with the 2002 Angels). Erstad had a better career average (.282 to .275) but Gordon had more homers (190 to 124) and RBIs (749 to 699), one more All-Star appearance (three to two) and four more gold gloves (seven to three).

Add the fact that Gordon won a World Series title for a local favorite, the Royals, and I think he’ll be known as the top Husker.

Let’s not forget Bob Cerv, the former Husker who played in the bigs from 1951-62, hit .276 with 105 homers and, of course, was best known as the roommate of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris during their record home run chase in 1961.

» “Would it be smart of Frost and company to try and influence more high school teams to run their offense?” — Ryan Harmon.

Yes, I do. As you point out, that was typically the case under Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne — a lot of those big linemen were home grown.

Not sure how many Nebraska high schools are running spread or Oregon stuff. But Mike Huffman at Bellevue West has been ahead of the pack in running modern offenses. Huffman has turned BW into “Receiver High.” And they win and win and win. Will other high schools follow that lead?

» Brandon Fisicaro pointed out that Frost ran some option in the middle of the Ohio State game last year and never went back to it. Fisiscaro asks, “Could we hope for a wrinkle that leads to more option?”

Not sure Brandon, but I think with Matt Lubick on board, anything and everything is possible. Last week Mississippi’s Lane Kiffin had two quarterbacks on the field at the same time. I wonder if Frost could do that with Adrian Martinez and Luke McCaffrey. I think we’ll see some different stuff, yes. And with more quarterback depth, more quarterback run game too.

» “Have the academic benefits to UNL (and more importantly UNMC) made it impossible for Nebraska to ever leave the Big Ten?” — James Heiliger.

This is a great question. The answer is yes, in the short term, NU is not going anywhere. If Nebraska went to the Big 12, it could make close enough to Big Ten money that you could justify the better schematic and recruiting fit for Frost.

Nebraska did not join the Big Ten because of academics; it did so to preserve football. But let’s be honest: the power of Big Ten academics is real and no NU president would be able to look his colleagues in the eyes and say he willingly left all the academic gold dust the Big Ten adds to NU’s reputation.

That said, I think another major realignment shift is coming in the future and anything is possible.

» “Buy or sell Scott Frost as the head coach? Does (Erik Chinander) need to be replaced? Lovely guy, but will a 3-4 ever work in Lincoln?” — Vincent Carroll.

Absolutely, I buy. Again, what I saw at UCF was real. And I get it, it’s the Big Ten now, all that. But that UCF team had talent, speed, identity, discipline, passion, everything you want. And Frost’s coaching staff produced that.

I think Frost probably has had a little too much swagger and not enough players here. You have to coach up what you have. That has and hasn’t happened.

But there’s a rule in college football and it’s simplistic but true: It’s about the players, not the coaches and schemes. Frost and Chinander need more, better players. Speed. Playmakers. They are coming. Judge them then. But, yes, I’m still buying.

» One more and I’m outta here: “What would Husker football/athletics be like right now if Steve Pederson and Harvey Perlman were in charge?” — Adam.

Getting ready for the Missouri Valley Conference football opener.

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