Nebraska football: 7 Christmas wishes for the Huskers
The Christmas season is upon us, and with that comes excitement. But “excitement” might not be the best way to describe the current state of the Nebraska football program, which wisely decided to call it a season and not pursue a bowl game last Sunday.
That left Husker Nation wondering about the future, and what next season might look like. In the spirit of the Holidays, here are 7 Christmas wishes for the Nebraska football team:
1. Find an offensive identity
Scott Frost has been the head coach of Nebraska for 3 seasons now, and fans can’t tell you what the offensive identity is. That’s because the Huskers don’t have one. Fans would love to see an offense that leans on a down-hill rushing attack — kind of like the one we just witnessed against Rutgers — but does Frost want that?
We know what Frost’s flashy offense looked like at UCF, it’s the very thing that got him hired in Lincoln and had Florida interested. But is that brand of football able to be replicated in the B1G against grown-man defenses? So far, it doesn’t look like it.
2. The quarterbacks — figure it out
Something needs to be changed in the quarterback room, whether that’s with the QBs themselves or the coaches that teach the position.
Adrian Martinez completed 71.5 percent of his passes this season — that’s really good. But he averaged 7 yards per completion — that isn’t. Something was clearly wrong during games. Was he confused about defensive coverages? Did he not trust his arm? These are the questions fans wonder about.
What happens next season with Luke McCaffrey will be interesting. Right now, the kid doesn’t look like a Division I passer. He just doesn’t. Do you chalk that up to him still learning how to be a quarterback as a redshirt freshman, or do you realize he may be better at a different position?
True freshman Logan Smothers brings some intrigue to the quarterback question as well. Frost’s quarterback recruits seem to be guys who can run really well but can only throw a little. Is Smothers the player who can do both really well, or will he be similar to Martinez and McCaffrey? We’ll only find that out if he gets on the field against live defenses.
3. Turn McCaffrey into a receiver or running back
This subject was touched on above, but it needs to be debated. Should Frost turn McCaffrey into a receiver or running back? He’s too talented with the ball in his hands to keep on the sideline.
If the answer is no, then the work needed to turn McCaffrey into a capable Division I passer is immense. The only way he’s going to get better throwing the ball is if he’s on the field doing it. Martinez is clearly the better option to win games, so would that mean Frost benches his most dynamic offensive player again?
If the answer is yes, does Frost risk losing McCaffrey to the transfer portal? Or is the Colorado native open to the position-switch idea? Nebraska’s skill positions would get a considerable boost if McCaffrey was getting the ball in space, or running behind power and counter blocking schemes.
McCaffrey switching positions might benefit all parties involved. He’d be more valuable to the team as a receiver or ball carrier, not throwing against B1G defenses.
4. Enter the portal in search of a QB
OK, so 2 of the first 3 Christmas wishes have been about the quarterback situation in Lincoln. Why not another?
Nebraska should pull back the curtain and see what kind of quarterbacks are available in the transfer portal. If the Huskers can bring one in, let the best man win. Martinez has already proven he handles adversity extremely well.
Some names that are in the portal right now include Jack Coan (Wisconsin), Jarrett Guarantano (Tennessee), Hendon Hooker (Virginia Tech), Tanner Mordecai (Oklahoma), Grant Gunnell (Arizona), Chase Brice (first Clemson, then Duke), Chris Robison (first Oklahoma, then Florida Atlantic), Patrick O’Brien (first Nebraska, then Colorado State), Rocky Lombardi (Michigan State) and Jawon Pass (Louisville).
Who’s one to keep an eye on that would fit Frost’s offense? I’d go with Hooker, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder who has passed for 2,894 yards and 22 touchdowns against 7 interceptions in 3 seasons with the Hokies.
Darriel Mack Jr. of UCF is also in the portal. He was recruited by Mario Verduzco, Frost’s current quarterbacks coach. He would provided the dual-threat ability Frost craves.
5. Play Fidone at tight end and split him out
The gem of the 2021 recruiting class is Thomas Fidone, who’s thought to be big enough — he’s 6-5, 230 — and fast enough to be a mismatch nightmare for the Huskers.
With Austin Allen and Travis Vokolek returning — and maybe even Jack Stoll, if he wants to use his extra year of eligibility — the Huskers could have one of the best tight end rooms in the B1G next season. The addition of Fidone makes it even better, but how about this: use Fidone away from the line of scrimmage and see what he can do.
Let’s jump out on a limb here and say Fidone will need to grow into being a solid blocker against B1G defensive ends and linebackers, at least in his 1st year on campus. Allen and Vokolek have had multiple seasons of doing that and can hold down the in-line tight end spots.
But there are reps to be had at wideout. Fidone could grab some in the slot, or he could be used in the backfield as an H back.
6. Stop committing penalties
This could be the 1st wish made by fans, because there are some real pull-your-hair-out penalties during Frost’s tenure at Nebraska.
Since 2018, the Huskers have averaged 6.5 penalties per game. In Frost’s 1st season, 2018, Nebraska committed 7.7 per game, which was 12th in the B1G. Things got a bit better in 2019 with 5.1 before regressing to 6.8 this season.
Things would run a lot smoother on offense if the Huskers cut down on the mental-error stuff like false starts.
7. A season without snap issues
Inaccurate snaps from the center position shouldn’t be a problem, but it was at times the past 2 seasons. Cam Jurgens will be a 3-year starter at the position next season. There can’t be more of the same issues in 2021. Can’t be.