I posted this in the Koolaid post and I thought it was decent to a good read...so here you go.

huskerssalts

Defensive Coordinator
Oct 6, 2014
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Beatrice Nebraska
Christopherson: Reasons for optimism for Huskers in 2020


When your favorite football team hasn't been to a bowl game the last three years, combined with the possibility you've binge-watched enough TV in the last two months that your couch thinks you are part of it, there may be those days when you're feeling a bit testy.

But how about this? How about not today? How about some positivity? I think, in some circles, they call it Kool-Aid drinking. That's fine. Take a glass and pour another if you need it.

Because, first off, there are positive signs that we are indeed going to have a football season in some form. Heck, Fox national college football analyst Joel Klatt was feeling so confident about it at the end of this week, he tweeted this:

- The 2020 season is 100% happening
- Fans will be in the stands to some capacity at most locations
- The season will likely start on time


We'll see in the weeks ahead if that prognosticating proves accurate. But I am confident these offseason stories we've been running the last couple months about Husker players for the upcoming season have had a purpose. I believe we're going to see these guys between the lines in the fall, and as weird as this offseason has been, the significance of Year 3 of the Scott Frost era does not diminish.

Nebraska football needs some progress in the win column and developing young players who in time turn into all-conference players, and then set the tone for another young batch of players until it's just a continuous cycle.

The Huskers need to go from hoping they can win to believing they can win to expecting they'll win. Easier written than done. But for a team that is 3-9 in one-score games in the Frost era, think how different the conversation would be if even just a couple more plays each Saturday flipped.

“I’ve been in a lot of games already at Nebraska where if we make one more play, we win the game,” Frost said after Purdue drove the field to beat the Huskers on the final drive last year. “One more play right there.”

The mission is to make woulda, coulda, shoulda, leave the Husker lexicon. Stressing the positives as the theme in this space ahead, here are some reasons to hope it can happen soon.

2019 RECRUITING CLASS HAS A SAY
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It's understandably asking for a black eye when you attach hope to the unseen, but when speaking of what Frost's staff has going at Nebraska, it's also important to stress that his first full recruiting class is in most cases just coming out to read their first lines for us.

Yes, Frost's staff was in on the sprint that produced the 2018 class that included quarterback Adrian Martinez.

But 2019 was their first full-cycle class as Husker coaches, and ranked 17th nationally in the 247Sports composite, and is big in scale. We've already gotten a little taste of it with Wan'Dale Robinson being the headliner so far, and then guys like Luke McCaffrey, Quinton Newsome, Ty Robinson, Bryce Benhart, etc., in small doses.

Mostly, though, they were rehearsing off stage. I'm not going to make bold proclamations for them yet, but will say this: If the 2019 class has a couple guys become main ingredients at O-line, D-line, middle backer and defensive back, and have you feeling like they really developed by the end of this season, your outlook about the whole big picture is probably a much brighter shade for what the years ahead bring.

This recruiting class has the chance right now to start to give the Husker 2-deep a well-constructed floor to stand on, and then you can decorate from there as you go.

There's a reasonable place to hope without overdoing the hype with this class for this season. It doesn't need to be a class that owns half the starting jobs in 2020, and it won't. But it does need to be one that starts to change how we view this team's depth, and it can.

O-LINE SHOULD BE ON A FASTER TRACK
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I liked in March when you heard Matt Farniok and Brenden Jaimes speak of this being a "no excuses" year for the offensive line. Say it louder for the people in the back.

"If you think they said it just on their own, you're crazy," Husker O-line coach Greg Austin told us. "We go into the frickin' meeting room like, 'Hey, boys, what's our excuse?' We don't have a new center, we don't have new all of this, we got 1,000 guys now, got plenty of reps to go around. You tell me, you turn on this film, what's going to be your excuse? Don't want to hear it. Just get the job done."

The O-line returns all its starters, could move Farniok to what seems a more favorable position of left guard if Bryce Benhart proves ready at right tackle, and Cameron Jurgens (more on him later) has seemingly settled in at center. The Huskers were starting to play some ball up front in November, running it well against stingy defenses like Wisconsin, after a first half of the season full of scattered play.

So, given the experience that is back, and the fact the 2019 class should greatly beef up the 2-deep (watch Brant Banks and Ethan Piper, among others), this group should be ready to move people on Day 1 and not wait until Nov. 1. And in this year where there might not be as many practices around the country, and simplification done well could be rewarded, those teams not having offensive lines figuring it out as they go might have even greater advantages than usual.


MARTINEZ HAS SHOWN WHAT HE CAN BE
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A year ago at this time, so many were predicting the biggest of things for Adrian Martinez. Now, some are rushing to go the complete other way with it after an inconsistent season for the QB and offense as a whole.

But once in a while this offseason I've rewatched some of Martinez's games from 2018, and I am reminded that what that guy was doing his first year was pretty special. He wasn't just showing up on those preseason Heisman voting odds last offseason as a favor to him or Nebraska. His 295.1 yards of total offense per game was the ninth highest mark by a freshman in NCAA history and the third best by a true freshman. He had four games with more than 400 yards of offense.

He looked fast, trusted his instincts and also threw a few passes that showed he has arm talent not just anyone does. I get the reason for skepticism after 2019 where Martinez looked less sure at times. I didn’t see it coming either and it confused matters. However, as we stress the positives, my point is we're not talking about somebody who we haven't seen do things very talented QBs do. We have. The view of his possibilities is actually on film. That skillset didn’t just go away. It's about finding it on a consistent basis now, and hopefully having good health.

Nebraska's quarterbacks, and certainly the guy at the top, will have something to prove. But it's also a room with Martinez, McCaffrey and Logan Smothers that a lot of programs wouldn't mind walking into a season with. It doesn't hurt also, after this odd offseason, when your starting QB is now in Year 3 and has seen the good and bad at this level, and had some time to process it and maybe fuel the tank from it too.

SECONDARY PROMISE
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It's not like Travis Fisher has an easy job ahead, because now it's about getting the absolute most out of what's in front of you.

But the picture on the puzzle box if you get those pieces together looks pretty good. The Husker secondary coach has what's close to an ideal combination of returning veterans that should get pushed by eager-for-their-turn youth.

Start with the vets like Dicaprio Bootle, Cam Taylor-Britt, Marquel Dismuke and Deontai Williams – who was probably one of Nebraska's most talented players before his injury in Week 1 last season. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said in March that Williams was playing as good of football as anyone on the defense when his injury came. "That hurt us a lot," Chinander acknowledged.

Williams is back at safety, and it looked like he was fully repaired on Day 1 of spring practice, according to Fisher. Now add in Braxton Clark and Quinton Newsome, who should boost corner depth this year, and Myles Farmer, a redshirt freshman who has everyone's attention over there. There are many others like Noa Pola-Gates, Javin Wright and the 2020 class who could give Fisher a much greater rotation than he had a season ago.

Depth got iffy back there in November. It shouldn't be that way this time.

A NEW VOICE FOR RECEIVERS
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The addition of Matt Lubick as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach was Frost's most significant move of the offseason.

It's hard to pinpoint why it happened exactly, but the Husker receivers as a whole sort of stalled in place the last couple years, minus the exceptions of great talent like JD Spielman, Wan'Dale Robinson and Stanley Morgan. The problem last season was that aside from Spielman and Wan'Dale, there was no trust that anyone on the perimeter was a guy who could make that big play. You want that operation to have six, seven, eight options. It had two, basically.

So in comes Lubick, and a new voice can't hurt. He's had success with Frost before dialing up stuff at Oregon, and his attention to detail was already drawing rave reviews in March from everyone on staff. While spring practice was limited, QBs coach Mario Verduzco saw encouraging things from those receivers even on the first day.

"For us today as a group, just the speed by which guys were getting into and out of their breaks was refreshing for the guys that coach," Verduzco said. "And I had to get (the QBs) as a group and say, 'Listen, when the guys are running this route, it's not going to be like what you're used to before. It's going to happen a lot faster. It's going to be a lot more crisp.' Day 1, man. Right off the bat. ... Despite the fact that those (other 2020) cats aren't here, now when they come in the summer and in the fall, that will just be a carryover."

Lubick has a monster job ahead, given that there are five key receivers in the 2020 class who he needs to get something out of in quick order. Manning, Betts, Nixon, Fleming, Brown. Just names on a paper now until the proof comes at this level. But there's reason to think Nebraska should have more weapons on the perimeter, perhaps aided by Chris Hickman playing more out there too, than a season ago no matter what happens with Spielman.

The bar isn't that high to jump over in that area, so the Huskers need to clear it with some ease even if mistakes are made while youth learns on the job.

MORE ORGANIZATION?


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The Husker staff always does self-scouting during the offseason, but from what coaches told us in March, this year's version was especially instrumental.

You also got the impression Nebraska was trying to trim the fat on both sides of the ball. Frost basically said as much as the spring press conference.

"Last year we were putting a lot of stuff in but I don't think we executed it well enough at a high enough rate and just our level of detail wasn't where we wanted it," said the Husker head coach. “We are really going to dial it in on both sides of the ball this spring. Make sure we are getting good at what we need to get good at. We can expand down the road but the guys are going to get a lot of looks at our base stuff and things they need to execute efficiently."

The new coach Lubick watched every play with Frost, and the input of everyone was on the table.

"Every play was broken down with the 'why.' Why did it work? Why didn't it work? What are we trying to accomplish?" said O-line coach Greg Austin, who is also the run game coordinator. "Why did he take that step? Why are his eyes supposed to be there? Why is his hand supposed to be there? Why is that route depth at eight yards? How many steps does he take before he makes the cut?'"

The unfortunate thing was the Huskers only got through two spring practices to start implementing their plan. But the fact that the Huskers were already in the mode of simplifying some things in the winter might help in this strange year where teams might be mistaken to throw too much data at their squads given the lost months.

Even after just the first spring practice, Frost was optimistic about how much tighter things looked, and praised Lubick for his help on that.

“The level of organization on our offensive side of the ball was already substantially better,” he said. “He's already making an impact. Kind of hard to describe how but some of the things we are doing. The way we are charting what we are doing. How many reps of each thing we are getting. Making sure things are scripted the right way against the right looks."

FILLING IN THE MIDDLE
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For now, it is completely fair to label linebacker a question mark spot on the defense – both inside and outside. The same could be said about the nose tackle spot, where Darrion Daniels is no longer there to eat up space and snaps.

Let’s focus in on that central part of the defense here. It doesn't have to be a step back season. It can be a step forward season at middle linebacker, in fact. If you want a position on the roster where there's uncertainty but also the chance for one strong season of development to make you upbeat about the next couple years, it's Barrett Ruud's group.

Will Honas and Collin Miller need to find another level as seniors, but just as importantly, there's a lot of young players like Luke Reimer, Nick Henrich, Eteva Mauga-Clementes, Garrett Snodgrass, Jackson Hannah, and incoming Keyshawn Greene, who will have their chance to show the future of the spot is in good hands. You don't have to drink the Kool-Aid on this one yet. But there's at least some in the fridge.

The same might go for the nose spot. It's go time for Darrion's younger brother, Damion, but also Jordon Riley, who made a good first impression this winter and in early spring as a JUCO addition. He can help right away inside. Add in Ty Robinson, who could get some nose work, and Keem Green, looking to earn his way into the rotation, and the Huskers don't have to accept going backward when it comes to the guts of its defense.

CAM FIGURED SOME THINGS OUT
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This may be as crucial as anything on offense.

Cameron Jurgens got a lot better by November last season. We all know about the wayward snaps, but Jurgens was also growing into the role of being the command center the first couple months of last fall.

“When you get out there and you have live bullets, there's so much thinking that goes on," Austin said. "What happened with Cam is the game slowed down for the guy. ... You come off to the sideline and he actually gave good feedback, right? Game 1, game 2, game 3, game 4, it was like, 'Cam, what did you see?' (He's like), 'Uhhh...' He's looking at me with those confused eyes. 'Well, Cam, we got to get the ball down. First things first. We got to get the ball down. What did you call?' You had guys on the side of him, like, 'Man, I didn't hear s---."

They started hearing those calls by the end of the year, and you saw Nebraska's offense find more of a rhythm in that Wisconsin game in particular. You saw Dedrick Mills start to benefit too, as the I-back position got involved in the running game. Austin also believes the connection between Jurgens and Adrian Martinez has come a good ways.

When the center is figuring things out on the fly, it can throw everything off. The QB, the other linemen, the backs and receivers and tight ends. That shouldn't be one of the issues now that Jurgens has that year under his belt. This Husker staff could now be rewarded for playing the long game through the struggles and sticking with a guy whose talent they really believe in.

MORE OPTIONS IN THE BACKFIELD
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We saw in November that Dedrick Mills isn't just going to pass through Lincoln quietly.

After a slow first couple months, which didn't involve him getting as many touches, he had 345 of his 745 yards come in the final three games, and that included contests against Wisconsin and Iowa. So his confidence is up going into his senior year.

Just as importantly, Ryan Held has more options this year – even if they're mostly unproven. Or at least he should. Redshirt freshmen Rahmir Johnson doesn't have the four-game cap hanging over his head this year. Ronald Thompkins hopefully is closer to being full go after some tough injuries. And incoming backs Marvin Scott III and Sevion Morrison are coming off resume loaded high school careers into a position where guys can get on the field that first year.

Get the I-back going and it also could take some hits off Martinez and the QBs, which was what Nebraska was heavily resting its run game on the first half of last year. The QBs are always going to carry the ball in this offense. But hopefully a deeper running back room can reduce some wear and tear on those guys and players like Wan'Dale, who feels he was just getting started in showing what he can do.

"I definitely knew I could play a lot better," Robinson told us in March. "A lot of that came with being injured. Knowing that I can do better especially in some areas and being able to play a lot more receiver after not being injured and not having so many leg problems will probably be the best thing."

A SENIOR PUSH
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Nebraska's 2016 class had its share of parts fall off the car on the way to this point.

But those ones that remain are all seniors now who have pivotal roles on this roster. We're talking Ben Stille, Dicaprio Bootle, Marquel Dismuke, JoJo Domann, Collin Miller, Jack Stoll, Matt Farniok, Boe Wilson and JD Spielman if he returns.

As senior classes go, I've seen ones with more guys who were far less instrumental in the roles they had on the team. So while it's easy to get caught up on the young pups, just as important will be the tone these guys in their final seasons set.

This has not been an easy journey, but those inside the program believe the win-loss records (with a lot of close losses involved) don't illustrate the progress that is occurring. Said Brenden Jaimes, from the 2017 class but another important senior, "I think it's closer than people think."

It looks like we're going to get a football season to see if that's the case. But there are reasons, as supplied, to carry hope that a turn around the corner is going to be made in 2020.

And for those seniors in the Husker program, whatever tough days there have been, there is the opportunity to make them seem distant with the right finishing moves.
 

huskerssalts

Defensive Coordinator
Oct 6, 2014
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Beatrice Nebraska
This is definitely one of the longest articles I have read and came a crossed but i figured, hey, we are all bored (I’m guessing here) and there isn’t much going on anyways. At least till we start getting some football practices and updates coming in...;)
 

huskerssalts

Defensive Coordinator
Oct 6, 2014
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Beatrice Nebraska
It was posted in an earlier thread on this board, then there was the original article on a twitter post. Sorry, I was just being sarcastic.

Being fair, I did say right in the thread title “I posted this on a different thread”. So there is that. Myself, I’d gave it a simple like and moved along.
 

huskerssalts

Defensive Coordinator
Oct 6, 2014
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Beatrice Nebraska
Good article. Worth the time I think. What the hell, it isn't like there's a baseball game to watch.

it definitely is a good article to read. The writer spent some time on it for sure. I posted it in the kool aid thread but just Incase some of our board members didn’t check that thread out, I decided to to give it its own thread so everyone had a chance to read it. I was merely trying to be nice and share the info.
 

huskerssalts

Defensive Coordinator
Oct 6, 2014
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Beatrice Nebraska
No need to defend yourself, like I said it was sarcasm. No reason to extend this discussion

All is good my man. I didn’t even pay attention to your first post anyways because I didn’t understand what the group of letters meant. But I’m not mad or bothered even a little. I just wanted everyone to have a chance to read it if they chose to. ;)
 

ncaalover12

Defensive Coordinator
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Jul 20, 2005
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CRAP why did I have to read this in May??? I'm ready for the season to start already