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An early look at the Nebraska Cornhuskers

Corn Nation gives us the scoop on what Nebraska showed during the spring.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It’s never too early to write about next season!

With spring football completed for college programs, and with what feels like a long offseason until late July/early August, B5Q wanted to check on the Wisconsin Badgers’ 2019 opponents—with the help of some of our SB Nation friends.

Note: These previews will not be in the chronological order of the games, but we hope to get through all of them at some point before fall camp rolls around.

On Nov. 16 inside Memorial Stadium, Wisconsin will hope to upend the Nebraska Cornhuskers in what could be a critical divisional showdown.

Our friends at Corn Nation (quite a few of them) took some time out of their busy schedules to answer some questions we had about Scott Frost’s program heading into next season.

What are your overall thoughts about Nebraska heading into the 2019 season?

Nate M: Terrified yet excited. Right now there are chances that RB1 and RB2 won’t be available next season. I am still assuming Maurice Washington will use his redshirt next year because of his legal issues and Dedrick Mills at the time of writing this has yet to qualify academically. I feel like the dog in that GIF where everything is burning around him and he says, “This is fine.” I also didn’t get much sleep last night.

Excited because of Adrian Martinez.

Paul: Agree with Nate. So much is riding on this season. Nebraska was better on the field than 4-8 indicates ... by my estimates we should have been 6-6 or even 7-5. But chance is, well, capricious and some seasons you don’t get any breaks. If that happens again, Nebraska’s patience with Frost may run thin.

Jon Johnston: This is traditionally the time of the year when Nebraska fans drink much red Kool-Aid (did you know Kool-Aid was invented in Nebraska?)* and become drunk with the excitement of the coming year. We will win the Big Ten West! We will compete for a Big Ten title! We will have a great, explosive offense and at least an average defense. Our enemies will shake once again at the mention of our name! Woooooooooo!

*Ed. note: No, I did not, actually.

Andy: Trying to keep it all in check. From the Kool Aid perspective, five of the Huskers’ eight losses were by one score or less and the same could be said about only one of their four wins. Statistically, they were much better than the record indicated and now they get a full year under their belt with a staff that has a proven record of turning things around.

I think both Mills and Washington will be on campus, Adrian Martinez who wasn’t good enough last year to crack any of the three All-B1G teams is a Heisman candidate (no, I’m not bitter) and the o-line has spent a full year in the no-longer-voluntary weight room with Zach Duval. The defense will still make us wince on occasion, but looking at the easier 2019 schedule, 8-4 or 9-3 actually seems like a safe pick.

Who are the main players returning, and how could they help Nebraska next season?

Nate M: Adrian Martinez is numero uno. He could possibly be the greatest thing since sliced bread. The quarterback position is the most important on the roster, and he will have to be great to overcome the lack of players at the running back position and the interior of the offensive line.

JD Spielman is also back and if he stays healthy he should probably go for over 1,000 yards receiving. On defense, there is Mohamed Barry who wants to win and doesn’t give a …. if he offends somebody in the process.

Paul: Martinez is pretty much the Alpha and Omega of this team right now. If he stay healthy and has the kind of year he had last year, Nebraska should be a nine-win team.

Jon J: If three guys mention Martinez, do we get free beer? Jack Stoll is a decent producer at tight end, and while we don’t have a stand out wideout besides Spielman, it won’t matter! That Scott Frost offense will have guys running open all over the field while Martinez turns average receivers into stars just like Aaron Rodgers! We’ll barely need a defense with all the scoring we’ll be doing. Wooooooooo!

Andy: Martinez, barring any more knee-twisting in Boulder, along with Spielman and Mo Washington. I would also look at Stoll to make a jump from his 21 catches last year.

On defense, there is aforementioned Barry, but I’m also looking at Ben Stille to wreak some havoc up front. I think Jojo Domann will raise some more eyebrows with his playmaking ability—when he was on the field last year, he went at the ball like a damn cruise missile. I keep expecting to see him on YouTube breaking up a convenience store robbery by tackling some meth-head through a Twinkie display.

Who are the critical departures from 2018, and has anyone stepped up to be potential replacements?

Nate M: Right now the most critical surely looks like Devine Ozigbo. WE DON’T HAVE A RUNNING BACK RIGHT NOW!

I should have gotten more sleep last night because right now I think we might win two games. Maybe I should go take a nap.

Paul: Nate keeps stealing my answers. I honestly don’t know who our starting running back is and we’re three months from fall camp. So yeah, does Melvin Gordon have any eligibility left?

Jon: They didn’t mention Stanley Morgan Jr., whom I miss because he was fun to watch. He became Nebraska’s first 1,000-yard receiver last season. His replacement will be done by committee, as will the running back position. There are so many running backs, our site will be working most of the summer on appropriate anagrams of all their names put together.

Andy: Ozigbo and Morgan on offense. There’s plenty of unproven talent behind them but it’s tough expecting it to step right in and replace the production of your top running back and receiver.

Defensively, I’m going to say Tre Neal. His numbers weren’t gaudy. But having a transfer senior who could come in knowing the 4th different defense Nebraska had run in the past 5 years leaves me believing things would have been much worse without him. Hopefully, Barry or someone can step up and QB that unit on the field.

Who is your “way-too-early” breakout player-of-the-year candidate based on the spring?

Nate M: Awww. I feel much better. Thanks for waiting. That nap was much needed. Every player on the team will likely be all-conference. It will happen. But if you want actual names then I’m going to go with Katerian Legrone, redshirt freshman tight end. One I would really like to see is Cameron Jurgens who as of right now might be starting at center as a redshirt freshman. He converted from a tight end last season.

Jon: True freshman Wandale Robinson. The greatest thing about him is that no one got to see him play because of a hamstring problem that kept him out of the spring game. He will be a big part of the scoring explosion this fall. He can play receiver. He can play running back. He can move between those positions in a single shift. The confusion will give opposing defenses migraines. Who will cover him? No one! The confusion will be astounding! That no one got to see him will make it even more exciting! Wooooo!

Andy: Well, I can’t base it on the spring, and we’re still waiting to find out if he made the grade, but I’m going to go with Dedrick Mills. The Huskers need a running back who can replace Ozigbo’s mixture of tough running inside, ability to break long runs and durability to log a lion’s share of carries. The former Georgia Tech Freshman All-American is the only running back on the roster who currently fits that bill.

What is your “way-too-early” prediction of the Nebraska vs Wisconsin on November 16th? What is your prediction for Nebraska’s season?

Nate M: After that nap I’m feeling pretty good. So I’m thinking we win by 17.

Jon: It’s in Lincoln, so there’ll be none of this “Nebraska hasn’t won in Madison since 1645 when the Visigoths ruled the upper midwest” crap we get to hear about every other year. Our quarterback is better than whomever your quarterback might be. Our running game might not match yours, but we’ll be a-scoring a-plenty o’ points! Our defense might be adequate! I’m going with Nebraska 45, Wisconsin 31

I am out of my quota of exclamation points for the entire summer! Woooooooooo!!!!!

Andy: I’m gonna be the wet blanket here and say our defense, while improved, isn’t ready to slow down the Jonathan Taylor show or those two-legged hippos that shoved our D-line around last year. And if Graham Mertz comes in and starts right away, we can’t count on 25 Hornibrook flutterballs to fuel our upset hopes. The offense will do some damage and it will be closer than last year, but our souls will be crushed again to the tune of something like 41-38.

As for the season, I say they start finding a way to win those close ones and flip the record to 8-4 and a return to the Capital One bowl.

(Nate says 7-5 because he’s terrified of the running back situation and Jon sarcastically says 13-1 along with more exclamation points and some disparaging remarks about overly optimistic fans.)