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Friends of the Blog: Nebraska Q&A

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The crew over at Corn Nation and Erin Sorensen of Hail Varsity stop by to discuss the Huskers.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Nebraska
‘Ders was always our favorite character on Workaholics.
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The final home game of the Wisconsin Badgers football season is against Nebraska. The Freedom Trophy (which Wisconsin has never lost) is on the line as is UW’s seven game winning streak against the Huskers. Nebraska will be coming off of a bye week, which they’ll probably need since the week prior they’ll play Ohio State, and will want to make a statement against a rival.

Our first guests are the crew from Corn Nation, the SB Nation Nebraska site. They’ve been covering Nebraska for years and, while they’re generally optimistic about Nebraska athletics, they still deliver a needed dose of reality to Husker fans.

Here is what Nate M., Jill, Todd and Jon had to say!

Who is your player to watch on offense?

Nate M: That’s a difficult question. You could say Adrian Martinez because he’s going into his fourth year as the starting quarterback and is probably as healthy as he has been since 2018 when his play was putting him into pre-season Heisman consideration for the 2019 season. That 2019 season was a dud and the 2020 season wasn’t much better.

You could also throw out one of the wide receivers. Samori Toure is a transfer from Montana State where he put up 1,400 yards receiving. All reports out of fall camp is that he is the real deal. Then there is Omar Manning who is the most physically gifted wide receiver Nebraska has had since Quincy Enunwa though he couldn’t get on the field last season for various health reasons. Zavier Betts has probably the highest ceiling at the position and could blossom into a star at Nebraska but he’s only a freshman.

Instead I want to go with one of the running backs. Either Gabe Ervin or Sevion Morrison. Ervin is a true freshman and sounds like he might be the starter on day one. Morrison is in contention for the first spot but he is more of a home run hitter when compared to Ervin who is a complete back.

Jill: The offensive line, especially center. Cam Jurgens (aka Beef Jurgy) has had issues with high snaps, partly because he was recruited to play tight end, has never play OL before coming to Nebraska and was thrown in the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman. He is now in his third year as a starter and it’s time to see if that rare athleticism he shows becomes the focus of his play instead of snaps sailing over Adrian’s head.

Nebraska v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Todd: My eyes are going to be on Adrian Martinez. Will he recapture that form he showed a couple of years ago? If so, and as a more mature quarterback who knows the offense inside and out, and should have improved his decision-making skills, he should have a good season. I want to believe that he has an offensive line that is going to protect him and made space for a running game, which in turn will make life easier when he is in run-pass option mode.

Jon: Everyone has been mentioned with the exception of Austin Allen and Travis Voklek, our two tight tight ends. Wisconsin has had killer tight ends for a long time. It’s about time someone else came along. I expect the tight ends to play the sneaky role in the offense. Just when you’re worried about receivers Manning and Toure, WHAM, the tight end is left all along for long gains. Woooooo!

Who is your player to watch on defense?

Nate M: Cam Taylor-Britt is the best player on the defense. There is a chance he could be first team all-conference this season and set himself up to be a first or second day NFL draft pick. Another name to look out for is Nick Henrich who should be the starting inside linebacker this season. He is extremely talented and could blossom this year.

Jill: Nate took my answer, so I’ll go with JoJo Domann. The Domannator (his Twitter handle) started his career at safety but the coaching staff said he outgrew that position and was moved to OLB a couple years ago. He still has pretty good coverage skills and is a heat seeking missile on blitzes. He’s the kind of hybrid player that could end up with a sneaky good NFL career if he ends up in the right spot.

Nebraska v Rutgers
Taylor-Britt (No. 5) and Domann (No. 13) will be the rocks of Nebraska’s defense this year.
Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

Todd: Nate and Jill took the two players that should have the greatest impact for Nebraska when the defense is on the field. Both of them are very talented and play the game with their hair on fire. I’m going to be watching the three big guys up front. There are some big fellas in the two deep who have gotten quite a bit of attention in camp. If that crew can cause disruption and eat up offensive linemen, I think we have the linebackers who will take care of business.

Jon: The unknown player. He may not exist. He is a pass rusher. He pressures the quarterback, gets sacks, is generally a disruptive force on the defensive line. I have no idea who this is. We may not have one. BUT IF WE DO…we’ll win more games. How’s that for a bold statement.

Why will Nebraska beat Wisconsin this year?

Nate M: Unless I see something different, there really is no reason to think that Nebraska will beat Wisconsin. They need to worry about beating Illinois.

Jill: If past performance is a predictor of future results…

Todd: Ummm . . . because Nebraska has to beat them some time. I’m worried about beating Illinois. Let’s see what Nebraska looks like in October and ask the question again!

Jon: Because Barry Alvarez has moved on. Paul Chryst has no one to call from the sideline for advice on what plays to run when he gets in a bind. He’ll be all alone with no guidance from the man who built Wisconsin football. That and the Badgers don’t have a break-away running back this season.

God, isn’t Minnesota just the worst?

Nate M: No, that would be Iowa.

Jill: Definitely Iowa.

Todd: Iowa is definitely the worst. Followed next be Texass. We can talk about Minnesota next. I’d like to put Herky and Bevo in a damn boat and let Goldie row that damn thing into a hurricane! Actually, a Miami Hurricane because they’d be next on the hate list!

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

Jon: I am a native Nebraskan who’s lived in Minnesota since 1987.

I have no formal education regarding Minnesota or Wisconsin’s history but I have formulated my own theory on how the two states came to be. Years ago, when people began to move into Wisconsin to establish cities and towns, there was a need to start formulating laws to guide the people on behavior. Some people wanted a few laws. Others wanted many.

A guy would be standing in a town square, espousing all of the rules he wanted to make to control people’s behavior. Several of the townsfolk would get irritated with him and recommend that he move across the river, that the land there was being settled by people who loved having rules. Many rules. They recommended he would be happier there than he would be in Wisconsin.

This behavior spread across Wisconsin and in doing so, caused many, many people to move across the river where they could establish many, many rules to guide and control people’s behavior.

To this day that is why Wisconsin has many, many towns where every eating establishment is a bar and every bar is also an eating establishment. This is so that people can be happy and be unencumbered by crap tons of rules made by anal retentive, insecure, inferiority-complex-filled, self-loathing, passive aggressive people, who if they experience even a modicum of success hate themselves for it. They think it’s because they’ve broken an unsaid rule when the real reason is they can’t be happy for any reason whatsoever because they left happiness behind in Wisconsin all those years ago.

That, my dear Wisconsinite friends, is why Minnesota is the worst.


Our next guest is Erin Sorensen, the deputy editor of Hail Varsity, a magazine which covers all things Husker athletics. She has covered Nebraska sports since 2012 and has been obsessed with Chipotle for even longer.

Here are her answers to our questions!

Who is your player to watch on offense?

I debated taking a running back or a wide receiver for this question, mostly because there are so many unknowns. We’ve heard a lot about wide receivers like Oliver Martin and Omar Manning, but it’s all talk until we see it all in action for ourselves. Same thing with running back.

For that reason, I’m going to take someone who is really vital to the overal success of the offense: center Cameron Jurgens. If he’s doing his job well, you won’t hear a lot about him and that’s what we want. He’s a converted tight end who had some bumps in the road as he found his footing as Nebraska’s starting center. He’s heading into his fourth season with the Huskers now and it seems he’s as confident as ever. I recommend reading my colleague Derek Peterson’s take on Jurgens and the whole center situation because he really will help define this offense in 2021.

Who is your player to watch on defense?

Damion Daniels, who was just named a captain for the season. The fifth-year junior defensive lineman has put in some serious work in the offseason, getting his body from 330 pounds to 315 from 2020. He’s earned more and more snaps every year he’s been with Nebraska and he seems poised to be in a bigger role in 2021. Being named a captain—something his teammates voted on—is a major step in that direction.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Nebraska
You can’t really see him, but that’s Damion Daniels at the bottom of the pile with the football.
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

His brother, Darrion, was a captain for Nebraska during his one season with the team in 2019. Now Damion is in that role and I’m excited to see what he does with it. He’s worth keeping an eye on.

Why will Nebraska beat Wisconsin this year?

Instead of why, I’m going to answer how. How does Nebraska beat Wisconsin (or any team on the 2021 schedule for that matter)? Limit turnovers and clean up the mistakes that have plagued this team for far too long. This Nebraska team has the talent. Sure, there are a number of unanswered questions and position groups with question marks but it’s not because of lack of talent. It’s more what the rotation of those players will look like and how Nebraska will use them.

Nebraska has plenty of experience too, from quarterback Adrian Martinez to the defense. Can Martinez look more like the quarterback we saw as a freshman? Can the defense keep Nebraska in games if the offense is having trouble scoring? Can Nebraska come out on the positive end of the turnover battle for once? All of these questions make it hard to say why Nebraska will beat Wisconsin, but their answers sure determine how.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

You’ve probably seen season predictions that are all over the place for Nebraska. I think that speaks to the uncertainty of what to expect from this team in 2021. It could go a number of different ways, and not much would surprise me at this point. Feels like we’ll know early in the season which way it’s going to go though.

God, isn’t Iowa just the worst?

Nebraska hasn’t defeated Iowa since 2014 so I’m not sure I’m allowed to answer this question.