First, I wanted to give a quick thank you to all of you. Donations on the “donate to the cause” are not mandatory, but they certainly help make this worth it. Quite frankly, I started this site because I wanted to prove to myself I could when I was kicked off the other site, and it has turned into something much more than that with the generosity. I really appreciate it.
Let’s give credit where credit is due, Scott Frost knocked these hires out of the park.
Back when we were looking for coaches, I brought up one of the big challenges would be having guys wanting to come here when we are on a one year trial or you’re gone. The requirement being win double the amount of games compared to the previous season may have turned a lot of guys off. But on the surface, at least 3 of these 4 hires I think are homeruns. And the fourth I’m not sure if it can get any worse.
Let me start off going through our losses. As all of you know, I was never a Verduzco fan, so that one i’ve thought was necessary since 2018 when we brought him here. But it was tough to say to people because Milton and UCF had dominated offensively. I still remember hearing him talk for the first time at a clinic and other coaches around the metro tuning into the QB Guru. We were on the edge of our seat. By the end of it, it was weird, no one got up right away and we all were just looking at each other.
It wasn’t that bad, but the dude was definitely a different cat. And definitely taught things much different than other QB coaches which is why he didn’t allow our QBs to work with other coaches in the offseason. I always thought the easiest thing would be for Frost to take over QB coach like he had done at Oregon and then hire a special teams coach. But it worked out.
Lubick was the other one that had to go. The running joke from my Iowa friend is that the best we could do was hiring a banker from Colorado. And let’s be honest, that guy doesn’t get hired unless he was Frost’s boy. So maybe the writing should have been on the wall for me (us) with that, but we thought “how could it be worse”. Well, here we are. While a guy like Verduzco only had to get one recruit a year, Lubick was going to be challenged to get multiple guys. And he had no niche, he just shotgunned his approach and saw what stuck. He didn’t do bad on recruiting, but more on that later.
Greg Austin is the one that I had really high hopes for, but for whatever reason we just didn’t get it done with him. I think a perfect example of where we are now is everyone saying how bad our line was in 2020, but our only two draft picks were along the offensive line. If that’s truly the case, there has to be at least some coaching issue, right? It’s at least some of the problem. While he and Frost didn’t really see eye to eye, at the end of the day the offense was a complete mess. It probably started up front, but even if you have bald tires you can at least run errands. We had to make a change.
The last one is one I just have to admit I was wrong on. Ryan Held was let go, and he was the guy that I thought they needed to figure out how to keep him. The problem is, I wasn’t saying that due to what we were seeing on the field. If any of you have followed me for awhile, I have made mention that Nebraska needs to do better at getting JUCOs for many reasons. The first is you can see how a kid plays against competition that you know how good it is. Many times coaches have no clue how good the high school competition is for a kid if they are at a lower level, and can’t judge film accordingly. But a bigger part of it is you get kids away from their support system and see how they do with structure on their own, many times away from home. You can let the JUCOs “waste” the scholarship on the kid that can’t handle it. How many times have we took a flyer on a kid from Florida only to see him leave before fall camp or after one year? That takes the guess work out of it for us. Ryan Held was our JUCO in. He literally saved our 2020 recruiting class when we were needing to get people on campus by helping us add JUCOs Mauga-Clements, Cooper, Riley and Payne. He also brought in Joseph during the summer before camp to help with numbers (remember how everone was excited as he was the #1 CB in Juco?). Now you can argue to me many of those guys didn’t pan out, but that’s exactly my point. With JUCO guys you are only on the hook for a year or two (save Covid eligiblity) and you aren’t on the hook for 4-5 with a high school kid.
But Held needed to go, besides Ozigbo, our RBs have been disappointing. He brought in Greg Bell who he couldn’t keep and went on to be 2nd team all-conference in the Mountain West. Mo Washington who we couldn’t keep. Dedrick Mills came in and started but when he got hurt we had to move Wan’Dale Robinson there. Something just didn’t click. But he had a niche, which is what I thought we were missing.
The New Hires
I’m going to start with Mickey Joseph and him being a Grand Slam for Frost. What I talked about with Held and his niche, Joseph will bring us just as much. With the uphill battle we are going to have recruiting to a 5 straight losing seasons team, his connections are going to overcome that. And you already saw it with many of these transfers he’s bringing in and solidifying the recruiting class. We brought in a couple people with those types of connections, but Joseph is the cream of the crop before we even get into him being a damn good on the field coach.
Mark Whipple is the second homerun hire in my opinion. While he was going to be retired but we pulled him out (reminds me a bit of Mike Riley almost getting fired at Oregon State but us pulling him out), Whipple just coordinated a conference title at Pitt and can help guide Frost with the immense experience he has. What will be interesting is which way we go with our offense. I’ll get into this when I do my QB breakdown next week, but when we grabbed Martinez who was going to be our 4 year starter, Verduzco then went “let’s get great athletes who might not be able to throw and i’ll try to teach them” getting commitments from McCaffrey and Smothers in consecutive classes. I didn’t mind that, because we had time to develop. But when Martinez struggled then the athletic but can’t throw McCaffrey played, we struggled. You saw us shift to more Haarberg and Torres type of commits, and in the transfer portal we got more throwers who are capable of running, rather than run first figure out if they can throw. Where Whipple goes with the offense will be fun, but this is a great hire from the experience aspect.
Next we have Bill Busch, if you could keep that guy as Special Teams Coordinator you do it all day long. We were 129th our of 130 in special teams this year, and it’s time we focused on that. We didn’t and it cost us more than one game these past four years. And for many that don’t remember, Busch was one of the biggest reasons that Callahan had stud recruiting classes while he was here brining in guys like Amukamara and Hagg. He’s a stud.
Raiola is the last addition but i’m unsure what to think about this one. I appreciate the NFL experience but at the same time college is much different. We get our polynesian coach to help grab more guys there, but let’s be honest, we really haven’t had guys pan out that we’ve gone after like the transfer from Utah and Pola-Gates. Noa was an ok receiver but, meh. We needed a change, and this one will be interesting. I can tell you the OL room was not ok with the move, so how Raiola clicks will be evident after spring watching the transfer portal. But let’s be honest, our OL was awful and we just lost Jurgens who was our best guy. A fresh start is what Frost wanted, and that’s what he’s getting.
Remember back when NIL was being kicked around and everyone said this would be good for Nebraska because no one backs their team like our fans? I do, because I got in many arguments that there was no way we were going to be able to keep pace with some SEC kid blowing his trust fund to get his recruit. Remember when Mike Farrell and OpenDorse were trying to say we would be a top 5 NIL school?
Remember when OpenDorse was saying we were a top 5 NIL school and that the B1G was leading the way????
The SEC is 3rd on their list, and Texas A&M isn’t even on Mike Farrell’s list but we now have this:
25-30 million for a class. Adrian Martinez was the top earner for Nebraska in 2021 making just under 200k. As much as people don’t want to hear it, Nebraska is behind with this as well. While we sit there and tell recruits we will help them partner with Runza and other companies to make money… SEC boosters are paying millions just to sign on the dotted line. I really hate where this has gone, but Nebraska is going to have a tough time. I’m really interested to see these 2022 classes. Come the first signing period there will be some colossal deals to get kids to flip.
I actually agree with Nick Saban on this… they should be compensated but it’s being used in a way that was never intended. The original idea was kids getting a cut of the profits, it’s now being used to sway kids to a school. A good read:
But the bottom line is until Nebraska wins some games we won’t have heavy-hitter boosters ponying up multi-millions. But with that would bring new problems anyway…
NIL is a new layer of difficulty for coaches
As a Nebraska fan you should know this talk track well. “A walk-on should be treated just like a scholarship guy, and the best player should play.” It sounds easy enough and makes total sense. But it’s harder than you think. The example I always give is when people bring up Danny Woodhead and how good he would have been here, I tell them he wouldn’t have even played. I get met with blank stares and shock, or some people even call me a moron. But they think i’m saying he isn’t good, quite frankly he was way better than the starter. What they don’t realize is Callahan was promising things to five stars before even on campus like Marlon Lucky. Further, to keep recruiting momentum going those guys couldn’t sit the bench.
Now let’s look at the current landscape. Let’s say some booster pays 500k to get a kid to Lincoln, but he isn’t starting and a walk-on is playing in front of him. That booster wants to know what’s up with his investment, wants the coach to explain why he was being asked to shell out money for a recruit that ended up not even being good enough to beat out a walk-on. After all, you can’t ask for it back.
A bit of hyperbole there, but it’s real. If boosters are going to start giving out signing bonuses like A&M did, they are going to want to see some results, or at least answers. I don’t envy where Frost and NCAA head coaches are now.
I am going to start position breakdowns beginning with QB next week. I am going to wait to see what Purdy decides then start knocking them out. Enjoy 2022!