Erin Sorensen/Land of 10
Nebraska football kicks off spring practice on Friday, March 16.

Nebraska football mailbag: Top storylines heading into spring practice

Have Nebraska football questions? We’ve got answers. Join us every Wednesday for the Land of 10 Nebraska mailbag to talk all things Huskers. This week, we discuss expectations for Nebraska’s spring football practices, expectations for the 2018 season, and more.

First and foremost, I’m looking forward to seeing the strength and conditioning in action. We talked about this last week, and spring practice will be the first real opportunity to see the progress the players have made under strength coach Zach Duval. Specifically, I’ll be looking at how the offensive and defensive lines look after winter conditioning. I definitely expect some growth, especially from the offensive line, which could look a bit different than it did in 2017.

I also expect a good battle at quarterback, although that’s not really breaking news. However, I believe we’ll see each quarterback put up a solid fight this spring. I especially like what I’ve heard and seen from redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia, and I’m of the belief that he’ll be the man to beat for the starting spot. Take a quick look at his footwork, for example.

However, sophomore Patrick O’Brien has an arm and the willingness to do what is asked. He won’t go down without a fight. And then there’s freshman Adrian Martinez, who was specifically recruited by coach Scott Frost for his offense. Martinez may benefit from a redshirt season, but he enrolled early to give it his all to get on the field right away. I think we can expect quite the show from these three.

I also expect to see a lot of position groups sort themselves out this spring. There are so many unknowns when trying to predict a depth chart. Running back, for instance, is a loaded room. Where will junior college transfer Greg Bell settle in? He’s expected to shake things up and could find himself as the top guy over returners Tre Bryant, Mikale Wilbon and Devine Ozigbo. It all depends on Bryant’s health, and how Wilbon and Ozigbo improve in the new scheme (but it sounds good so far). We’ll see, though.

Honestly, this list could go on and on. I’ll cap it here, but stay tuned. I’ll be diving into what I’ll be looking for from spring practice and plenty more soon.

We have not received an official spring practice schedule. As of now, we know of the first scheduled practice this Friday morning before spring break. The Huskers will be off the following week, and the normal spring practice schedule will begin the week after.

From the sound of it, there will be three practices per week with some type of media availability. This is pretty standard to previous years. As for what will and will not be open, we don’t have that information yet. More will be known soon.

I touched on this in January, and my opinion really hasn’t changed. I still believe Nebraska has one of the more difficult 2018 schedules, which Bleacher Report recently verified when reviewing all collegiate schedules. The Huskers have to tackle Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa on the road. Nebraska gets Michigan State at home, just in case it wasn’t already tough enough.

I think six wins is a really good goal. Get to the six-win mark, become bowl eligible and then win the bowl game. That alone sets the stage for the future. It might not seem like a success at first glance, but a competitive six-win season can do wonders for future seasons.

That’s a good question, and likely one we’ll never know the full answer to unless Hunter Atherton tells us. The freshman backup setter for Nebraska announced in January her intention to transfer, saying she still loved her team and the Huskers volleyball fans. She offered very few specifics beyond that, so it’s hard to say. Maybe it simply wasn’t the right fit.

As for Nebraska, coach John Cook will be on the hunt to replace Atherton. Freshman setter Nicklin Hames arrives this summer, and she may have a good shot at starting next season. Hames likely won’t be it, though, as Cook and Nebraska are expected to add a transfer setter. If nothing else, that would at least give the Huskers two setters on the roster and some flexibility.

I could share my personal opinions, but it’s probably best to turn to selection committee chairman Bruce Rasmussen. As he told Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star, the NCAA selection committee favored teams with wins against other teams in the tournament. Outside of the Michigan win, Nebraska didn’t have that in the committee’s eyes.

As far as Rasmussen is concerned, that’s why Oklahoma got into the Big Dance over teams with better records. Despite a losing conference record in the Big 12 and having lost eight of their last 10 games, the Sooners’ overall season was enough to convince the committee.

“We look at the entire body of work,” Rasmussen said. “The games in November and December count the same as the games in February and March, and Oklahoma had six wins against top-35 RPI.”

So there you have it. Nebraska put together a season that surprised many (including myself). The Huskers were originally projected to finish the season No. 13 in the Big Ten Conference, but instead went to the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 4 seed. Would making the NCAA Tournament have sweetened that deal? Of course, but here’s hoping the Huskers can use this as motivation in the NIT and for the 2018-19 season.

And for what it’s worth, it appears Nebraska was closer to the NCAA Tournament in the long run. Doesn’t change the outcome, but that’s what Rasumessen shared on Tuesday.

Have a question about Nebraska football? Tweet us @Landof10Huskers, and we’ll try to answer your question in a future mailbag. Check to see if your question already was answered by reading previous Nebraska football mailbags here.