After eight straight weeks of games, Nebraska football fans get to take a breath and enjoy a bye week.
Perhaps a mailbag column can help in that regard.
Let's see what's on people's minds.
What is your prediction for which members of the Nebraska coaching staff return next year on offense? And how much of that will be owing to Trev Alberts' influence? — Justin Taylor
The entire discussion about Nebraska's offense surely gives head coach Scott Frost a colossal headache.
Nebraska ranks 15th nationally in total offense, averaging 477.5 yards per game. Ohio State is the only other Big Ten team averaging more yards per game. The Buckeyes lead the nation at 562.7, benefiting from a much more forgiving schedule than NU's.
Trouble is, Nebraska ranks only 51st nationally in scoring offense (30.8 points per game) largely because it often goes haywire in the red zone. The Huskers rank 105th nationally in red-zone conversions. If you're a Big Red fan, it's a confounding matter in part because only one other team in the nation (Oklahoma) reaches the red zone more often than Nebraska.
At this point, you probably think I'm dodging your questions.
It's a somewhat complicated discussion because, taken individually, all of Nebraska's assistants are good coaches and good men. But Nebraska is 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the conference. So, ask yourself this: How close is the Husker staff to squeezing all it can out of this particular group of players? How close is the staff to maximizing the team's talent and overall makeup? That's what coaching is all about.
This isn't just an offensive discussion, although offense and special teams have caused Frost the most headaches. It's worth noting he's made staff moves before at Nebraska (Troy Walters and Jovan Dewitt jettisoned). Bottom line, it would surprise me if the Huskers' offensive staff has the exact same look next season.
That said, Frost would be wise to let the rest of the season play out before making final determinations. What if Nebraska gets on a heater and wins three or four games down the stretch? Plenty of data points remain.
As for Alberts, the Nebraska athletic director, I hope he's inclined toward allowing all of his head coaches to make staff decisions on their own. I say with great confidence that neither Bob Devaney nor Bill Byrne ever meddled in those decisions when Tom Osborne was the coach. On the other hand, former Husker athletic director Shawn Eichorst pushed for the hiring of defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. That turned into a nightmare and ultimately helped seal Mike Riley's fate as the Huskers' head coach.
Frost has enough headaches without his boss trying to influence staff decisions.
As a fellow "Old" were you as angered as I was when the Huskers ran shotgun from the 6-inch line Saturday? And when you yelled, "Coach (blank) wouldn't do that!" after it happened, which coach did you fill in the blank with? Mine was Ara Parseghian. — John Bishop
OK, I'll admit I sneered a little. I sneered and shook my fist at the clouds, as usual.
Ah, yes, the great Ara Parseghian. You must have watched replays of Notre Dame games on Sunday mornings during the early 1970s. Those were the days.
Sorry, had to say it. LOL.
If I would've yelled out a coach's name, it would've been, "Chuck Noll never would've done that!"
Especially when he had Franco Harris in the backfield.
I'm living in the past more and more these days. It feels wonderful.
Another two-for-one deal here: 1) After so many years in college and pros, why haven’t coaches or team psychologists fixed place-kickers? 2) Loyalty to a QB is great but to the point of sacrificing your career — knowing he is a great athlete, good person but poor decision-maker? — Joe McManis Sr.
When the Green Bay Packers' Mason Crosby recently missed three field goals in an NFL game, nobody blamed Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. If anybody did blame LaFleur, they're out of their minds. They would need a psychologist.
Just as psychologists can't always save humans from themselves, they can't always save place-kickers, either. Coaches and psychologists can help matters, obviously. But kicking is such a specialty that place-kickers largely have to fix themselves. Kicking is a brutally hard job. Those uprights are closer together than you might think. Pressure can be enormous.
Along those lines, I'm guessing nobody envisioned the depth of Nebraska senior Connor Culp's struggles this season. He's 24 years old and in his sixth season of college football. He's 2-for-3 this season from 50 or more yards, but 1-for-4 from 30-to-39. He's missed four extra points.
If those struggles continue, Frost himself might need a psychologist.
As for your second question, sir, we assume you're referring to Nebraska junior Adrian Martinez. His decision-making is generally so-so. That's become clear. But he's clearly the team's best option at the position this season. In some ways, you can stop the conversation right there.
Any insight you can provide on Fred Hoiberg's Husker basketball team? — J.T.
Alonzo Verge, the transfer from Arizona State, will be fun to watch as a play-making guard. He's a clear-cut team catalyst who oozes confidence.
Will a clear-cut star emerge for Hoiberg, the third-year Nebraska coach? A clear-cut All-Big Ten-caliber player? It needs to happen. But I'm not putting that sort of pressure on five-star freshman Bryce McGowens (6-foot-7, 175 pounds). The league is too tough to do that to him. He may need a full season to grow into life in the nation's toughest hoops league.
One more thing: Nebraska's December schedule is a bear. Could be a make-or-break month.
How should Frost respond to a call from Spencer Rattler? — Dan Piller.
First off, Frost absolutely should take that call if it were to come, which seems a long shot because Rattler will have better options. That said, Frost made clear this week Nebraska will look to the transfer portal for immediate-impact players. In that context alone, giving Rattler a listen would make sense.
In fact, Frost initiating the conversation would make sense, especially if Martinez were to move on. Granted, Rattler is no longer considered an NFL first-round lock, but he's still a quality QB who may benefit from a change of scenery.
At any rate, it's going to be an interesting off-season around here as far as roster movement is concerned.