A more seasoned Wan'Dale Robinson returns to serve as one of the focal points of the Huskers' offense next season
Please hold your eye rolls until the end. Nebraska fans saw what looked to be – or at least originally sounded like – a potential second-year Scott Frost tour de force and got... well, what they got. This has resulted in many emotions, several of which are part of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief.
But this writer hates to see fans of any team down for too long as we are all human, after all. It's in this spirit that I bring you 10 reasons why Husker fans should be (cautiously) excited about 2020 as the cold, harsh offseason begins in earnest.
Note: It's acknowledged there is no doubt an understandably large amount of skepticism surrounding any recruits or unproven members of the roster mentioned hereafter.
1. Nebraska's entire quarterback room returns and is (probably) joined by a tremendous recruit in Alabama native Logan Smothers. As of this writing, Smothers has yet to sign his National Letter of Intent, but his commitment to Scott Frost and Nebraska appears rock-solid at worst.
Yes, there was the shakiest of sophomore seasons for one-time Heisman Trophy dark horse Adrian Martinez, but Noah Vedral appears to have a clear command of Frost's offense.
Luke McCaffrey has the standard look of his lineage, an obvious gamer that already can frustrate defensive coordinators with his feet. With some polished passing, the Big Red's got a quality signal-caller.
2. There was a point when snaps flew higher than Mount Everest stands. But young center Cameron Jurgens got that problem under control and the offensive line as a whole did appear to improve as the season came to a close.
Frost has mentioned that 2020 is when we likely see Matt Farniok move to the interior, a move that should benefit both him and the entire line. Much like the quarterback room, the offensive line is set to be joined by a quality addition in Bryce Benhart, a potential replacement for Farniok at right tackle. Ethan Piper also has garnered high praise and looks to at least battle for playing time at one of the guard spots initially.
3. Frost hasn't gotten what he's wanted out of this position yet, but the entire tight end corps returns with another year in the system under their belts. They'll be joined by Rutgers transfer Travis Vokolek who has every opportunity to break through and be what the head man needs.
4. One could simply put a bullet point next to Wan'Dale Robinson's name and be done. With the loss of Maurice Washington, assistant coach Ryan Held needed to find someone besides Dedrick Mills to tote the rock. Enter Robinson and later in the year, fellow freshman Rahmir Johnson got the opportunity to show what he could do as well.
Ronald Thompkins's ability to contribute following a redshirt year aside, an argument can be made that everything mentioned to this point helps lay the foundation for a potentially improved 2020 offense. Even to a small degree. Baby steps.
5. Nebraska could see a much more solidified two-deep interior linebacker corps comprised of Will Honas, Collin Miller, Luke Reimer, and Joey Johnson, who have all seen significant minutes and are expected to return. Add Nick Henrich and Jackson Hannah to the conversation and the battle for depth chart position gets even fiercer under position coach Barrett Ruud.
6. Travis Fisher's safeties appear locked down with Marquel Dismuke and Deontai Williams returning. Cam Taylor-Britt showed aptitude at the spot but may have a better future as a cornerback or nickel back.
Noa Pola-Gates, one of the 2019 class' crown jewels, also is listed among their ranks. Fisher has shown the ability to produce highly adaptable talent at any secondary spot thus far in his career.
7. Matt Waldoch returns. Yes, something good did come out of the cursed pile of ash that was this season's kicking drama. Not only that, but he'll continue to have competition in Barret Pickering and recent new addition Chase Contreraz, a walk-on via Iowa Western Community College.
After Friday’s visit I’m very honored and excited to announce that I am officially Committed to the University of Nebraskaâ¼ï¸— Chase Contreraz (@chase_contreraz) December 2, 2019
Big Redâ¡ï¸Reiverâ¡ï¸Husker @coach_frost @CoachZachCrespo @Coach_Dewitt @CoachStrohmeier @HuskerFBNation @GregSmithHV @HailVarsity pic.twitter.com/Z8zBwwceHB
8. Keeping on the special teams track, Isaac Armstrong performed well in his punting duties, but steel does sharpen steel. Michigan State transfer William Przystup showed off at times as a kickoff specialist in 2019 and with added bodies to that room, the Big Red can afford a punter's duel.
9. Missing a bowl in a new head coach's first year can be unfortunate but tolerable depending on the circumstances. Missing another is... less so. Still, it's hard to deny that another year of strength and conditioning, proper nutrition and practice should get Frost's vision moving in the right direction.
10. The sellout streak lives. Yes, there were large swaths of empty seats prior to kickoff versus Iowa. But this is where I mention that technically, an event can be sold out without every butt being in a seat. Damn my pedantry, I know, but the fact remains.
The fact also remains that recruits continue to be in awe of the devotion that Nebraskans have for their team. Times have been tough, but fans still faithfully show up every week as football Saturdays are woven into the state's identity.
This isn't all Nebraska offers as a state, but it's a significant aspect. The Huskers have unreal fan support and undying loyalty. Yes, there's a very unsatisfied tone in the air and rightfully so.
However, I would happily put money on the premise that the Big Red's spring scrimmage will be packed yet again and Memorial Stadium will come alive in the manner it has for decades now next season.
There's no necessity to buy into any of this immediately, Husker fans. That likely takes time for the vast majority and that's okay. But when the time comes and you're looking for talking points, they'll be here waiting.