Five burning questions heading into the bye week
Having now lost its third game in a row, Nebraska will try to regroup during its second off week of the season.
Here are five of the most pressing questions facing the Huskers entering the bye week...
1. How much will the quarterback competition heat up?
Nebraska got its starting quarterback back when Adrian Martinez returned at Purdue after missing the previous two games with an injury.
But after a wildly up-and-down performance in Saturday’s 31-27 loss, how safe is Martinez in that No. 1 role?
Martinez started and finished the game fairly strong, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a disastrous second and third quarters. The sophomore only completed 7-of-14 passes for 28 yards and an interception over that stretch.
Backup Noah Vedral was injured during an impressive starting debut vs. Indiana but was able to practice all week and traveled to West Lafayette. Yet even when Martinez was struggling so badly, head coach Scott Frost stuck with his guy.
Then there’s true freshman Luke McCaffrey, who still has two games available to play while preserving his redshirt eligibility. McCaffrey also looked pretty good vs. Indiana, but he too was injured in that game and didn’t even travel to Purdue.
Will Frost and Co. shake things up at quarterback and give more looks for Vedral and/or McCaffrey? Or are the Huskers planning to ride with Martinez no matter what the rest of the season?
2. What will be the staff’s message over the bye?
During the first bye week following the blowout loss at Minnesota, Frost’s message to the team was all about “getting back to the basics” and correctly some of the bad fundamental errors they had been committing.
Last week after the Indiana loss, Frost ripped into the Huskers for the first time and had them practicing outside in the cold and snow all week (though he said it was mainly to prepare on the natural grass practice fields).
Frost and his staff have now tried about every approach in the book to try and get through to this roster, and clearly, none of it has worked.
So what message will they have during the bye and leading up the next game vs. Wisconsin?
3. What will the recruiting schedule look like?
Bye weeks normally serve as an ideal opportunity for coaches to hit the road and see as many recruits in person as they possibly can. But on a year with two byes, this week might look a little different for the staff.
Coaching staffs are limited in how many evaluation days during the season, so NU will have to be selective this week with a more concentrated pool of players to go see.
That means this week could be about the top recruits on the Huskers’ wish list, including some junior college targets that could fill some immediate voids in 2020.
4. Will NU monitor Robinson’s workload?
One of the bright spots of this frustrating season has been the confirmation that Wan’Dale Robinson was everything he was cracked up to be.
The former four-star Rivals100 prospect was billed as the centerpiece of Nebraska’s 2019 class, Robinson currently leads the team with 40 catches for 453 yards (second) and ranks third with 326 rushing yards.
That heavy workload seems to be taking a toll on the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder. Robinson was injured against Minnesota and then suffered a hamstring injury at Purdue, forcing him to miss NU’s final offensive series.
Given where the season is, will Nebraska continue to ride Robinson as much as they have been? Or will they dial back his workload a bit to make sure he gets through the year healthy?
5. Is a quiet bye week for the best?
There generally isn’t much media availability during bye weeks, but it’s expected that this week could be locked down completely.
In many ways, that’s probably a good thing.
There really isn’t much that can be said right now that would do anything to make the Huskers’ situation any better. In reality, the only thing that will do anything to help is winning.
It might not be until next Monday’s press conference before we hear from Frost and Co. again, and a little break might be what everyone needs right now.