Just like that, the longest stretch on the calendar without official football activities is here.
That hardly means a lack of activity — Nebraska players will be back on campus after finals by mid-May and the coaching staff is already out on the road recruiting — but when the whole team officially reconvenes, it will be for preseason camp on Aug. 1 (with practice No. 1 the next day) and the regular season will be just around the corner.
Here is a look at some of the questions the Huskers hope to answer in the three-plus months between now and then, and what the potential answers might be.
What is sophomore running back Maurice Washington’s status?
Of all the questions this offseason, Nebraska has the least control over this one. Washington’s next slated court appearance is May 13, but that could just be the beginning. That date is only to work out an issue about local representation, so it’s possible there’s at least one more appearance needed after that. Or, perhaps Washington and his representatives come to some kind of agreement with the prosecution.
Then, what will NU do? It will almost certainly depend on the outcome. But one could imagine anything from no punishment to dismissal from the team.
Only time will tell, but this is the most open-ended question of the offseason.
What will Nebraska do with its two remaining scholarships for the 2019 class?
The Huskers added defensive lineman Jahkeem Green from Highland (Kansas) Community College this week and now have two spots remaining.
This will be all about difference-makers. Sure, it would be great for NU if it could find a big receiver and a pass-rusher to instantly upgrade both spots, but the transfer market doesn’t always work that way. There has to be a fit, and then you have to actually win the recruitment.
The Huskers could also take a player who has to sit a year if they think he can be a difference-maker in the future. There are currently hundreds of players in the portal and there will almost certainly be more movement in the coming weeks and months.
How much attrition will the Huskers experience this spring/summer?
Simple math suggests a decent amount of movement this offseason. The rate of turnover has slowed some in recent months, but almost every school will have some attrition.
Caleb Lightbourn is already out, and, with the current roster right around 160, the Huskers will have to be down somewhere between five and 10 net for the summer between scholarship players and walk-ons.
Will the 2020 recruiting cycle feature the same spring bloom that served as the backbone of the 2019 class?
Last year, the Huskers picked up nine verbal commitments between May 5 and July 23, and they had 12 in the class by the time the season started.
NU is up to three verbal commits in the 2020 class with the recent additions of four-star wide receiver Zavier Betts (Omaha) and four-star tackle Turner Corcoran (Lawrence, Kansas).
Not only that, but Nebraska looks primed to make another run. NU is in good shape with several candidates, from defensive tackles Nash Hutmacher and Jamar Sekona to in-state receiver Xavier Watts to outside linebacker Blaise Gunnerson to offensive lineman Alex Conn and several others.
Not all are guaranteed to make their decisions before September or pick NU, but the spring and early summer should bear fruit again for Scott Frost and company.
Can the defense continue its upward trend?
This is going to be a multi-part equation but make no mistake about it, there’s not much true “off time" for the players between now and Aug. 31. Some of it will be health-related — Will Honas, Tate Wildeman, CJ Smith and others will aim to join the fold fully after extensive rehab periods — and some will be about continuing the maturation process in Year 2 under Erik Chinander.
Perhaps Green or freshman Ty Robinson can be a difference-maker upon arrival. Perhaps a young linebacker or defensive back adds to the mix right away. Most likely, it will be up to veteran returners like Lamar Jackson, Dicaprio Bootle and Mohamed Barry to continue to drive the group forward.
What will the skill position group look like?
The starting set of five skill players for Red in the spring game was wide receivers Kade Warner and Andre Hunt, tight ends Austin Allen and Kurt Rafdal, and running back Brody Belt.
It’s unlikely that the five is completely changed when South Alabama arrives, but you can imagine several.
JD Spielman, Wan’Dale Robinson, Jack Stoll and Washington didn’t play. Three running backs and two receivers arrive this summer. There will be far more explosiveness in the group, if healthy, come September, but there isn’t an unlimited amount of time to get everyone on the same page, either. It will be an important summer of work among the players — in all likelihood led by Adrian Martinez — to find the early stages of a rhythm.
How many immediate impact players might there be among the summer arrivals?
As of now, the Huskers have 20 more scholarship players joining the roster: four offensive linemen (Bryce Benhart, Michael Lynn, Matthew Anderson and Jimmy Fritzche), four defensive backs (Noa Pola-Gates, Myles Farmer, Quinton Newsome and Javin Wright), four defensive linemen (Ty Robinson, Jahkeem Green, Ethan Piper and Mosai Newsom), three running backs (Dedrick Mills, Rahmir Johnson and Ronald Thompkins), two inside linebackers (Garrett Snodgrass and Jackson Hannah), two receivers (Demariyon Houston and Darien Chase), and outside linebacker Jamin Graham.
At least one and maybe multiple running backs will play a critical role. Opportunity abounds for the linebackers, receivers and defensive backs. It's hard to play right away in the Big Ten, but if Nebraska is really starting to recruit the way the staff thinks it can, perhaps there are some early difference-makers arriving this summer.
They start showing up on campus May 20 and will trickle in over the ensuing weeks.