Things I know, and things I think I know:

Nebraska defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, as of late last week, was in the process of deciding whether to return for his senior season or enter the NFL Draft.

It could be a close call.

The guess here is he'll take his chances and submit his name for the April 28-30 draft. The NFL deadline for underclassmen to decide is Jan. 18.

I'm not exactly Jerry Maguire, or even Drew Rosenhaus, but it says here Valentine, a 6-foot-3, 320-pound native of Edwardsville, Illinois, should place two big-picture (and somewhat obvious) questions above all others: 1) Is he likely to be drafted? and 2) Is he good enough to play his way to a second contract after his initial deal?

I think the answer is "yes" to both questions.

There's no question he has NFL-level ability and savvy.

Valentine, who was limited to 10 tackles this season because of injuries, last month submitted his name to the NFL Draft Advisory Board, which provides underclassmen with feedback as to their draft status. Since 2014, underclassmen have been given only three grades: first round, second round or neither, which essentially means "stay in school."

I'm not privy to what Valentine heard from the board, but "stay in school" is a distinct possibility, mainly because of his underwhelming junior season. As a sophomore, however, he made 45 tackles, including seven for losses and three sacks. Granted, he played alongside disruptive forces in Maliek Collins and Randy Gregory. That freed him up. Still, Valentine's ability was obvious.

This past April, new Nebraska defensive line coach Hank Hughes said of Valentine, "I wouldn't want to be blocking him one-on-one, unless I was a bulldozer."

NFL scouts began asking Nebraska coaches about Valentine during his redshirt freshman season in 2013. That's partly because good defensive linemen are especially difficult to find. How many athletic, 6-3, 320-pound people do you know? 

Valentine possesses the talent to both rush the passer and play the run effectively. He could be a possibility for all 32 NFL teams because he can play tackle in a 4-3 system or nose guard in a 3-4.

Valentine isn't a sure-fire bet to make it in the big show. But because good defensive linemen are rare, NFL folks are more apt to draft them based on potential.

NFL coaches are ultra-confident in their own ability. They figure they can fix a player's shortcomings.

Bottom line, Valentine seems a good candidate to be a mid- to late-round selection, assuming he decides now to go the professional route. Would he improve his draft stock dramatically by returning for his senior season? It's questionable, especially considering Nebraska's lack of a proven pass-rusher off the edge, which would mean more blocking attention on Valentine.

It's easy to imagine Valentine getting drafted in April, proving himself for three seasons, then signing an extension, which would be the big payoff for his work in the trenches.

Of course, Nebraska fans would welcome the big man back with open arms.

* If one listens to UCLA football coach Jim Mora Jr. -- who had two stints as an NFL head coach -- Collins made the right decision to leave school a year early.

Mora liked what he saw on video of Collins. But Mora wanted to see Collins in person before making a final judgment. Mora got the chance to size up Collins when he was one of three Huskers on-hand for a Foster Farms Bowl news conference the week of the game.

"I wanted to see his frame," Mora said of the 6-2, 300-pound Collins. "In the NFL, measurables are important -- you know, his size and ability to gain weight and maintain weight. I think he's absolutely a pro. Absolutely. He's a man."

* Nobody will mistake me for George Karl. But if I were Tim Miles, my first focus in trying to get the Nebraska men's basketball team on track would be defense. Yes, the to-do list is long. There are other issues. But the Huskers' first two Big Ten opponents, Northwestern and Indiana, shot a combined 52.2 percent from the field.

Flash back to 2014, when Nebraska won 11 of its last 14 regular-season games en route to the NCAA Tournament. During that stretch, opponents shot a combined 39.1 percent from the field. You can't tell me the Huskers' talent was that much better in 2014 than it is now. Are the new rules having that much of an impact?

* Go see "The Big Short" and "Concussion" and you'll likely be almost awe-struck by the strength of performances by Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling ("The Big Short") as well as Will Smith ("Concussion"). You might also come away with the distinct feeling that corruption, greed, arrogance and stupidity are firmly ingrained in both Wall Street and the NFL. 

* Alec Baldwin was solid in "Concussion." If there's ever a movie made about Indiana men's basketball coach Tom Crean, put some eyeglasses on Baldwin and turn him loose. He's obnoxious enough to pull it off. That's not to say I dislike either Baldwin or Crean. Quite the opposite. If anyone appreciates obnoxious, it's yours truly.

* The headline atop Sunday's Eugene (Oregon) Register-Guard sports section: "Croak Job." Nice work there. And big props to the TCU Horned Frogs for making the headline possible.

Never, ever give up.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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