It’s been quite some time since we pulled the T-bird out of the garage, but the cover’s off and the ol’ gal started right up. Time for the first of many offseason drives.
1. During Sunday night’s Husker football television show, Nebraska coach Scott Frost briefly addressed each of the school’s 23 scholarship signees.
Not surprisingly, all of the comments were positive, though Frost did shed some light on players he thinks might be on track to contribute early — mostly skill position guys — and who might need some development time — mostly linemen, not surprisingly.
One of the more interesting comments, though, was about defensive tackle signee Nash Hutmacher from Chamberlain, South Dakota.
Frost and the Huskers have been really high on Hutmacher, a champion heavyweight wrestler, since they started recruiting him. Hutmacher doesn’t play against a particularly high level of competition on a weekly basis in central South Dakota, but that doesn’t cause any pause from Frost.
“I just like everything about Nash. I like who he is, I like what he does, I like going to visit him,” Frost said. “He’s just fun to be around. Great football player, great wrestler. He will be one of the strongest guys on our football team when he gets here, and I think his work ethic and personality are contagious.”
But he’s more than a big personality, and Frost reminded the television audience that Nebraska beat out Wisconsin and Oregon — a pair of programs that have developed many successful linemen in recent years — for Hutmacher’s services.
“I think he could probably play O-line for us if we need him to, but we think he’s a nose for us, a guy who can control A-gap to A-gap,” Frost said. “We were in a battle for him with a couple other Big Ten schools. (Now-outside linebackers coach Mike) Dawson, (defensive line coach Tony) Tuioti, (defensive coordinator Erik Chinander) all did a great job.
“He’s going to be fun to be around for four years and hopefully he makes a lot of plays for us.”
2. Speaking of Hutmacher, he stayed unbeaten over the weekend, notching a Big Dakota Conference championship with a pin in the championship match.
It’s not enough to just say Hutmacher is unbeaten for the year, though. He’s still unbeaten for his high school career. And that pin? It was his 67th consecutive, tied for the third longest streak ever recorded in high school in the United States, according to Wrestling USA’s website.
InterMat continues to rank Hutmacher the No. 1 heavyweight high schooler in the nation.
3. Shifting gears, big Big Ten news broke overnight with the report that Michigan State is set to hire Mel Tucker away from Colorado as its new head coach.
That comes only days after Tucker publicly acknowledged he had been contacted about the job but turned it down and hours after he made several radio appearances reiterating his commitment to CU.
Still trying to confirm this report that Mel Tucker has agreed to become the coach at Michigan State, but it's from a reliable source. Insane that he was on the radio 3 times TODAY affirming his commitment to Colorado and I heard he was a donor event in Denver tonight. #cubuffs— Brian Howell (@BrianHowell33) February 12, 2020
The key point? MSU sent the Brinks truck to the Rockies the second time around, reportedly doubling Tucker’s salary to somewhere in the $5.4 million range and also doubling his assistant salary pool to north of $6 million.
It’s easy to say the optics aren’t great — people in Boulder and Buffs fans certainly aren’t happy — but that’s a lot of coin to turn down.
The bigger picture here is a striking one. A Big Ten school decided it wanted a Pac-12 coach, was rebuffed once, and then pulled out the big brother card: cash.
The gap continues to widen between two leagues — the Big Ten and the SEC — and everybody else in terms of finances.
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The excellent Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News covers the Pac-12 as well as anybody and ran a recent projection that shows Big Ten schools could bring in $140 million more per school than Pac-12 institutions over the next five years alone. The numbers are incredible and well worth a read.
Meanwhile, Big Ten schools are showing they are capable of either 1) Getting the coach they want or 2) Retaining coaches they want to retain.
Purdue paid up to keep Jeff Brohm last year. Minnesota did the same to keep P.J. Fleck this fall. Tom Allen got a big raise at Indiana.
Brohm averages $5.2 million over his contract. Fleck jumped from $3.6 million to $4.6 million. Allen went from $1.8 million to $3.9 million. Rutgers went from paying Chris Ash $2.3 million to paying Greg Schiano $4 million.
These aren’t the league’s powerhouses we’re talking about. These are the schools that used to be stepping stones. And yeah, perhaps they still will be to some degree, but between the facilities being built around the league and the ability to pay the going rate, everybody in the conference has an awfully thick checkbook to wield when they decide it’s warranted.
MSU did just that.
By USA Today’s coaching salary database, every coach in the Big Ten except Maryland’s Mike Locksley ($2.5 million), will now make at least $3.9 million in 2020.
4. A pair of recruiting notes as we continue on.
Four-star class of 2021 tight end Thomas Fidone (Council Bluffs, Iowa) shot up the Rivals rankings on the recruiting service’s most recent update, jumping up to the No. 60 overall player in the nation and the No. 7-ranked tight end in the country.
Fidone, listed at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, has offers from several college football heavy hitters, though Nebraska is expected to be a factor in his recruitment until the very end.
5. Not to be outdone among the ranks of class of 2021 prospects from Iowa, four-star outside linebacker T.J. Bollers (Tiffin) picked up a scholarship offer from Alabama on Tuesday.
That has the potential to throw a wrench in a recruitment that looked like it was shaping up to feature Nebraska and Wisconsin prominently. It still likely will, but there could be some SEC heavy hitters involved, too. Bollers on Tuesday also picked up an offer from Texas A&M. Ho-hum.
In Omaha, Westside defensive back Avante Dickerson continued to rack up offers, picking up one from USC on Wednesday.
6. And a couple of roster numbers post-National Signing Day No. 2 to close this thing out.
Nebraska goes into the heart of winter conditioning with 159 on its roster — the most recent to be removed include walk-on place kicker Dylan Jorgensen and veteran walk-on defensive back Ethan Cox of Blair.
Of those 159, NU has 84 scholarship players and 75 walk-ons. A whopping 131, or all but 28, have joined the program since Frost’s hire in December 2017.
That’s in part why Frost said this on Sunday night: “Maybe for the first time since I’ve been at Nebraska, I feel like the culture is about there. … We still have a long way to go. We have to get bigger, stronger, faster, tougher. We’ve got to execute better. But I love the attitude in (the weight room) right now.”
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.