Nebraska Football: Assessing and Power Ranking the Cornhuskers’ 2019 Alternate Uniform

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On Tuesday, Nebraska announced its 2019 alternate uniform. We don’t yet know when Nebraska will wear their new duds, but we know what it will be wearing to shake things up in 2019.

https://twitter.com/HuskerFBNation/status/1163467537163718656

As is our standard practice here, we will borrow the “good or stupid” metric from Paul Lukas’ UniWatch to judge Nebraska’s 2019 offering.

HELMET

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The main design remains untouched, with only the color scheme changed – the N and the stripe are now black instead of red. In all honesty, it’ll be hard to tell the helmet from the 2013 version – and that’s a good thing, given how sharp that kit looked.

Good or stupid? Good, if not necessarily original.

JERSEY

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OK, hear me out, because I feel like this is going to fall into the “unpopular opinion” category pretty quickly.

First of all, the jersey looks sharp. The red on the black pops, and even with all of the patches that Nebraska has to wedge on its jerseys this year due to the 150th anniversary of college football, it still looks very simple.

And the Blackshirt skull-and-crossbones logo on the sleeve does look really cool. I know, I know, it’s supposed to be an “homage” to Nebraska’s Blackshirt tradition.

But, come on. A “blackshirt” is literally a practice jersey that is a different color, and that HAS THE BLACKSHIRT LOGO ON IT. I mean, look at this. See how the Blackshirts stand out from the other players – and how part of those Blackshirt jerseys that signify entry into that honored fraternity have the logo on their sleeves?

Now, everyone, including defensive players who have not earned a Blackshirt, and even (gasp) offensive players will be wearing a Blackshirt, at least for one game. I’m all for paying honor to one of Nebraska’s coolest traditions, but it feels like this is utterly watering down the meaning of the Blackshirt. The skull-and-crossbones doesn’t stand for the Nebraska team as a whole. It stands specifically for the starters on defense, and in general for the defense as a whole.

Look, I get it. This is the ultimate old man yelling at the clouds argument. I’m just saying it’s gonna be weird for me to see a kicker (no disrespect, Barret Pickering) walking onto the field rocking a Blackshirt logo.

Good or stupid? Stupid to honor a tradition by misapplying it. Also, get off my lawn and please help me set the clock on my VCR that won’t stop blinking 12:00.

PANTS AND SOCKS

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Yeah, so basically they’re the same gameday white pants, with black socks replacing the red. It’s an incredibly sharp look that helps pull the whole thing together.

Unfortunately, it also is confirmation that the gameday pants this year are going to be of the white yoga pants variety, without stripes. I know it’s supposed to harken back to Scott Frost’s era of greatness, and I’m all for the product on the field partying like it’s 1997.

But I am solidly in team #SaveTheStripes. Nebraska’s uniforms look so much better, so much more balanced, with the stripes as opposed to the solid whites. So ultimately the look is great for what it is, but disappointing that it could be so much more.

Good or stupid? Good, just disappointing.

OVERALL

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Alternate uniforms have two goals. One is to look cool to kids who are good at college football, to help convince them to play football for Nebraska. No question these will do the job. The other is to sell merchandise to Husker Fan. Little doubt these things will fly off the racks, including one going into the closet of a certain smart and particularly handsome analyst.

I fully realize and embrace that the universe of people that the whole Blackshirt logo misappropriation thing will bother is one, and he’s writing this piece now. So while it is my judgment, ultimately, that I get to make, at the end of the day I’m going to be rocking this thing more than once this fall. Sometimes it’s hard to realize how quickly you’re going to abandon your principles.

Good or stupid? Good, with a healthy side dish of self-loathing.

NEBRASKA ALTERNATE UNIFORM POWER RANKING

Images courtesy of the Lincoln Journal-Star

  1. 2014

2014

The infamous trash bag uniforms, which had numerals which literally couldn’t be read from the stands. The two-toned helmets were pretty cool, but overall the unis were a disaster.

  1. 2015

2015

Mystifyingly, adidas took its disastrous 2014 concept and made just a slight tweak, putting it on a black background instead of a red one, and made the uniform only marginally less horrific.

  1. 2012

2012

These original throwbacks get far more hate than they deserve, especially how well they combined with Wisconsin’s to make a truly memorable spectacle. (Although, in the interest of full disclosure, Wisconsin had the better unis that night.)

  1. 2016

2016

The only road alternates Nebraska has (yet) worn ended up making good use of the trash-bag silver, working them into an ice concept that ended up very sharp.

  1. 2017

2017

The concept was brilliant, to pay homage to the 1997 team by replicating the mesh uniforms. And while it came out great, it was also hard to tell the unis apart from normal ones on the field during the game. (In full disclosure, this picture is also my avatar on an unsettling number of websites).

  1. 2019

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Even with some of the questions I have, there’s no doubt that adidas’ 2019 version of Nebraska’s alternate uniform is one of the cleanest and sharpest that’s rolled out. 

  1. 2013

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Even early in the process, adidas got this one right. The basic black uniforms, the different-but-legible stencil numerals, and the overall simplicity gives this one a place of honor in the Nebraska alternate uniform pantheon. The unique stenciled numerals and (of course) the stripes on the pants give 2013 the nod over 2019.

  1. 2018

2018 main

Anything that involves old-school numerals, a shout-out to the Stadium Clock, and the full In the Deed The Glory inscription is going to be hard to beat. If it wasn’t for the silly helmet, this one would be the one to beat. Also, adidas, why could I not buy an “18” jersey with the cool 8 numeral, instead of getting stuck just buying a “1.” Just take my money already!

  1. 2009

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For whatever reason, I didn’t include this in the formal list of alternate uniforms in the last power ranking, maybe because there was a three-year hiatus between these and the 2012 set. But these beauts, with the curly-Q numerals and numbers on the helmets, have yet to be surpassed. Quite honestly, Nebraska could go to these uniforms as their regular ones tomorrow and I’d be quite happy.

GBR, baby.

 

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Nebraska Football: How the Cornhuskers Could Fail to Live Up to the Hype in 2019

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For the first time in forever (it seems), Nebraska is the toast of the national college football media preseason. No less a luminary than Phil Steele picked Nebraska as his no. 1 most improved team for 2019. Nebraska has been in the conversation as a dark-horse national title contender. Nebraska just missed being in the coaches’ preseason top 25 poll.

That’s a lot of positive vibes for a team that went a combined 8-16 in the last two years and hasn’t been to the postseason since getting clobbered by Tennessee in the 2016 (!) Music City Bowl. Of course, there’s plenty of reason for such optimism, between head coach Scott Frost’s experience turning UCF around and having legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate Adrian Martinez back at quarterback for his sophomore season.

But Husker Fan having all the feels in August doesn’t guarantee the long-awaited turnaround for Nebraska football is at hand. Even with all the reasons for optimism, there are ways that Nebraska’s 2019 season could fall apart. If it happens, these could be the culprit.

Center

One of the biggest questions about Nebraska’s roster in 2019, and certainly the biggest question on the offensive side of the ball, is who will play center. Cameron Jurgens, a redshirt freshman tight end converted to the position, seemed to have the pole position for the starting role given how highly Frost has praised him – comparing Jurgens’ potential to none other than Dave Rimington.

That’s about as high of praise as you can give for a center wearing the scarlet and cream, so clearly Frost likes what he sees in Jurgens’ potential. But injuries have sidelined Jurgens from participating in fall camp, and it is unclear if he would be ready to start the season.

That means Nebraska’s best case scenario is to play a redshirt freshman who has never played the center position before, coming in with little-to-no time in fall camp to get ready and to gel with the rest of the offensive line.

If Jurgens isn’t ready, or doesn’t get the nod, then Nebraska will likely turn to redshirt freshman Will Farniok or walkon freshman A.J. Forbes. Neither Farniok nor Forbes has played snaps at center, either, so no matter what Nebraska will be starting a freshman without experience at the most important position on the offensive line.

In Frost’s offense, with its focus on timing and precision, a clean center-quarterback exchange is crucial. The center is also usually responsible for making line calls to ensure coordination between the entire offensive line in their blocking scheme. That’s a big responsibility for a young player, whoever might step up and take on that role.

And a struggle for Nebraska at center could short-circuit much of the offensive progress made in year one of Frost’s arrival in Lincoln, which could result in a disappointing 2019 campaign.

Inside Linebacker

There is, rightly, significant concern about Nebraska’s depth at outside linebacker. Alex Davis, a talented senior who has yet to produce, and JoJo Doman, who has just returned to fall camp after injury, are the most reliable options Nebraska looks to be fielding at a position of need.

But inside linebacker might be even more concerning with regards to depth. Mohammed Barry is the anchor of the linebacker corps (and, indeed, the entire defense), and Collin Miller is hoped to build on a solid end to the 2018 season.

After that? Nebraska is hoping JUCO transfer Will Honas can return from injuries that robbed him of the majority of last year’s campaign, but we don’t know yet if he’s able to return to form. Freshman phenom Nick Henrich’s injury will certainly keep him out of the lineup for the start of the season, and at this point anything Nebraska gets from him in 2019 has to be viewed as a bonus.

Behind those four (and, really, those three), it’s a grab bag. Can Garrett Snodgrass make a leap and gain playing time? How about Jackson Hannah? Garrett Hustedt? Nebraska has a wealth of freshmen in the room, but there’s no clarity who – if any – would be able to successfully fill that role in the middle of the defense against B1G competition to give the starting three a break – or to replace them in case of injury.

Unlearning the Past

This point has less to do with one specific position group and more to do with the team as a whole. Nebraska is coming off two straight seasons of going 4-8. Nebraska has had one winning season in the last four. Nebraska has losing streaks to conference foes like Northwestern (two straight), Iowa (four straight), Ohio State (four straight) and Wisconsin (six straight). Nebraska hasn’t been in a conference title game since 2012, and that one didn’t really go well for the boys in scarlet and cream.

In other words, it’s been a long time – since the current players on Nebraska’s roster were in middle school, at best – since NU has tasted success in football. Of course, everyone is excited and optimistic about the future. All the players love the chemistry of the team and say they are in the best shape of their lives.

That may all be true, but we heard it all before the 2018 campaign, and the 2017 campaign, and the 2015 campaign too. Until Nebraska proves something on the field, it hasn’t accomplished a darn thing.

And that’s the danger, if Nebraska happens to hit a bump in the road this season. Say things go wrong and Nebraska gets knocked off by Colorado in Boulder. Say Ohio State finds its mojo and does to Nebraska in Lincoln what it did to Michigan last year. Say Nebraska has an unfathomable clunker and loses on the road to Illinois or at home to Indiana.

In other words, what happens if the reality of Nebraska’s 2019 campaign doesn’t quite match up with the lofty expectations? Is there a risk that the sounds of Nebraska’s football failures in this last decade start to echo in the players’ minds? Could the prospect of a promising season slipping away start to make the jerseys weigh a little heavier on the backs of the players, prompting a downward spiral?

This isn’t to say that this doomsday scenario will happen. Indeed, given the combination of Frost’s accumulated talent and track record of success, this scenario is pretty unlikely.

But it’s not impossible. And it’s one that Nebraska fans will have to be cognizant of when (not if) NU hits a couple of bumps in the road this season. A serving of patience from a fanbase that is understandably desperate for national relevance will go a long way to help avoid a challenge turn into a disaster.

GBR, baby.