Ever since he started in
Omaha Lincoln (duh, I think I read too many Omaha.com pieces, and well, got dumb. Thanks reader), it feels like head coach Tim Miles is overseeing an endless rebuild. His first roster was both young and old, with younger players given more floor time than perhaps they were ready for, alongside older players that were probably not quite up to Big Ten snuff.
After that, it's been a never-ending string of unanticipated departures. Deverell Biggs was dismissed. Tarin Smith transferred. Terran Petteway and Walter Pitchford leave school early for the professional ranks, prompting more than a couple of head scratches. Andrew White transfers in, has a great season, and transfers out.
And this past offseason, Ed Morrow, Jeriah Horne, Michael "I’m excited to be back" Jacobson, and Nick Fuller transferred out. Fuller was a lightly used graduating forward, and will likely find more playing time at South Dakota. The rest? None are irreplaceable, but as a group it's a significant loss. Morrow was probably the most valuable, as the undersized power forward was nonetheless a powerful rebounder and provided some interior scoring, which has been in short supply in every one of Miles' five seasons.
That's right, five seasons. His predecessor, Doc Sadler, got six seasons, wherein he won 35 percent of his conference games before being shown the door. Miles is currently at 37 percent, and this year does not look promising. The team finished in 12th place last year, and along with the aforementioned losses the Cornhuskers also lost Tai Webster to graduation. Believe it or not, Webster went from a clearly overmatched freshman to a...clearly overmatched sophomore. Eventually though, he was a solidly above-average Big Ten senior, and that's to his credit.
Replacing roughly half of the outgoing minutes and possessions will not be easy, and given the timeline of the transfers, Miles' options were limited. Luckily, he had transfer James Palmer, from Miami, already in the works. Isaac Copeland (from Georgetown) recently received word that he would be eligible for the entire season. The Huskers also welcome one of the best recruits in the Miles era in shooting guard Thomas Allen. There's also an incoming Icelandic player whose name I will not bother learning to spell until he proves that I need to. But it's Thor...Thor something.
Palmer and Copeland were not world-beaters at their prior power conference schools, but not complete afterthoughts, either. It's possible they could be Big Ten-caliber players with increased responsibilities. Allen will also likely play early and often, and I expect it will not always be pretty. But even taking the optimistic view with each of these players, and factoring in sophomore leaps of Isaiah Roby and Jordy Tshimanga, at best that probably has the team roughly in the same spot they were in last year.
Miles received a reprieve from athletic director Shawn Eichorst after UNL's season finished last year. Eichorst, of course, is no longer with Nebraska in large part because he hired a football coach that has not been working out well. Eichorst did not hire Miles, but his successor, Bill Moos, likely will not wait too long before finding an opportunity to hire Ernie Kent (Moos hired Kent at Oregon and later at Washington State).
And honestly, that's what this feels like—a final go-round for Miles. Already, the offseason chatter is about how this is the most talented roster Nebraska has had in two decades, but I'm not sure I'd love that label slapped on a team that's about to finish near the bottom of the conference. Through five seasons, Miles has shown that he can put a capable defense on the floor, but the BallHog Offense that limits turnovers also appears to be limiting the number of available quality shots. A lot of players have seen the floor in Miles' tenure, and that result has been a constant. We'll soon find out if it was the talent all this time. Maybe it's not.