If there is a fan base that needs a positive shot of adrenaline, it’s the fans of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. This once-proud program sitting smack-dab in middle America has fallen on hard times. The last time the Big Red enjoyed so much as even a conference championship was back in 1999. How long ago was that? Sisqo’s “Thong Song” was racing up the charts that year. Egad.
The 2017 season was certainly forgettable for a multitude of reasons. The first and foremost of those is the fact that NU suffered its second losing season in the last three years. Prior to that, the Huskers had just two losing seasons in the previous 53 years. Also, they failed to reach a bowl game for just the third time in the last 49 years. Oy vey.
But despite all that doom and gloom, guess what? There is a lot to be optimistic about here Cornhusker fans. Yes, I didn’t stutter. The future of the Big Red looks finer than the feel of a goldenrod bloom. See, the Mike Riley era of malaise is gone and 2018 will start a new chapter in the annals of a once-proud college football blue blood. In fact, this new infusion of enthusiasm is a good place to start. So here we go...
1. The Scott Frost factor
This guy is a ball of positive energy. In case you’ve lived under a rock the last six months, you probably already know that the former national title-winning Husker quarterback took over as head coach at UCF two years ago and this past fall led the Knights to a perfect 13-0 season, winning their own self-proclaimed national title. Frost’s arrival was preceded by an 0-12 showing in 2015. That’s how fast the turnaround was. Now, the Nebraska brass has brought him home to Lincoln to turn this program around. And some dyed-in-the-wool Big Red fans think that Frost (above, right) is going to bring the Huskers to the Promised Land, no doubt.
Sure there will be pressure on him, especially from this fan base when times get tough as the program is building. But as a popular t-shirt seen lately in the Cornhusker state says, “Devaney. Osborne. Some other guys. Frost.” They’re expecting some titles. And soon.
2. The recruiting class
One of the immediate impacts that news of Frost becoming head coach has wrought is on the current recruiting class for 2018. Mike Riley gave the Huskers a good start on the recruiting trail but since Frost’s hiring, there have been an injection of interest from many talented players. Going into the second signing date, the Huskers have 20 players who have either signed in the early signing period or have committed, four of which are four-star talents. Because of that, the Husker class currently sits at No. 23 in the 247Sports’ Composite Team Rankings. At the top of that class is possible quarterback of the future Adrian Martinez, a four-star recruit from Fresno, California, who should push returning backups Patrick O’Brien and Tristan Gebbia for the starting nod. He’ll have targets like four-star tight end Cameron Jurgens, junior college wide receiver Jaron Woodyard and the top-ranked running back out of the JUCO ranks in Greg Bell. Defensively, a pair of safeties is expected to come to campus in Cam’ron Jones and C.J. Smith, who are both described as can’t-miss blue-chippers.
Want to hear something weird? A full 10 of the 20 current Nebraska commits come from the footprint of the SEC.
3. The defense
Yes, the defense was horrid this past year. Sieve-like, even. We’re talking finishing 13th in the Big Ten kind of bad. But there is plenty of optimism for improvement in 2018 that should give the Cornhuskers enough of a stop unit to at least keep them in games for all four quarters. First off, Frost brought his defensive coordinator, Erik Chinander, with him from UCF to replace the train wreck that was Bob Diaco. Chinander was the maestro behind having a defense that went from giving up 38 points a game in 2015 to 25 points a game in ‘17. Secondly, he’ll inherit 12 of the team’s top 15 tacklers from this past season, including linebacker Dedrick Young and safety Aaron Williams, who were each in on 80 stops. On top of all that this coming season’s defensive unit will be a group heavy on juniors and seniors, which always brings a smile to the coach’s face.
Though these are the biggest three reasons out in the ethos, there are plenty more positives to the upcoming 2018 season for the Cornhuskers. Especially in the receiving corps where Stanley Morgan Jr. decided to return for his senior year and sophomore-to-be J.D. Spielman became a real force in passing game. Also, Devine Ozigbo, the leading rusher the past two seasons, and his band of reinforcements (Mikale Wilbon and Jaylin Bradley) also return nearly intact, just waiting to make their mark before they leave campus. If Frost and company find the right combination for the quarterback position, this team could really fly to double-digit win totals next year. Yes, feel free to remember you read that here first.
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.
(Scott Frost photo by Kelly Mosier, courtesy of www.huskers.com)