There's one thing local and national college football pundits agree on: recruiting football players to Nebraska isn't an easy task. As a result, the Cornhuskers have to be creative, cunning and willing to quite literally go the extra mile for necessary talent. With Scott Frost toiling away to bring the Big Red back to greatness, examining just how many frequent flier miles he racks up on a yearly basis helps us see how he's doing it.
Of course, Nebraska's heyday is unquestionably their run from 1994-97 during which Tom Osborne posted a 60-3 record and brought home three national championships. No one's expecting a repeat of that monumental success, but national titles are the ultimate measure of success for Huskers football. If a coach wants to have an elite college football program, their goals in the College Football Playoff era must include near perfection or they're doomed to mire in mediocrity over the long haul. Doing the absolute most to be the best is Frost's style as we've learned during his young head coaching career.
We don't have the biggest sample of where athletes that will mesh with Frost's eventual Nebraska program travel from, but we do have a starting point. What might a championship-caliber roster look like under him? Much like anyone would look to Alabama or Clemson to identify how a top-shelf modern-day program looks, the roster performing at the peak of Osborne's success shows us just how much pavement needs to be pounded for the Big Red to get the best talent available. Another reason to compare these two eras is that while Osborne had the Husker Power strength and conditioning program humming under Boyd Epley, it appears that Frost has a similar machine powering up under Zach Duval. These two periods are arguably the most similar Nebraska's had in several decades.
Let's first have a look at how much mileage Osborne had to cover to carve out depth charts for his physical, brutish championship rosters.
Combing over every recruiting class from 1992-97 was necessary as players from each of those classes contributed to the four-year run of dominance. During that time, Osborne signed 141 players. Almost 28 percent of those classes (39 signees) was comprised of players from Nebraska — something that should surprise no one. The fewest signed from the Cornhusker State in any particular class was four (1996) with as many as nine in the 32-man class of 1994. Four states had the most remaining representation in California (14), Texas (11), New Jersey (9), and Missouri (8). Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Oklahoma each claim six members of those classes while Illinois added four.
To help you appreciate just how far prospects traveled to be a member of Osborne's teams, the total distance of those 141 prospects' homes to Lincoln covered a total of 90,583 miles or roughly 34 trips across the continental United States. The 500-mile radius surrounding Lincoln is often emphasized as an area the Huskers must lock down and the seriousness of that shows in the final numbers. Osborne's ‘92-97 haul was comprised of athletes within an average radius of 642 miles from One Memorial Drive in the state capital.
Frost's first two classes show both contrast and similarities to his mentor's approach. While his first class featured no signees from Nebraska, his second included five, which accounted for about 18.5 percent of that year's haul. He has made it clear that he intends to sign the best in-state players available every year, a practice that he's carried over into the current cycle.
Under Frost, Arizona, Nebraska, and Florida each boast six signees out of 51 total. Georgia comes in second with five while Alabama, California, Colorado, and Texas each claim three. The real difference between mentor and student is Frost's footprint across the country. The farthest Osborne ever traveled on average during a cycle was 698 miles while wrapping up the 1993 class.
Frost, on the other hand, trekked over 749 miles on average last year alone (20,223 total). His transition class — a group recruited while he was simultaneously finishing out his tenure at UCF — averaged a colossal 919 miles of distance between a recruit's home and Lincoln. To help you appreciate these efforts even more, Frost signed 27 prospects to his 2019 class while the '18 group had only 24. If the transition class had three more signees that came from the same average distance, we'd be looking at families tripping 1,033 miles per recruit to see their kids play at Nebraska.
It should be noted that the 2018 class is likely going to be an outlier. The UCF staff utilized strong southern, West Coast and junior college connections to bolster Frost's earliest roster as this was where their immediate ties were the strongest. This will still continue to a point, but with a renewed emphasis on not allowing another Noah Fant or Easton Stick to escape the state, classes with roughly three to five Nebraskan commitments will no doubt be the norm moving forward. Consider the fact that the Huskers will also happily send their entire coaching staff to visit a recruit and there's no doubt that Johnny Cash himself could pen an appropriate song for the Big Red's recruiting efforts.