Not unlike his predecessors, Nebraska football head coach Scott Frost is adept at coachspeak. From Tom Osborne sheepishly downplaying his team’s abilities, Frank Solich informing us that the team has been “moving around well” to Mike Riley’s soft-spoken pats on the back, the media has documented golden oldies from every coach. One of Frost’s has proven a bit more confusing, though.
His repeated claims that Nebraska has had “its best week of practice yet” during a campaign that saw the Huskers jump out to a historically bad start first caused eyebrows to rise before eyes began to roll. The trend continued yesterday as he told the media that the day’s practice was far and away his team’s best on a Thursday. However, following the Big Red’s first win of the season over Minnesota, part of the Frost decoder ring may have been solved.
Nebraska’s head man is a big believer in the actions both big and small that got the program to college football’s mountaintop during its heyday in the 1990s. Not to say he expects another 60-3 run anytime soon, but he’s not shy to express his feelings that the Huskers can be nationally competitive again. Strongly embracing Big Red tradition, Frost frequently refers to part of the famous “Husker Prayer” as often as others use the phrase, “trust the process.”
For those unfamiliar, the part of the “prayer” in question — often repeated prior to Nebraska taking the field — goes “day by day, we get better and better until we can’t be beat; won’t be beat.” Frost is frequently seen wearing shirts that literally say “Day by Day” and he’s reiterated this idea during multiple press conferences. The idea of lauding improvement each and every day suggests that he isn’t necessarily looking for monumental progress across the board during these weeks of practice, but that a number of smaller factors are molding his program into what he wants it to become.
A number of players have departed as Frost’s culture didn’t mesh with their plans for the future, including several members of Riley’s former roster. Others such as starting cornerback Lamar Jackson, who recently earned his Blackshirt, pondered departing but chose to stick it out. Devine Ozigbo fought harder than he ever has to climb the depth chart and is now on pace to become Nebraska’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Ameer Abdullah in 2014.
Against Minnesota, we saw Frost’s team turn a significant corner. While they probably won’t go undefeated down the stretch, a valid case can be made for them to end the season 4-8, a far cry from when a win against Bethune-Cookman, a FCS program added to the schedule to fill the rained-out season opener with Akron, appeared to be the closest thing to a sure victory. If Nebraska tanked versus the Golden Gophers, we could’ve easily held Huskers to those same low standards. That’s not so easy now.
However, expect to continue hearing that the Big Red has their “best week of practice yet” again and again as the offense has reached an output not seen since Frost led the charge as a quarterback in 1997. Nebraska ranks 22nd in the nation in total offense at 472 yards per game. During Frost’s senior season, the Huskers averaged 512 yards per contest.
The defense can now officially be called the Blackshirts as they’ve at least been offered the honor. Again, it’s important to note that defensive end Ben Stille declined the award as he felt he hasn’t lived up to what former Blackshirts Grant Wistrom and Jason Peter described a player wearing the practice jersey signified.
Whether or not they take major steps towards becoming a more cohesive unit for the remainder of the season has yet to be seen. However, it’s safe to say that the offense can make a determined effort to bail them out while they continue to get their wits about them.
Barring an extremely improbable tear through the remainder of their schedule, Nebraska won’t see a bowl game. However, these Huskers can make a statement that despite an 0-6 start, their record does not properly define who they are. Frost’s culture continues to separate the wheat from the chaff (or the corn from the husk, whichever you prefer). With another recruiting class coming in coupled with a year’s worth of strength and conditioning work under Zach Duval, look for those alleged fantastic practices to repeat.
If Nebraska can continue to light up teams offensively, it’s hard to argue that the Big Red Machine isn’t starting to hum in a way that is gaining attention from both opponents and recruits. Day by day, they’re getting better and better.
— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces).
(Screengrab courtesy of www.huskers.com)