Year One for Scott Forst back in Lincoln can be best be described as a whirlwind, as he went from simultaneously coaching UCF to a 2018 Peach Bowl win over Auburn straight into recruiting for Nebraska. Growing pains followed for him and the Cornhuskers, but the important takeaway from last season is that his culture has taken root within the program and, in his words, guys know where to go.
This offseason hasn't been quiet leading up to March as the Big Red family faces multiple personal challenges along with the positive ones developing on the field. Here's what we learned from Nebraska's first week of spring practice:
1. The Huskers are bigger, faster and stronger
When strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval was introduced to the Nebraska roster, it was obvious he had work to do. To get Frost's charges in far better shape to run a more up-tempo, yet still physically imposing offense, everyone had to improve their bodies across the board.
Frost reported that since the 2018 season came to an end, the Nebraska roster's average squat has improved by 100 pounds, their average bench has gone up by 50 pounds and each player averaged 13 pounds of new, lean muscle. This comes as good news for an offensive line that's holding open auditions for its interior and overall depth along with a wide receiver corps that needs both speed and the ability to properly block.
Said offensive line coach Greg Austin of the improvements made, "The biggest thing is their strength, and not just their "one rep' strength. It's their residual strength. They were not the same bodies [during the first rep of practice as they were in] rep 15 of practice back in the day. Now, I can see them having strength and stamina over the long haul of a practice."
2. Maurice Washington is still in the building
One of the most interesting early notes of spring practice was that Washington, currently embattled with significant legal allegations, has been a part of the proceedings. How much the sophomore running back participates is unknown as he may be required to appear in California to address recent charges brought against him. He stands accused of sending a short video of an alleged sexual assault of a former girlfriend to her. A felony charge is also attached due to possessing and sending a video of a person who wasn't 18 at the time of the recording.
Frost declined to comment much, opting to wait until all details come to light. However, he did state that players should take heed that they are representatives of the program as a whole, like it or not.
"It's disappointing to me any time the team or the university are represented in a bad light," Frost said. "So I've been disappointed in everything. But I'm hopeful that the process moves quickly and there's some clarity shed on the subject for us real soon."
3. New leaders are already emerging
With the departure of veteran leadership like Jerald Foster and Tanner Farmer — two main components of Nebraska's 2018 offensive line — not to mention Devine Ozigbo and Stanley Morgan Jr., it is imperative that players step up to fill those roles immediately. One of the most consistent players on the offensive line, Matt Farniok, has apparently happily filled those shoes among the big men up front.
Defensive lineman Darrion Daniels, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma State, didn't waste time in becoming vocal among the team. This comes as no surprise as he was reported to have a similar personality in Stillwater.
4. The new hire is a hit
Frost didn't have much time to find a replacement for former defensive line coach Mike Dawson, who departed to coach outside linebackers for the New York Giants before spring football started. However, he made the most of his interviews and picked up one of the best "value" hires he could in former California defensive line coach Tony Tuioti.
With his recruiting connections in Utah, Southern California, Hawaii and beyond, combined with his experience recruiting for Michigan and working with the Cleveland Browns, Tuitoi was a steal considering his reported $375,000 salary. From the look of things, he's already fitting in well.
5. The program is fighting a battle bigger than football
It was revealed in late February that outside linebackers coach Jovan Dewitt has been fighting a form of throat cancer. As a result, he won't be at the entirety of Nebraska's spring practices but will participate as much as he is able. Said Frost of Dewitt, "He's fighting a good fight right now. The diagnosis is pretty good. I think it's a high percent chance that it's a curable type of cancer. He's going through the necessary things to try to win it and he's got all of us behind him."
— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces) and enjoy the Eight Laces podcast. To contact him with tips, story ideas or for interview purposes, click here.