The first-year head coach has wasted little time in remaking the Cornhuskers' roster
To those Nebraska football fans who had forgotten/were trying to forget the Bill Callahan era via the passage of time or perhaps excessive consumption of alcoholic libations, forgive me, but at the same time, bear with me. In 2004, Callahan's first year as the Cornhuskers' head coach, HuskerVision produced one of their pre-Tunnel Walk animated shorts which featured him holding a large sheet with the phrase "Blueprint for Championships" on the back as he oversaw construction of a presumed eventual national championship trophy.
Obviously, the hardware in said video never found its way to Lincoln under his watch, but as we fast forward to today, the argument can be made that Scott Frost can make a far more convincing claim to hold such a rendering. The most recent example of this is current roster turnover. Not that he's finding out who fits the mold of his schemes or culture in a hurry, but rather how quickly he's setting a foundation for the future.
Since he was officially announced as Nebraska's new head coach in December 2017, Frost has brought on a combined eight junior college and graduate transfers that can play immediately this fall. That's a pretty impressive turnaround considering the Big Red had roster numbers that needed to be massaged to meet NCAA-mandated limits come fall camp.
Let's take a look at these newest members of the Big Red's roster and see where they project to best assist Frost's first Husker squad.
Greg Bell, RB (junior college transfer)
Throughout spring ball, Bell made a strong case for the starting spot. No current Nebraska running back can match his combination of size, speed and physicality. Tre Bryant and Mikale Wilbon both offer athleticism, but we don't know how the former will respond coming off of essentially being run into the ground to the point of injury last season. Wilbon has shown flashes throughout his career, but nothing consistent.
Devine Ozigbo has bounced back and shown reliability as a big back and he will have a place in Frost's system in certain situations as a result. However, Bell is Nebraska's legitimate every-down back right now. Truth be told, he's one of the players on this list that's a near lock to start and that makes sense for a player ranked as the No. 1 junior college running back in the last class according to 247Sports.
Mike Williams, WR (junior college transfer)
A speedster from East Mississippi Community College of Last Chance U fame, Williams provides a plug-and-play solution following the transfer of Keyan Williams to Ball State. The two have similar size and the JUCO transfer has proven he can be an impact player with 30 receptions for 669 yards and seven touchdowns last season. His explosiveness (reported 4.37-second 40-yard dash) should open eyes in a hurry.
Jaron Woodyard, WR (junior college transfer)
There was some concern that Woodyard –- the No. 2-ranked junior college wide receiver in his class according to 247Sports -– wouldn't be academically cleared for the upcoming season, but with those worries behind him, Nebraska adds another speedster receiver similar to Mike Williams. Woodyard is all of five pounds heavier and an inch taller than Williams at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, but quickness abounds as he clocked a 10.68-second 100-yard dash according to MileSplit.
Both Williams and Woodyard will have ample opportunity to be among the starting three wide receivers when Nebraska opens the season against Akron on Sept. 1. When the Huskers are in a four- or five-wide set, don't be shocked to see them both on the field at the same time.
To quote Arizona Western head coach Tom Minnick, "Speed kills, he's got it."
Vaha Vainuku, DL (graduate transfer, Utah)
Vainuku simply didn't find a proper fit with the Utes. After completing a Latter-day Saints mission trip following high school and an unproductive time spent as an offensive lineman, he hung up his cleats and felt that his days as a college football player were over. Devastated that he may never play the game again, the Huskers' needs have breathed new life into him.
His initial recruitment projected him as a defensive lineman and sure enough, that's where the odds have him lining up in Lincoln. In fact, Vainuku says that the Huskers (more specifically defensive coordinator Erik Chinander) see him as an athlete versatile enough to play all three positions in the Big Red's 3-4 scheme.
This comes as good news considering that not only has there been some futility at the defensive end position over the past several years, the Huskers can use depth at nose tackle with Mick Stoltenberg moving on after this season.
Breon Dixon, OLB (transfer, Ole Miss)
Another former Rebel who has moved on to the Big Ten much like Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson, Dixon was hopeful that not only would he find a new home, but that he'd be able to play immediately. The NCAA ruled in the favor of both after hearing their appeals, which centered on the belief each was misled regarding the scope of the investigation surrounding former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and resulting sanctions against the program.
Ole Miss' loss appears to be the Huskers' gain as Dixon has shown himself to be a natural as a pass rush specialist and a backfield disruptor in general. He may not be an official starter for the opener, but he will likely see plenty of snaps.
Will Honas, ILB (junior college transfer)
It's easy to project Honas as one of the starters at inside linebacker. His position coach, former Husker linebacker Barrett Ruud, worked very diligently to simultaneously pull Honas towards Lincoln and stiff-arm a late push by the Wisconsin Badgers. Honas' future as a team leader that lets his old-school, Big Ten linebacker-style hits do the talking is bright.
Will Jackson, CB (junior college transfer)
Nebraska has struggled with production from the cornerback position quite a bit lately and securing Jackson is a major win. Not only is he immediately eligible as he graduated in May, but he's been recruited by a Power 5 program before.
A Washington, D.C. native, Jackson initially signed with Kentucky out of high school as a member of the class of 2016 but was dismissed shortly after for a violation of team rules. He then moved on to Mesa (Ariz.) Community College where he recorded four interceptions and made life difficult on opposing wide receivers over the course of nine games.
Jackson's measurables immediately cause Husker fans to look at another cornerback already on the roster: Lamar Jackson. The junior is still looking to live up to his billing as a four-star recruit coming out of high school and with a 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame, he does have the tools to be effective against wide receivers, at least on paper. However, his physicality has been lacking.
Meanwhile, Will Jackson measures in a little bit taller according to Nebraska's coaches and weighs around 190. There's also the motivation factor given how his brief time at Kentucky ended.
While the newest Jackson may not be the savior Nebraska is looking for at cornerback, he immediately gives the upperclassman who has already spent two years in Lincoln a reason to bust his butt this summer to make sure he's ready to compete for a starting spot come the fall.
Deontai Williams, S (junior college transfer)
The No. 2-ranked junior college safety in the most recent class, Williams also will be given every chance to help shore up a Nebraska secondary that has been far too generous to opposing passing attacks in recent years.
Nebraska hasn't finished the season with a top 25 passing defense since 2012 when the Huskers ranked fourth at 168 yards per game allowed. Since then the Huskers have given up an average of 230 yards through the air per year, which places them 59th nationally during that span.
Aaron Williams and Antonio Reed both return, but no Husker safety has made an impact like current Philadelphia Eagle Nathan Gerry did and he left in 2016 after sitting out the bowl game. Interestingly, Williams feels comfortable playing at either cornerback or safety. Given his size (6-1, 200), perhaps we'll see Will Jackson join Williams at the safety spot a time or two.
Frost is flipping his squad in preparation for both the 2018 and '19 seasons so well, it's a wonder that HGTV hasn't called him up to pitch a show. He's hitting two key objectives that bode well for his current and future impressions among recruits and transfers. He's filled the roster with eight players who will more than likely see the two-deep, if not extensive snaps while properly ushering out those who don't fit what he's looking to do in a mature fashion.
At this rate, who knows? He might not be done yet.