Nebraska football’s new head coach stood behind a podium in front of the now all-too-familiar sight of a room crammed full of cameras and microphones on Wednesday and painted his vision for spring football in Lincoln. Shortly after, assistant coaches and players would make their voices heard. One thing is for certain: it hasn’t taken long for Scott Frost’s vision to take hold in Lincoln and there are a few key reasons why.
In a scarlet and cream cap and pullover jacket that looked to fit him like a glove, Frost preached repetition frequently. Six times during the press conference, it all came back to how many reps players would get. If you are a college football player, Nebraska is the land of opportunity if you’re willing to put in the work.
In order to properly learn, his players must get snap after snap, and lots of them. He wants to see at least 130 to 140 reps of team and seven-on-seven drills spread out among his roster. Grab the Gatorade.
“The more reps we can get, the better. Repetition makes you better at anything. We practice at a fast pace, we’re going to get a lot of repetitions. You don’t get better without practicing and we want as many guys up and moving and practicing as we can get.”
Frost’s is clearly a program of learning. On many football teams, missing tackles and dropping balls may cause a flurry of swears from the head man on down. Much like his mentor Tom Osborne, this isn’t the former Husker quarterback’s way.
“One of our sayings is ‘have a desire to excel and no fear of failure.’ Part of that is the coaches’ responsibility. I mentioned that we are not going to yell and scream at kids. We’re not going to cuss at kids. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do and I also don’t want kids afraid to go make a great play. Once you take away that fear of what might happen if you make a bad play it really frees you up to go make great plays.”
It’s so crazy that it could work.
There was definitely some paralysis of analysis during the Bo Pelini days in Lincoln, and the culture clash between his locker room mantras and Mike Riley’s clearly didn’t help. The causes for era after era of indecision on offense and laughable defense are many. No matter the recipe for it, the paralysis of analysis was real. Frost says, “no more.”
We saw how that approach changed UCF from a winless team to an undefeated squad with a high-octane offense and opportunistic defense in all of two seasons.
An increased emphasis on teaching isn’t limited to the football field under Frost’s watch. Senior defensive lineman Mick Stoltenberg pointed out that if an exercise or lift that the strength and conditioning staff introduced was new or different to the team, education is the name of the game.
“They always explain how it is going down in football, you’ve got defensive linemen doing defensive linemen-specific drills, offensive line doing offensive linemen-specific drills. Which is fun, kind of seeing how it is going to translate to the football field.”
Fellow defensive lineman Freedom Akinmoladun agrees with his teammate’s sentiment. He noted that while past coaches explained themselves and their workouts, strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval’s perspective is truly unique in the team’s eyes. “You can ask any player. We really appreciate him doing that for us.”
Stoltenberg pointed out that the defensive line also is interested in making sure that opposing offenses have to get up pretty early in the morning to outwork the Big Red. “We want to be the best group out of the lifting groups. We want to come in there and be ready to roll at 6 a.m. when the other guys are still sleeping,” he said.
On the offensive side of the ball, one example of the new coaching staff’s commitment to developing relationships from the get-go is assistant coach Greg Austin. Offensive lineman Jerald Foster, one of Austin’s charges, pointed out how quick he was to learn about his players before demanding a playbook got into their hands.
“He’s definitely been talking about allowing us to be a unit together and knowing each other. He’s worked since day one to be able to get names, be able to get relationships, and personal aspects of life down before we got all of our technique, fundamentals, and things like that.”
This all doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. After all, this is a staff that had to sell itself in a span of roughly two months to bring in a transition recruiting class that ended up ranked in the top 25. Clearly, salesmanship plays a part. Then again, it appears the genuine spirit and transparency that Frost and his staff bring to the table is paying early dividends.
As for how this will impact the on-field product, Nebraska will hold its first practice on Friday and then be dismissed for spring break afterward.
However, it’ll be interesting to see if any members of the Nebraska football team decide to skip their week off and put in a few extra hours for a shot at a higher depth chart spot once the hustle resumes.