NCAA FOOTBALL: MAR 13 Nebraska Spring Practice

What to make of King Frazier?

Let the record show that Bo Pelini really got the King Frazier bandwagon rolling on March 11. That’s the day Husker fans learned that Ameer Abdullah was likely done for the spring following a minor knee injury.

On that day, Pelini said this: “King Frazier’s doing some really good things. (Ameer’s injury) gives us a chance to look at some other backs.”

Short and quick, but any time a coach mentions a player that has been to that point effectively unheard of the buzz builds quickly. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck added a little fuel yesterday, mentioning Frazier’s name again. When I asked Nebraska fans on Twitter today to give me their five players to watch in Saturday’s spring game — still time to send those picks in, by the way — two of the first 10 votes to come in were for King Frazier.

So what are we to make of this? Legitimate buzz or just a product of the spring?

This isn’t quite what I like to call “bigger, faster, stronger, better” season. That better applies to the fall where the players have had four or five months on their own to actually get bigger, faster, stronger, better at which point they all seemed to achieve all of those things. This year, spring practice came just eight weeks after the end of the 2012 season.

Still, the natural tendency of the spring is to build guys up, even if that impulse is maybe not as strong as it is in August. Nobody is going to, or likely wants to, hear a coach say, “After Imani Cross, we’ve got nothing until the freshmen get here this fall.”  There’s a chance that’s the truth, but it doesn’t seem very productive even if it is.

And, in this case, I’m skeptical that it is the truth. There’s a good case to be made for Frazier even though nobody’s seen him play at the college level yet and he won’t be available to speak to the media until at least next fall. Here are a few reasons for legitimate optimism:

1) He chose to walk-on at Nebraska over an actual Big Ten scholarship offer. Yes, Indiana was his only FBS offer — he also had offers from North Dakota, North Dakota State, and South Dakota State according to Rivals — but the decision to turn that down and walk-on at Nebraska tells us something about not just his talent but his belief in his talent. The latter may be more important.

2) Frazier made second team all-state in Missouri’s largest classification during an injury-shortened season. Two of the running backs who made the first team as juniors that year, Markel Smith and Brock Broughton, have both been recruited by Nebraska with Smith just decommitting from Missouri over the weekend.

3) It’s hard to tell how missing a few games as a senior may have changed Frazier’s recruiting profile, but it probably played in Nebraska’s favor. As a junior, Frazier put up some pretty impressive numbers — more than 1,400 yards rushing and 600 yards receiving with 15 total touchdowns.

4) Abdullah’s injury came at pretty ideal juncture for Frazier. The incoming freshmen Adam Taylor and Terrell Newby have statistics and accolades that can’t be ignored. They don’t mean anything once those players show up in Lincoln, but they do indicate that there’s a good bit of talent headed the Huskers way in August. The presumption was, and maybe still is, that Nebraska’s I-back depth chart goes like this come Aug. 31: Abdullah, Cross, Newby -OR- Taylor.

I came into this year’s spring session thinking that might not be the ideal scenario for Nebraska. Here was my reasoning:

…In 2011, Nebraska had Ameer Abdullah, Braylon Heard and Aaron Green – three talented freshmen backs – and decided not to redshirt any of them. Now Abdullah’s the only one left, which seems to underscore the importance of separating your talent by a class if possible. It might only be possible if someone like King Frazier or Graham Nabity makes a dent on the depth chart. The development of Imani Cross would help too. If he can be more than a short yardage specialist it gives Nebraska options. Maybe he already is. We don’t know. He wasn’t asked to do that in 2012.

We still don’t know anything for sure. We’ve heard Cross is better equipped to be an every down back. We’ve heard Frazier might be a legitimate factor.

The latter would be a very good development for Nebraska if true. We’ll get our first clue of whether it is or isn’t on Saturday.

For now, I’m buying the buzz.