Photo Credit: Brandon Vogel

An Entirely Hypothetical B1G Media Days Podium Sesh with Scott Frost

August 19, 2020

Without the COVID-19 pandemic, the Big Ten’s coaches and top players would be in Chicago today. The Hail Varsity team would be enjoying deep dish Chicago-style pizza while one of our editors would be questioning why we couldn’t have Shake Shack instead. The suits would have been out, the mascots would have been wandering about, and the random and crazy questions would be flying.

It would have been the official beginning of Big Ten Media Days. But with the virus still going strong, that’s not the case. The conference announced toward the end of May the event, originally scheduled for July 22-23, would be postponed until a later, unspecified date. It may happen yet in some kind of virtual capacity. Then again it might not.

We thought it might be fun to just come up with our own pseudo-transcript for what Frost’s time at the dais might have looked like. He’d certainly rather be in a football facility with a hat and Husker t-shirt than a ballroom with a tie, but he’s no doubt dropped some memorable lines at these events in the past… There’s always next year.

The Question:

With the way everyone was falling over themselves to crown the Huskers’ then-sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez the “next big thing,” last offseason, and the way the actual season played out, Frost would have absolutely been peppered with questions about his quarterback. Is there a competition? Is Martinez still the guy? What went wrong in 2019? Is he healthy? Do they need to rethink how they run the offense through Martinez? Maybe to the point it would have annoyed the head ball coach. But this is a system that puts a premium on offensive firepower and after the engine got going late in 2018, it idled in 2019. There were other reasons aside from the quarterback play for that, and Frost would have pointed to those, but Martinez would have been popular whether he was one of the student-athletes Nebraska brought or not.

The Talking Point:

A year ago this time, Frost was saying things like, “We wouldn’t trade our guy for anyone in the country.” While a coach can’t ever really say, “Yeah, there are better quarterbacks around than what we’ve got” (maybe he can, I don’t know, that would be keeping it really real, though), Joe Burrow’s glow-up in Baton Rouge was just the tip of the iceberg that is college quarterbacks transferring and exploding at their new home. The simple fact is that instead of dipping into that market, Nebraska picked Martinez to be its quarterback of a new era. Frost picked a guy he believed in and could build around.

If the question becomes “Was that the wrong call?” Frost will never go there. There’s no guarantee Burrow or any other guy NU brought in to take Martinez’s spot would have done the same thing in Lincoln they did in their actual home. Situational context is important. And that’s probably where Frost would have started.

Martinez’s 2019 season saw his completion rate dip below 60%, his touchdowns drop, and his turnovers rise. He wasn’t the same runner and he didn’t display the same kind of confidence he had a year prior. The reasoning is multi-pronged. We know now Martinez wasn’t as healthy as NU let on to in-season. We knew then his timing was off when snaps went awry. We knew then the Huskers’ running game wasn’t the complementary piece it needed to be for consistent stretches. Martinez didn’t take the step forward, but nothing did on offense.

Frost could hammer home the idea that this offseason has and will continue to feature a full-on quarterback battle. Luke McCaffrey will push Martinez in fall camp the way Martinez wasn’t really pushed this time last year. True freshman Logan Smothers will be right there, too. Martinez won’t be handed a job. Rather, he’ll have to earn it. The best guy will win, and if it’s Martinez, the staff has full confidence in his ability to lead the offense.

And dear lord if someone would have actually mentioned Burrow by name… the ballroom might have caught fire.

The Chance for a One-Liner:

Oh, it’s strong. It’s very strong. Frost is the king of quips, and he’d absolutely have one locked and loaded for a non-regional writer asking about the quarterback spot. One thousand percent.

The Question:

What about Wan’Dale Robinson? The Huskers have legitimately one of the most versatile players in college football—340 rushing yards and three scores, 453 receiving yards and two scores, 236 kick return yards, 7.4 yards a touch—and he’s only a true sophomore. The future is bright. Frost would be asked about Robinson fairly early on.

The Talking Point:

Could go in a number of directions. Robinson is the kind of “weapon” Nebraska needs more of. The kind of guy that buys in. The kind of guy who will do anything and everything asked of him for the betterment of the team. Robinson has this natural leadership quality about him, and the fact he’s young hasn’t prevented him from taking ownership of the offense this offseason. Stars have to be role models, after all.

Or Frost could venture into the conversation about needing more Robinsons. “We need more guys like Wan’Dale,” might be something said. That gives him an avenue into talking about a receiver class from the 2020 cycle as good as any in the country. Omar Manning is the stuff. Zavier Betts has a ceiling that goes beyond just the roof. Alante Brown and Marcus Fleming are two more of this staff’s classic Florida speedsters. Nebraska needed some more offensive punch after the departures of JD Spielman, Maurice Washington, Kanawai Noa and others from last year’s offense, and Frost could talk about how they think they got it.

He could also go the “I wouldn’t trade Wan’Dale for anybody in the country” route. That would be strategic. And hilarious.

The Chance for a One-Liner:

Not as high as with any Martinez question, but still pretty high. Think Marshall Eriksen in his dorm room.

The Question:

JD Spielman is transferring to TCU. It’s not the homeward-bound move to Minnesota many anticipated with the relationship with Nebraska soured after the 2019 season, but it’s still a rather large loss for Nebraska. Spielman was the team’s leading returning receiver, with 49 catches for 898 yards and five scores a year ago. Among the other Huskers not named Wan’Dale Robinson, no one else had more than 25 catches or 250 yards. Spielman was one of the few established properties on Nebraska’s entire team. Frost would be asked what happened there, and how NU moves on?

The Talking Point:

And he wouldn’t give much. So far, the Nebraska comment has been that a separation was best for both parties, and they wish Spielman the best of luck in the future. Spielman recently pulled back the curtain a bit on Twitter, but Frost likely wouldn’t engage much with talk about guys no longer with the program.

The Chance for a One-Liner:

All you might have gotten was one line anyway, so…

The Question:

What’s going on with the defense?

The Talking Point:

Personally, I very much enjoy (and don’t generally have any issues with) Frost’s reluctance to talk about the defense and his general deferment of all things Blackshirts to his defensive coordinator, Erik Chinander. Frost’s an offensive guy and he trusts Chinander to do what he’s tasked him with doing.

That doesn’t quite work in Chicago, though. Chinander’s not there, and the defense has questions worth answering. Frost might be likely to go the route of needing to find playmakers within the defense.

The potential is there. The unit was actually quite good a season ago at stuffing other teams through the air, and Chinander’s emphasis on turnovers and negative plays has turned things in the right direction. Still, Nebraska is going on three years of not being able to consistently stop the run in a running league (102nd in yards per carry in 2019, third straight bottom-30 finish) and lots of years of not having a terror pass-rushing threat.

Guys like Ben Stille and JoJo Domann and maybe even Ty Robinson would likely be name-dropped, but there’d probably be a good deal of “It’s got to come from someone” going on here. He’s not wrong. Whether that’s a defensive end on the rebuilt line up front or an outside linebacker finally breaking through, Nebraska is sort of in wait-and-see mode with some of this.

Frost and Co. like Robinson. They like Blaise Gunnerson and Garrett Nelson and JoJo Domann. But I’d venture to say they’re not yet sure who is really going to run with those outside linebacker spots or who will have the job on lock come mid-October.

The Chance for a One-Liner:

Probably not great. The offense is Frost’s specialty, but it’s also his responsibility. He might not want to write a check he knows Chinander would have to cash.

The Question:

What would be success in Year 3?

The Talking Point:

These always get asked.

In this hypothetical press conference, the coronavirus hasn’t caused upheaval in college football, so Nebraska is still playing 12 games. The expectation would be to get to a bowl game. I don’t think Frost would shy away from setting that baseline. Nebraska needs to return to the postseason, and Frost knows that. With a 4-8 record in Year 1, then a 5-7 mark in Year 2, going 6-6 in 2020 would mark progress.

Slow progress, but progress nonetheless.

In the past, Frost has taken these questions and gone with more intangible results. He wants to see his team getting better—day-by-day improvement—and the culture becoming right and guys buying in. The seat isn’t hot, despite how many in our hypothetical Chicago ballroom might try and make it appear to be, but Frost still likely knows Nebraska needs more tangible results in Year 3.

The pandemic bringing the cancellation of three games (or two depending on what happens with the Big Ten schedule) might shift the goalposts for bowl eligibility, but a .500 campaign either way would probably still be the expectation.

The Chance for a One-Liner:

With people growing increasingly ready to question Frost’s security, it’d be the highlight of the week if he just responded with a smirk and a “You tell me.” Wouldn’t put it past him.

The Question:

Are you Big Ten strong yet?

The Talking Point:

*Zach Duval bursts through the side wall*

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