Nebraska head coach Scott Frost has met with the media remotely a couple of times since the sports world changed last March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Friday may have been the first such press conference when football truly felt like it was on the horizon. The Huskers began padded practices on Sept. 30 in preparation for the season opener at Ohio State on Oct. 24.
It has started to feel like football season in Nebraska again, particularly this week, but Frost acknowledged that there’s still the potential for uncertain times ahead. There have been multiple college games canceled or postponed each week of the season so far and the NFL just had its first outbreak on two teams.
The Huskers have games on the schedule and practices have ramped up, but attention to detail takes on an entirely new context this season.
“We were one of the teams that really fought to be able to play,” Frost. “I’m glad we did that. I think we were fighting for football. I think that was the right thing to do. We’re going to have to comply with any and all restrictions and qualifications to be able to play and we’re going to be as careful as we can. We want to give our student-athletes the opportunity to do what they came to Nebraska to do. Hopefully we get to play as many games as possible. Hopefully we get to play all nine.”
Through all of the uncertainty of this offseason, there were some bright spots for the Huskers. Nebraska was able to have its players return to campus in early June, sooner than many other schools. The longer-than-expected layoff also allowed some players to recover from injury. Perhaps most importantly, the struggle to even have a season has, in part, resulted in a “really tight-knit group.”
According to the head coach the Huskers are better off than they were two years ago, though Frost was a little hesitant to bring it up.
“I’m reluctant to talk about us getting better because we have gotten better but people take that and run with it,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do. We’ve covered a lot of ground, probably still have some ground to cover.”
Frost also said the Huskers are closer to having the depth they need to compete at the level they hope to compete at.
“Every year we bring in another recruiting class, every weight session with Zach Duval where we’re developing players we’re getting closer to not just having the talent we need but the depth we need to compete at a high level. We’ll keep training our guys from the bottom of the roster to the top of the roster. Day by day if we get better and better we’re going to be closer to where we want to be.
Some other quick notes from Frost’s press conference:
>>Iowa team physician Dr. Andy Peterson told Hawkeye Report this week that the Big Ten was capping the daily number of antigen tests at 170 per team. Nebraska’s current football roster lists 154 players. Add in 11 coaches, graduate assistants, managers and additional support staff and the Huskers run up against that limit pretty quickly.
Frost said Nebraska is still “working through the details on that” with the Big Ten and he was hopeful that everyone on the Husker roster would have the chance to practice and play football this fall.
>>Frost said the running backs are a young group outside of senior Dedrick Mills, but a group that has done a good job so far. He mentioned that true freshmen Sevion Morrison and Marvin Scott III have shown “flashes” through the offseason and that redshirt freshman Ronald Thompkins has been healthier than the staff anticipated coming off a knee injury suffered last year.
>>Frost was optimistic on Friday about Nebraska’s offensive line, saying seniors Matt Farniok and Brenden Jaimes have chances to have their best seasons. He also mentioned the importance of redshirt freshmen Bryce Benhart and Brant Banks contributing this season.
>>Nebraska likely has one of the most difficult schedules in the Big Ten, perhaps the country, but “I don’t think our guys care,” Frost said, “they just want an opportunity to compete. We were one of the schools fighting to play and we’re just excited we get to play.”
>>Sophomore cornerback Braxton Clark was poised to see his most playing time yet as a Husker following the graduation of starter Lamar Jackson, but Frost revealed that Clark is likely out for the season with a shoulder injury. He had 11 tackles and one interception last year over 12 games.
The additional time before the start of the season, however, has allowed another promising young defensive back time to recover. Frost said he expects sophomore Quinton Newsome to be available.