As the dust settled on the traditional National Signing Day at Memorial Stadium, Nebraska head coach Scott Frost met with the media to talk about the Huskers’ 2022 class, the quarterback race and players who won’t be competing in spring practices due to injuries.
“We’ve had a lot of changes, obviously a lot of new faces in the building,” Frost said. “It’s kind of exciting with the new coaches we have in the building, the new players we have in the building. Has a little different feel. We’ve been getting back to work as a football team and had the guys in the weight room and on the field running a little bit—excited about that, too. There seems to be some energy injected into everything we’re doing because of some of the new faces.”
On the injury front
Offensive linemen Turner Corcoran and Teddy Prochazka won’t be going through spring practices as they rehab injuries. Prochazka, a true freshman in 2021, started the Northwestern game at left tackle and played well. But he went down with a season-ending knee injury the following week against Michigan. Corcoran battled an injury last spring, too, which slowed his development.
Back on that grind pic.twitter.com/tAxM2GBqFl
— Teddy Prochazka (@TeddyProchazka) February 2, 2022
Tight end Travis Vokolek, outside linebacker Damian Jackson and running back Gabe Ervin Jr. are either not going to compete in spring practice or will at least be limited. Frost said Ervin “will be getting close”. The talented athlete from Georgia was the first true freshman to start at running back for Nebraska in the modern era, but went down with a season-ending injury in Week Four at Oklahoma.
Frost said his teams usually carry about five scholarship quarterbacks, and with Adrian Martinez transferring to Kansas State, they were down to three. Frost and new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple brought in two transfer quarterbacks in Casey Thompson from Texas and Chubba Purdy from Florida State. They’ll join a room that already included Logan Smothers, Heinrich Haarberg and the lone 2022 recruit at the position, Richard Torres.
“We felt like we needed to get the numbers back up. We’re looking forward to some competition at some of these positions and that being one of them,” Frost said of quarterback. “But there’s a lot of new faces, new additions that are going to be able to compete with our guys and push them. We’re gonna let the best man win. But we felt like, in order to get that position back to where it should be, that maybe adding two, and if we could find the two right ones, that we wanted them.”
Frost pushed back against the thought of there being a narrative about Thompson being brought to Lincoln to be the starting quarterback. The coach said the former Longhorn who threw 30 touchdowns in four seasons in Austin won’t be handed the job.
“That’s not my narrative. There’s a lot of narratives around that aren’t really based in fact,” Frost said. “He’s (Thompson) gonna have every opportunity to start, and he knows that. The other guys are gonna get their opportunities too. And we got a long time to work with him and a spring ball and a fall camp to figure it all out.”
Frost, however, did talk about his fondness of Thompson’s father, Charles, a fellow former option quarterback who played for legendary head coach Barry Switzer at Oklahoma and played against Nebraska in the late 1980s.
“I have a soft spot in my heart for Tommie Frazier and Eric Crouch and Turner Gill and even Mickey Joseph,” Frost said with a smile. “It’s a dying fraternity, but I got to see his dad (Charles) the other day and it was great to see and talk a little football with him.”
With the program going through winter conditioning right now, there haven’t been many opportunities for Frost and Whipple to see Thompson really throw or run the offense yet. But what stuck out initially was Thompson’s leadership qualities and energy he brings to the team. The quarterback recently took the offensive linemen out to eat and hang out.
“That’s what a quarterback is supposed to do. Supposed to pick up the level of play from everybody around him. And that’s tough to do in your first week on campus or your first two weeks on campus, but he’s doing it,” Frost said. “I look forward to working with him, have coach Whipple work with him. Same with Chubba, he’s been doing a great job with that too along with the other quarterbacks, but we need we need leadership from that position and we need a guy that’s gonna say, ‘Hey, get behind me. We’re gonna go in this thing and I’m going to lead you there.’ You get that feel from those guys.”
Competition will be the name of the game
Currently, the Huskers have brought in 28 new faces to the program. That group includes 10 Division I transfers, three junior college products and 15 high school recruits. Competition won’t be a stranger this spring and fall in Lincoln.
One of the more competitive rooms on the team is at running back, where Frost said he wanted to be better. That’s why Anthony Grant, the top-rated juco running back in the nation in the 2022 class, was brought in. As was Ajay Allen, a four-star prospect according to 247Sports who was offered by Bryan Applewhite while he was coaching at TCU. Applewhite was able to flip Allen to Nebraska after he got the Husker running backs job.
“We were really young at the position. Rahmir (Johnson) being a sophomore and (Jaquez) Yant basically a freshman and Gabe a freshman, and other guys,” Frost said of the running backs. “We were short on numbers there too. And so we’ve added a few here with Ajay being the latest. And again, I think the talent level in that room, watching him run around, he’s going to be really good. They’re learning new terminology and some new scheme right now just like everybody else, and may the best man win.”
Who will play center?
A lot of different players will be in the conversation to be the starting center, Frost said. It will be hard to fill the shoes of Cam Jurgens, a three-year starter at the position. One name brought up was the 6-foot-6 Corcoran, who made starts at both tackle spots last season.
“Turner’s a guy I think is probably capable of playing all five positions if we needed him to,” Frost said. “He did a great job at left tackle, looked great at right tackle when we moved him over when Teddy played. Teddy and Turner are both gonna miss spring with injuries. So they’re around and learning and able to do some things, but again, that’s going to help some other guys get reps. And Turner in particular, we’re probably going to have to figure out where he fits the best.”
The talent is easy to see in Nebraska’s receivers room. Omar Manning and Zavier Betts showed flashes of success in 2021. Now with new receivers coach Mickey Joseph in the fold, what’s Frost expect from the wideouts?
One word: consistency.
“Those guys all had flashes of brilliance last year at certain times, and and other times when it wasn’t what we expected,” Frost said. “Experience is certainly going to help with that, and hopefully Mickey helps with that. They’re gonna have a lot of guys on their heels and chasing them with Isaiah (Garcia-Castaneda) here and with some of the other additions that we’ve made, Trey (Palmer), and some of the other guys.
“If they’re not doing the right thing, somebody else is going to be on the field and that’s always going to be at every position.”
What’s the goal of bringing in these new players?
Frost wants a team dedicated to doing the “little things” that it takes to win football games in the Big Ten. That’s what competition brings out. Coaches will play the players they trust and sit the ones they don’t.
“We did a lot of things right last year, and a lot of little things wrong when we needed it the most,” Frost said. “And when you’re doing little things right, it becomes a habit, and a lot of people talk about it, but you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level you’re training. So I want guys to have those type of practices every day, weightlifting sessions every day. The little things are going to help us win, an attitude that’s going to help us win.
“But with some of the numbers we have now at those positions, those guys better take advantage of their reps if they want to be on the field. Competition is going to help stimulate effort in practice.”