Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletics

Expect Huskers Offense to Remain a Mystery, Intentionally, Through Fall Camp

July 26, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS – Big Ten championship banners hanging over his left shoulder, one of two Lucas Oil Stadium video boards over his right, Scott Frost took 10 questions at the podium on the first day of the conference’s annual media days.

He didn’t agree with the premise, or at least the wording, of two of them.

The first asked how the Huskers get back on track competitively.

“Competitively, I think, is the wrong way to put it,” Frost said. “We were competitive in every game last year. We had our chances to win. We made a ton of progress as a program from a talent perspective and from a culture perspective. We haven’t gotten it there yet.”

Fair enough. Nebraska did put together probably the most competitive season a team can realistically have while winning just three games.

The second point of contention involved a question about the offense and Frost “stepping away” from it now that the Huskers are spending nearly $1 million a year for offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.

“Stepping away is the wrong way to put it,” Frost said. “I’m going to still have my hand in it. It’s going to be a fun collaboration with somebody else who knows a lot of football.”

It appears after day one in Indianapolis, that might be about as much as we’re going to learn about how exactly this “fun collaboration” will work before it has to debut against Northwestern in Dublin on Aug. 27, and that’s by design.

Reporters coaxed what they could out of Nebraska’s representatives on Tuesday, and they’ll keep trying throughout fall camp, reports that will be of particular interest on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Right now, Northwestern doesn’t know what this fun collaboration looks like either.

“Lot of challenges,” Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said to a group of reporters about the mystery factor. “Not only new faces, but a new coordinator on offense. You know, a lot on our shoulders that we have to study. We’ve done that all offseason. I’d love any reporting from Lincoln that you guys can do, so feel free to go to every practice and put everything on the internet that you can.”

Nebraska got to experience best-guess game-planning last year in its Week 0 loss at Illinois, the game originally scheduled for Ireland before COVID-19 kept it stateside. The Illini, under first year head coach Bret Bielema, working with two new coordinators, played their spring game in a three-man defensive front, but threw a four-man front at the Huskers in the 30-22 win to open last season.

“About half of our game plan was kind of out the window when they came up and lined up the way they did, so we really had to scramble and had to go to an alternative plan,” Frost said then.

Mileage may, and did, vary with that statement, but no detail has ever been too small to cite, or protect, when it comes to gridiron strategy.

And so . . .

“We’re going to announce a two-deep as late as possible and keep everything in house as much as possible,” Frost said.

And the decision at quarterback?

That’s probably going to be fairly well known in the weeks ahead. Rather than keep a totally open competition throughout camp, Frost said Nebraska will put its top QB with the top group at the outset and “let people that are challenging him try to come and get him.”

The “him” there, it was clear on Tuesday, is Casey Thompson as Nebraska opens fall camp.

Everything else about Nebraska’s new look will be as unclear as possible in the weeks ahead. On purpose.

Frost remains encouraged about the offensive line. (“I think it’ll be pretty noticeable how much different it is.”) The depth has improved at wide receiver and running back. These were storylines in the spring, and they were the storylines Frost was willing to share on the eve of fall camp.

More specifics on the nature of this Whipple-Frost collaboration? Not now. A hint towards an ideal run-pass split? Nope. The latter apparently rankled Whipple’s old boss, Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi, based on his public comments last week, but not Frost.

“They had one of the top offenses in the country,” he said of 2021 Pitt, which averaged 41.4 points per game, third nationally. “If we scored as many points as they scored last year, I don’t care if we run it, throw it or kick it.”

Whatever it ends up being, keep it secret for now. Pat Fitzgerald is watching.

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