In 2019, with Husker head coach Scott Frost going through his second tour of Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, he shared that the days of Performance Index testing was something he wanted to return to. The program had stopped sharing testing data, and Frost admitted they wouldn’t be doing it right away. The numbers weren’t at a level where Nebraska felt comfortable releasing them.
That was two-plus years ago. With Nebraska set to open a fourth spring period with Frost at the helm of the ship, things are different now.
“We just did testing for the first time since I’ve been here, old-school testing like we used to do with performance index, 40s, 10s, agility (drills), vertical jumps, squats, and cleans,” Frost said Monday during a Zoom call to kick off the spring.
And the results have the head coach excited.
“I was really happy with the improvements we made,” Frost said. “Zach (Duval)”—Nebraska’s strength coach—“told me all but seven players on our whole roster improved in every single category of testing. That’s quite an improvement across the board.
“We had some unbelievable numbers.”
Senior safety Deontai Williams, Frost said, broke the all-time program record in the agility run.
Now, it’s possible this hasn’t been updated in a minute, but the official Nebraska website lists the pro agility time record for football as being held by Brian Shaw, with a time of 3.71 seconds set back in 1997.
Junior wideout Oliver Martin, Frost said, had a 40-inch vertical jump.
“Had some really good electronic 40 times and some 10 times,” Frost said. “Across the board, I was impressed with the improvements that were made and the overall strength and athletic ability of our team.”
Asked if there were any surprise performers on the team, senior outside linebacker JoJo Domann said the surprise wasn’t necessarily in any individual results, but in the larger production of the team. “How many of us tested so well,” Domann said, “and how so many of us improved incrementally from the beginning of winter conditioning to testing. That was really encouraging and really exciting to see.”
It had sort of a compounding effect with the group. Duval and the rest of the strength and conditioning staff made sure everyone was aware of the history and legacy of Husker Power, aware of the testing results from great Nebraska teams of the past.
Frost would emphasize himself and his former teammates going through testing.
“Being able to see those guys’ scores (from the 90s) and being able to see some guys on the team blow them out of the water, it just shows us we’re just as athletic and big and we can do everything they did in the 90s, we just need to keep working,” said center Cam Jurgens.
Maybe a little hyperbolic—those 90s teams won national championships and Nebraska would settle right now for a Big Ten division crown—but the confidence is the big thing. This period of testing, Jurgens said, built confidence.
“It was kind of a lot of fun getting to see your old numbers and just seeing how within a few months of doing workouts how much you can improve,” he said. “It was cool. When we’re doing squats and hang cleans, the whole team’s around us—offense and defense—cheering everybody on and wanting everybody to hit their numbers.”
Frost said he planned to make public his team’s testing data again. When Boyd Epley was running Husker Power before the turn of the century, Nebraska shared testing results in the local papers twice a year. It got away from that. On Monday, that too changed.
Elite Company 🎈#HuskerPower pic.twitter.com/ILFEkyACog
— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) March 29, 2021
Duval tweeted the same graphic and said “welcome to the platform.”
Notice the scores in the chart at the bottom of the graphic aren’t times or heights but rather a simple numerical value.
Test results are entered into an algorithm—weighted to account for differences in player size and body composition—created in part by Epley that takes into account world records, research, and decades worth of program-specific data. “The index has much more to do with how close you are to the world’s best than standard deviations or how far you are from the average,” Epley told Training & Conditioning in 2018.
The algorithm uses a scale from zero to 1000. A max score on any individual test would be considered the best performance of all time in that specific activity, whereas 500 points is typically the athlete’s goal. The points from each test are then combined for one cumulative score. For a four-assessment index, you’d want to hit 2,000. In that Training & Conditioning piece, Husker volleyball coach John Cook is quoted as saying the 2,000-point club is rare air athletes hold in reverence.
When Epley was in charge, players who hit 500 on each test would be allowed to lift on the literal Record Platform sitting center stage in Nebraska’s weight room and have their names etched into a statue at the base of the raised platform.
It would appear that Williams, Jurgens, corner Cam Taylor-Britt, inside linebacker (and newcomer) Chris Kolarevic, and outside linebacker Damian Jackson have done exactly that.
Based on the Nebraska record sheet on the program’s website (which again might be outdated), Jackson’s 10-yard dash index score would tie the program’s all-time record for points in the test, set in 1993 by Kevin Ramaekers.
Perhaps we’ll be seeing more in the coming days. Nebraska starts spring practice on Tuesday, presumably with plenty of gains already made in the winter.
“Seeing the improvement that our guys made in those areas I think gives them a lot of confidence,” Frost said. “We certainly owe a lot to Zach and his strength staff—Andrew Strop and others—for the improvement we’ve made there.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.