Nebraska begins spring ball bright and early Friday morning. The goals of spring ball are simple: learn the offense, learn the defense, play crisp. New head coach Scott Frost and his staff know things will be a little sloppy as guys get up to speed, but repetition will be the name of the game.
“Back when I was playing here and for a long time with Coach Osborne, repetitions were what they were shooting for,” Frost said Wednesday morning.
Whether that comes by way of a 150-plus-size roster — Frost says he’s still working on figuring out those numbers, by the way — that can split into multiple teams or a trimmed down version that uses tempo, Frost wants to get as many reps in as possible in the spring.
“You can’t play fast on Saturdays unless you’re used to that tempo when you’re practicing fast,” he said. "Every spring practice we’re going to have, for the most part, we want to get at least 130 to 140 reps of team and 7-on-7. That’s going to be split up amongst a lot of guys. You start adding up those repetitions over time and that’s where you can really dial in the execution because guys have a lot of practice doing things.”
After all, Frost and Friends are installing a new offense and a new(ish) defense. There’s going to be a learning curve. The new head ball coach said he’s been impressed with how quickly this group has picked up on things, but the proof is in the details.
“You’re not limited by how much you can get in, it’s the detail of what you can get in,” he said. “There’s a lot of little details that go into the execution of what we’re going to do on both sides of the ball.
“The more reps you get, the more familiar you are with those details and the better chance you have at being successful. We’ll get the majority of what we want to run in, it’s just a matter of how much we run well.”
As it stands currently, there are no ones or twos or threes or fours on Nebraska’s depth chart. Frankly, there doesn’t appear to even be a depth chart at this point. There are only competitions. Everyone will get a chance to earn a spot. Frost’s philosophy has a way of working itself out: give everyone as many reps as they can handle, get as much squeezed out of each practice session as possible, and by the time fall camp rolls around “it’s pretty obvious to everybody who the best guys are.”
To get there, though, Frost wants a head-first dive into the deep end. No toe-dipping, no temperature-gauging. Give it everything. Asked what awaits the Huskers on Friday, Frost admitted it will be a new practice format, a new tempo and a new way of doing things. But this coaching staff has a motto: “Have a desire to excel and no fear of failure.” Practice isn’t going to be like Navy SEAL Hell Week — Frost says it’s going to be fun for everyone — but he wants his team to play without inhibition.
“We’re not going to yell and scream at kids, not gonna cuss at kids, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do and I also don’t want to make kids afraid to go make a great play,” Frost said. “If someone misses a tackle or drops a ball, they don’t need to be yelled at, they need to be taught the right way to do it so it doesn’t happen again.
“Once you take away that fear of what might happen if you make a bad play, it really frees them up to go make great plays.”
When Frost arrived in Lincoln, he made his intentions known right away. At his introductory press conference, he said everything the team did from there on out was going to be fast. That includes practice. But he knows the Huskers’ conditioning levels aren’t quite where they need to be for the coaching staff to dive right in, there will need to be some easing into things and Frost says they’re going to be “smart about that.”
As for why they’re starting things up one day just to send everyone out on break the next day, there’s a plan for that too.
“I didn’t want to do half of spring ball before Spring Break and half after,” Frost said. “I’ve seen a couple college Spring Breaks on MTV and I’m not sure you’re going to get the most out of kids before or after that.”
With NCAA rules being what they are, by getting a practice in Friday, it meant the Huskers were able to meet with the team during this week. Given all the talk of speed, it’s probably safe to assume the new coaching staff took advantage of that time in getting guys prepared for what they need to know. On Friday, they’ll get a glimpse of what awaits, and when they get back, game on.
“I think we’ll be able to accomplish more in spring because of that,” Frost said.
Other News and Notes
>> With regularly scheduled press conferences returning, it’s only fitting that regularly scheduled injury updates return as well. The Huskers have several heading into spring ball.
Linebacker Luke Gifford (hip) and safety JoJo Domann (knee) are both expected to miss the entirety of spring practices as they rehab injuries from a season ago.
It’s possible linebacker Sedrick King could make a return for spring practice. It’s also possible running back Tre Bryant, who missed all but two games last season with a knee injury, could return in a limited capacity.
“We’ll be smart with Tre,” Frost said. “His health will hopefully improve but I think we can help that by limiting him a little bit. We’re going to be as smart with him as we possibly can to see if he can be a part of what we’re doing.”
Frost also said center Cole Conrad is in the same boat as Bryant: might return, but in a somewhat limited role. The Huskers’ other center, Michael Decker is “getting close but he probably won’t be able to practice during the spring.”
>> Linebacker Breon Dixon is still awaiting a final decision on his eligibility waiver after transferring from Ole Miss. Frost said he’s “not sure” yet but will offer an update when he learns more. Dixon is still practicing with the team.
>> With Conrad potentially out, and Decker more than likely out, Nebraska will need to find a new center for spring ball. And if it pulls somebody from another spot, that will need to be filled. Frost isn’t worried about the logistics.
“We’re going to play the best five linemen, no matter who they are,” he said. “If we have to move a tackle to guard or a guard to center or vice versa, we’re going to look at that.”
>> Nebraska hasn’t hung many banners since Frost left Lincoln. There hasn’t been a conference championship won this century. Frost shared a few moments of introspection he’s had since coming back to Lincoln, and when asked about the past successes, or lack thereof, he had this to say:
“Hopefully we can win [a title]. It’d be nice to put another banner up. I think Nebraska has been smart at times and then probably made some decisions they want back at other times. I think a lot of Frank Solich. He was one of my mentors and Frank averaged over nine games a year here and it wasn’t good enough and they got rid of him and went through a tough period. Bo [Pelini], who was my linebacker coach the year I was with the Green Bay Packers, is a friend of mine and Bo averaged nine-plus wins a year. Never quite got over the hump and got the conference championship, but certainly from a win-loss perspective was as good as anybody in the country.
“We got rid of Bo and went through another little bit of a tough period. If we can get the program back to where it was when Frank was here and when Bo was here, I think our culture and the coaching staff we have will be enough to get us over the top to hopefully hang another one of those banners.”
>> Nebraska quarterbacks will not take contact in the spring. Frost said there will be occasions “once or twice” during both the spring and the fall when the quarterbacks will be made live outside the pocket, but outside of that, they won’t be taking hits.
>> Frost is very away of the 1,000-yard problem. Nebraska hasn’t had a single running back top 1,000 yards since Ameer Abdullah left after the 2014 season.
“Our offense is always going to be committed to the run first,” he said when asked how to fix it. “To varying degrees, we’ve thrown it and run it depending on our talent but we can’t go as an offense and really no offense can go if we can’t establish the run.
“There’s great opportunity here for running backs today and in the future. We’ll let those guys battle it out and determine who the best guy is and see if we can fix the 1000-yard problem.”
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.