INDIANAPOLIS — Post-podium, Nebraska coach Scott Frost met with Big Ten reporters for a 50-minute question-and-answer session that offered some more detail on the season ahead.
Here are some of the highlights:
>>Nebraska and Illinois will be the first Big Ten teams out of the gates this season and two of just 10 teams playing Week 0, a week ahead of college football’s larger kickoff. The game was originally scheduled to take place in Dublin, Ireland, but was moved back stateside in response to the pandemic.
The Huskers will start fall camp a week earlier, on July 29, but Frost said little else will change as far as fall camp is concerned. He did say, however, the Huskers will spend a little more time than usual on their Week 0 opponent because it’s a divisional game in league play. “That game’s vital to us,” he said.
>>As conference media days have gotten underway around the country, teams’ approaches to vaccination against the coronavirus have taken center stage. It wasn’t a big part of the podium press conferences for Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren or any of the seven coaches that followed, but in breakout interviews Frost offered some insight into Nebraska’s approach with its players.
“Vaccination gives us the best chance to have a football season that’s uninterrupted,” Frost said. He added that the staff has worked to help educate the team on the vaccine and illustrate that it’s safe.
>>Frost offered a couple of key injury updates as the Huskers prepare to start fall camp next week. Running back Markese Stepp, a USC transfer, missed most of spring football after having surgery for an existing injury. He has returned to training and Frost said he expects Stepp to be close to 100% by the start of camp, though “he’ll be on a pitch count early.”
Freshman tight end Thomas Fidone, the top-rated signee in Nebraska’s 2021 recruiting class, suffered a torn ACL early in spring practice, but Frost said he wasn’t closing the book on Fidone playing this season just yet.
As for super-senior inside linebacker Will Honas, Frost wasn’t as optimistic and didn’t have a return timetable. Honas suffered a non-contact knee injury on the Huskers’ last day of practice before the May 1 spring game.
>>In the de facto Big Ten preseason poll––because the conference does not release its own––Nebraska was picked to finish fifth in the West Division. That’s one spot behind last year’s preseason prediction and just two years removed from the conference media tabbing the Huskers as the division favorite.
Frost said, “We’re picked where we deserve to be. … I like where we’re at. If that puts a chip on our kids’ shoulder, that’s a good thing.” He added that he felt the Huskers being picked to win the division two years ago wasn’t based on reason.
>> Frost is certainly excited to have fans back in the stands at Memorial Stadium for the 2021 season. Nebraska will open the venue up for 100% capacity after only being allowed to have team families in the stands a season ago. Frost said the atmosphere last season was almost depressing because of how accustomed to the Sea of Red he and the team have become. He called the empty home stadium something of a disadvantage at times.
>> Echoing the confidence Frost expressed at the main stage earlier in the day, he said the team feels the same about where they’re at in the program’s rebuild process as he does. Confidence is infectious, and for large parts of his tenure so far Frost has felt that’s been one of the most important ingredients missing.
“I think the players are as confident as they’ve been since I’ve been at Nebraska,” he said.
>> When it comes to the team’s top two tight ends—juniors Austin Allen and Travis Vokolek—Frost said he wouldn’t trade the pair he has for any in college football. He thinks both can have long NFL careers.
>> Frost was asked more than a few times during the day about the potential Big 12 departure of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC. He made it clear it’s not a topic he’s interested in exploring. “I have absolutely no comment on Texas and Oklahoma,” he said on the final question.
>> One thing Husker Athletic Director Trev Alberts spoke about before Frost’s breakout session was making sure his coaches in the athletic department knew the “apparatus around the program” was stable and not something they needed to worry about. Frost said, without going into much detail, that he’s had to deal with issues and topics that had “nothing to do with football” far too often for his liking during his first three years.
Blindsided, he said, by Bill Moos’ abrupt retirement, Frost still had nothing but praise for his former boss. He said the athletic department Alberts has inherited is in a better place because of the work Moos did, adding that he’ll be forever thankful for that and forever friends with Moos.
Said Alberts: “I’m not suggesting that the apparatus was broken, but I’m really passionate about making sure the coaches just have nothing to worry about, can control what they can control, and do what they need to do. Scott Frost is the football coach here because he knows football. I’m gonna work really hard to make sure he’s comfortable knowing the apparatus around our football program is operating appropriately and he doesn’t have to worry about those types of things.”