Husker head coach Scott Frost met with the media one final time Thursday after practice to tie up some odds and ends before his team departs for Columbus on Friday. The Huskers open their season on Saturday against the fifth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, and they’ll potentially be without two guys most would have penciled in as starters.
More on that, and a few other notes.
>> The situation surrounding Omar Manning’s availability still seems a little cloudy. He’s in Lincoln. He’s with the team. He put to bed internet speculation he’d opted out of the season last week with a tweet. But, that doesn’t mean he’ll be able to play Week 1. Manning has been battling nagging injuries all of fall camp that has forced him to miss practice here and there, and Frost said he’s still not sure if they’ll have the wideout against the Buckeyes.
“We’re still working through that,” Frost said. “I feel good about his progress. Don’t know if we’ll have him this week or not but I hope it won’t be very long.”
Manning was the top-rated junior college wideout from the 2020 cycle. The Texas native stands 6-foot-4, 225 pounds.
If he indeed can’t go, Nebraska will have to rely even more on its inexperienced group of young wideouts behind sophomore star Wan’Dale Robinson and junior captain Kade Warner.
“Alante Brown has done really good things,” Frost said of. “Marcus Fleming, Zavier Betts, and others. We’re gonna have to just use a mix of all those new guys as much as they’re ready with some of the veterans that have been in the program longer.”
The three names he gave are all true freshmen.
“I think they could all go in the game,” Frost said. “There’s various degrees of being ready. You’re ready to run some of the plays. You’re ready to operate efficiently. And some of them or all of them are somewhere in between.”
>> While it seems Manning might be more questionable than “out,” another newcomer, punter Daniel Cerni, will miss the first game of the season. He suffered an injury that will force him to miss time, but Frost said it’s not anything serious or season-ending.
Cerni was expected to win the Huskers’ starting punter job. In his place, walk-on Will Przystup will handle punt duties, Frost said.
At kicker, LSU grad transfer Connor Culp won the job over JUCO transfer Chase Contreraz. Culp started for the Tigers as a redshirt freshman in 2017, where he made 11 of his 16 field goal tries. Nebraska used six kickers a season ago who combined to go 12-for-20.
>> Frost said the team will test for the coronavirus twice on Fridays before road games, once before they board the plane to depart and then again when they land at their destination.
“That’s certainly a wrinkle we haven’t had before, but I don’t think the travel will feel much different,” he said.
>> Asked about redshirt freshman right tackle Bryce Benhart, Frost spoke with cautious optimism. Benhart is expected to be the starter at the spot, with Nebraska having moved senior Matt Farniok over to right guard.
“We kind of threw Bryce into the deep end and put him with the 1s and kinda let him learn on the fly,” Frost said. “We’ve had a lot of practices, so he’s probably, certainly, not going to be playing as well as he’s going to be three or four years from now, but we feel good about where he is. A really talented kid. I think he’s pretty confident right now. He’s gonna get tested playing the type of team we’re playing in Week 1 but he’s gonna be a really good player around him.”
>> Normally you can tell how practice went by Frost’s post-practice demeanor during availability. It’s not foolproof, but more of a general rule of thumb that if the jokes aren’t there, practice probably could have been better.
Frost seemed in good spirits Thursday. What that means for Saturday, who knows, but at least from a culture standpoint, Frost likes where his team is at as it approaches the first hurdle of a long season.
“The guys are excited about the challenge,” he said. “We could complain about a lot of things, our guys are just excited they’re going to be playing. They know the test in front of them, so I’m anxious to see their response when inevitably Ohio State makes a play or two on us, hits us in the mouth, scores on us.
“Whatever happens, I wanna see a bunch of guys who don’t like that but aren’t afraid of the next play and go out and try to continue to make great plays. That’s all we can do. I feel good about that, but we also have to respond the right way during the games.”
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.