CHICAGO — I asked Stanley Morgan Jr. if people were sleeping on receivers like Tyjon Lindsey and Jaevon McQuitty while he and JD Spielman continue to garner national preseason attention. His eyes got a little wider, he leaned back and gave one of those looks like, “Oh, you don’t even know.” After a few seconds, Morgan just said, “Be ready.”
Elsewhere, offensive lineman Jerald Foster talked about the line room growing together after last season and having a sense of confidence in their game they didn’t have before. Defensive lineman Mick Stoltenberg talked about hitting the sled more than ever and seeing that progress. The guy running the show is preaching patience — as he should — but the players that have spent all offseason regaining a somewhat-faded love of the game feel like 2018 is going to surprise you.
“I love being the underdog,” Morgan said. “They don't have the expectations for us anyway, so we're going to get after it. We're going to shock the world.”
How you doing that?
“Winning. Winning more than we have been. Winning a Big Ten championship. Winning a national championship. Shock the world that way.”
Is that possible given everything going against you this year?
"Why not? I came to college to play for that. Why not?”
Conventional wisdom says Nebraska is in store for a few rebuilding seasons. When you go 4-8 and the bottom falls out and you change coaches again, that’s usually the expectation. To most of the pundits, that’s why not. Foster’s not a fan of that way of thinking.
“I don’t believe in a slow-paced rebuild,” he said. “That’s the thing I’ve never liked is when people say, ‘We’re going to need this many years to build a program.’ Every year you lose guys and you gain new guys, you lose guys and you gain new guys and for that, I feel like that makes you have a new team every single year.”
Foster talked about the last regime. He pointed out the timeline: a 6-7 year, a 9-4 year and last season’s 4-8 campaign. He asked where the rebuild year was in there. To Foster, Nebraska has the same chance as everyone else to be special because they’re all starting 0-0 and everyone in the country is having to replace old faces with new ones.
“I’ll stick by my guys,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what game it is, whatever situation, I believe in us.”
Scott Frost might think the same. Privately, he might feel like Nebraska can turn things around sooner rather than later. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman suggests as much. But publicly, Frost stressed patience on Monday. Having that patience can be a bit challenging — Frost compared it to constant gardening — but he’s focused on progress more than winning percentage.
"Success is getting better, success is being better than we were yesterday,” he said. "Day by day we're going to get better. Whatever challenge is in front of us on a daily basis, we're going to do our best to beat it, to conquer it, overcome it and put our head on the pillow and get up and do the same thing the next day.
"Results take care of themselves. If you're better every single time you go out to practice, if you're better every single time you go out to play a game, that's success to me.”
Regardless of timeline, however, Frost knows this thing will ultimately work. He believed in Chip Kelly’s Oregon offense right off the bat in 2009. He believed they were doing something revolutionary. When he went to Orlando, he believed his tweaks would work. He believes the same at Nebraska.
There was that moment during his introductory press conference back in December when he was asked about adjusting to the Big Ten and he responded by saying he’s expecting the Big Ten to adjust to him. It might have sounded like a rah-rah line or blind confidence; it’s not.
“I always said back then if we could take this [Oregon] offense and this speed development and our scheme and marry it with old-school Husker Power we won’t lose a game,” Frost said Monday. “And I was being facetious but we did that in Orlando. We got Zach [Duval], an old Husker Power guy, and our team got big and strong and physical and we mixed it with our scheme and we didn’t lose a game. I’m not saying that’s going to happen again but I like the formula.”
So do the players.
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.