Scott Frost was the headliner at Big Ten Media Days in more ways than one. Sure he was the only new face and the first guy to talk, but Frost Mania reached a point where every other coach was either asked about or bringing up the Huskers’ new leading man.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz joked he had been asked a “fair amount” of questions about his new cross-state counterpart; Urban Meyer spoke glowingly.
“Not many people have done what he did,” the Ohio State coach said. “I admire what he does, I admire the way he goes about his business.”
Now, maybe that’s just lip service. Meyer doesn’t have any reason to try and schmooze a program he has owned the last few seasons but he also doesn’t have anything to gain from going in gun’s blazing either. Meyer said he doesn’t know Frost very well.
So, what about some of the other coaches that do? Or, at the very least, can relate to where Frost has been?
Purdue’s Jeff Brohm ran a high-powered Western Kentucky offense before landing in West Lafayette. He hasn’t played a Frost-coached team but he’s had to walk at least a few 100 yards in Frost’s Group of 5 shoes.
“Being an offensive guy I’ve always studied great teams — great college teams, great pro teams — so I’ve looked at their film and what they do,” Brohm started. “He’s going to try and incorporate some Oregon-style football with some power and ability to run, be creative, use some misdirection and I think he’ll do a good job.
“He not only knows offense, he can coach the game of football. He’s played it. He’s a tough, hard-nosed coach who knows defenses well and I think he’ll be a great addition to the league.”
A few recurring themes stood out with different coaches on Frost. While players focused on the on-field success UCF enjoyed last season, coaches raved about the way Frost conducts himself. There continues to be a great deal of respect from everyone for Frost and his staff staying on in Orlando to coach the bowl game and close out the season.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he did but more importantly how he did it,” Minnesota’s PJ Fleck said of Frost. “He’s a very respectful man, high-value, going to do things the right way like most, if not all, the coaches in the Big Ten. He brings this respect factor to another level in a gentleman’s type league.”
Fleck can relate to Frost same as Brohm. Before Minnesota, he was Western Michigan’s head coach, leading a 1-11 team to 13-1 behind a high-scoring offense. As was the case when Fleck moved to the Big Ten, there have been questions about whether Frost’s up-tempo, spread attack can translate to the league and translate well enough to bump Nebraska into the upper echelon.
Fleck laughed at that notion.
“It works anywhere,” he said. “I don’t think offenses don’t work in certain places. If you have good enough players, it doesn’t matter what system you run, you’re going to be really good. And you have coaches to match that, that can develop that and teach those fundamentals, you’re going to be good.
"Gosh, that offense is scary, scary good."
Fleck likened it to his situation at Western Michigan. The team that went 1-11 used the same system as the team that started 13-0.
“We just had better players,” he said.
They had players that understood the system better and they had coaches that could teach the system better. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Husker coaches said essentially the same thing this spring.
After going through the learning period at Central Florida, everyone on staff knows the odds and ins of what they’re teaching and preaching now. There’s a better sense of confidence. At Media Days, Frost tried to temper expectations at times (while also adding “people better get us now because we’re going to keep getting better”) but his players talked about surprising people. A lot of people left Chicago thinking Nebraska can make noise sooner rather than later.
“Nebraska’s got a ton of talent, they can recruit great players, they’ve got great fan support and they have a lot of history and tradition,” Brohm said. “It wouldn’t shock me if they have a tremendous year this year.”
“Last year didn’t go the way they wanted but they do have talented players.”
Again, take it how you want it but Brohm did lose to the last Nebraska team. He doesn’t really have any reason to talk up the new one if he doesn’t want to.
For the most part, no one really knows what’s coming until it gets here. Nebraska doesn’t have a quarterback yet, no one knows what the team’s best offensive players will look like in a different system and trying to peg what the defense will do is like throwing darts blindfolded.
The only guy that might is Maryland’s head coach, DJ Durkin, who has had the exclusive privilege of playing Frost each of the last two years. In 2016, Maryland beat the Knights 30-24 in double overtime in Orlando. The Knights out-gained the Terrapins but turned the ball over four times. In 2017, Central Florida routed the Terps in Maryland. They out-gained Durkin’s squad 428-197 and won the turnover battle.
“They are a spread team, which you can draw similarities — that’s a broad term — to several teams in the conference, but they are different in how they do it,” Durkin said. “They’re really good at it. They’ve got good answers for things and when you take certain things away, they’ve got great in-game answers to go to something else.
“We’ve seen that and witnessed that firsthand. That’ll be a good challenge for the entire conference to adapt to.”
But what really stood out was the defense.
“I thought their defense was one of their strengths,” Durkin said. “They were a good football team so they didn’t have many weaknesses but their defense was one of their strengths, especially personnel-wise. I said it back when we played them, they had one of the most talented front sevens that we played all year.”
Offensive lineman Derwin Gray agreed, calling coordinator Erik Chinander’s unit “gap-sound” and fundamentally smart. Gray said they knew their role, they executed their role and they made plays when needed. (For reference, that unit ranked 23rd in defensive success rate and second in takeaways.)
Maybe more than anything else, there was a sense of immediate respect among the coaches for the new guy. If anyone is worried, they didn’t let on to it (unless that’s how you label Fleck’s comments, which… whatever). It wasn’t that Nebraska got a great football coach, but more that Nebraska got the right man to coach football.
“He’s done his fair share to prove what type of head coach he is and Nebraska’s in tremendous hands,” Fleck said. “He’s a phenomenal recruiter, phenomenal husband, phenomenal man, coach.”
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.