CHICAGO — Scott Frost was Monday’s headliner at Big Ten Media Days in a lot of ways — only new coach in the conference this year, first coach to talk, Frost-related first question asked of commissioner Jim Delany — but Tom Osborne had quite the presence as well.
Not a physical presence, more… something else. A common thread in media questioning for Frost was how to get Nebraska “back?” What needs to be different? What needs to change? The answers lay with Osborne.
“Listen, Coach Osborne had the formula at Nebraska figured out,” Frost said during his initial trip to the podium Monday. “Some of the things he did to make the program arguably the best in the country can still work today. Nebraska has just gone away from them. We're going to adopt a lot of things again and do it in a modern way and do it in a way that recruits and kids are going to want to be a part of.”
It should come as no surprise to anyone in Nebraska that, to Frost, his former coach is a hero. He said when people ask, he jumps past the coaching accolades to praise the man. Each program needs its own formula, but Nebraska’s was held by Osborne and left when he did. This isn't news, but there seemed to be a concerted effort to talk about Osborne whenever possible.
Frost reiterated all throughout his two-ish hours in front of cameras and recorders that all the intangible stuff he was exposed to under Osborne are coming back. There isn’t some magic fairy dust that will suddenly turn 4-8 to 12-0 in one season, but simply having Osborne around is a good place to start.
“Coach is in the office probably about once a week, or else I'm out turkey hunting or fishing with him,” Frost said. “Having that resource to be able to draw wisdom from is really invaluable to me.”
In Frost’s eyes, if Osborne doesn’t leave, Nebraska would have won even more.
“First of all, I think if Coach Osborne would have stayed another 10 years, Nebraska would have two or three more national championships,” Frost said, which isn’t too outside the realm of possibility. Even under Frank Solich, Nebraska was still winning. It wasn’t until that era was completely sponged from the athletic department that things went sideways.
The task facing the Huskers’ new leading man now will be balancing the old with the new. Frost touched on the ties his current schemes and philosophies have to Oregon and Chip Kelly, but he credited a lot to Osborne. He’s blended plenty of Osborne’s teachings with modern approaches. They talk about it frequently.
“Science has changed, the right way to train and feed and get student-athletes ready has changed, obviously Xs and Os have changed on both sides of the ball,” Frost said. “There’s still pieces of what we used to run that we run on both sides of the ball but we run an exciting offense, an attacking defense, schemes that kids are going to want to be a part of — maybe more so than the one I played in — but there’s pieces of what we did that still make sense.
“We’ve talked about spread offense and Oregon’s offense in the times that I’ve talked to him and there’s so many similarities to the scheme we used to run. A lot of it’s shotgun instead of under center. I really think Coach Osborne would have probably evolved a little bit.”
Since Frost is the one now inhabiting the big office, it’ll be on him to evolve the last decade-plus of what Nebraska football has meant. It was clear Monday he just won’t be doing it alone.
You can count on plenty more hours spent with him alongside Osborne on a bank somewhere.
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.