The majority of the Nebraska football team is back in Lincoln working out and Coach Scott Frost joined Greg Sharpe on Wednesday’s edition of Sports Nightly to talk about that and a variety of other topics.
“I love where our team’s at from a team and culture standpoint and having those guys back in the building,” Frost said. “I feel like they feel like they’re back at home, so it’s a step in the right direction.”
One player who isn’t back and Lincoln and who won’t be returning is JD Spielman as the slot receiver entered the NCAA Transfer Portal earlier in the week.
“Just as far as JD goes, he’s made a lot of plays at Nebraska,” Frost said. “I wish him the best. I think everybody here hopes the best for him, but in talking to him I think both parties were pretty sure that fresh start and moving on was probably the right decision at this point.”
Besides Wan’Dale Robinson, Spielman’s departure leaves little in the way of production in the wide receiver room. That group will look very different in 2020.
“That’s been a position we’ve been trying to rebuild to get right really since the first day that we stepped onto campus here,” Frost said. “It’s a position where we’re going to need to be better. We certainly have some veterans that we think can help us, but we’re going to be relying on a lot of new players there.”
After a stellar freshman season, Robinson is poised to slide into an even bigger role as a receiver after playing a lot of running back in 2019. But Nebraska needs more options to emerge around him.
“We’ve got Kade Warner coming back and [Chris] Hickman playing receiver now and there are some guys that have been here that we’re certainly going to count on, but Coach [Matt] Lubick is going to have his hands full and he’s going to have to earn his spot as a coach trying to get some new talent ready,” Frost said. “Whether it’s Omar [Manning] or Alante [Brown] or Marcus Fleming, Zavier Betters, Will Nixon, a lot of these new guys are talented kids and we’re going to need them to come in ready to play.”
If Spielman’s departure is the biggest local story, nationally it’s probably the ongoing racial tensions and protests for racial equality happening all across the country. Frost said communication has been his greatest tool as he and his staff have navigated the last couple of weeks with the team.
“I know there are a lot of people hurting and angry,” Frost said. “We don’t claim to have all the answers, we just want to be there for our kids when they need to talk to somebody, when they need anything from us. If there’s anybody in America that doesn’t feel terrible about what happened [with George Floyd’s death] and think it was absolutely disgusting and inexcusable, I don’t know how to relate to them.”
While Nebraska doesn’t have the unity council in the same way it did while Frost was a player, he has instituted something similar for situations just like this.
“It’s a concept that we’ve used as a staff at Central Florida and are continuing to implement here at Nebraska, and just being able to give some of those veterans and leaders on our team more of a voice has helped us and will continue to help us, and we’re listening to what those guys have to say for sure,” Frost said. “They have a lot of good points and their opinions on everything, including this situation, are very valuable to us so we can understand and try to help them. At the end of the day, we just want the safest and most inclusive environment that we can possibly provide for our student-athletes and we’ll keep working to do that.”
Amid everything else going on, the COVID-19 pandemic has raged on and like college programs all over the country, Nebraska has had to carefully navigate the situation as the NCAA recently gave student-athletes the go-ahead to begin workouts on campus.
“Right when this started, we had to facilitate some kids that were coming back to Lincoln anyway so we started to roll out a plan in conjunction with some experts on the virus on how to reintegrate our kids into the community and do it in the safest way possible for them and the Lincoln community and the state of Nebraska as well,” Frost said. “This process has been going on for us for a long time. We’re kind of addressing each problem as it comes up but I think our team, our football ops staff and our strength staff have done a great job of rolling out the plan that was there. We’ve been fairly problem-free through all of this and it’s just good to have everybody back.”
Frost said player safety and well-being has been his first priority with the safety of the community right behind it as the university has continued to partner with UNMC. Frost has taking his cues from the experts and implemented UNMC’s protocol, which has allowed the Huskers to get back to work in as safe an environment as possible.
Despite all the lost time, Frost said he feels good about where his team is physically at this point.
“We’ve been working for a while and the vast majority of guys that we’re going to need to win are almost football ready right now,” Frost said. “We still have some work to do from an Xs and Os standpoint and things of that nature. We’re going to need some live reps to get it really football-ready at the end of the day, but just as far as strength and conditioning levels, I feel really good about where we are.”
In his parting message, Frost also expressed his optimism about the college football season beginning on time and as scheduled.
“I’m feeling better and better about it,” Frost said. “I think every week that goes by and things are changing, we get a little bit closer to having an on-time college football season and I think that’s what our country probably needs and everybody is looking forward to.”