Last offseason, Tom Osborne visited the Central Florida Knights. This was before the national championship claim, the perfect season, the conference title, the coach-of-the-year awards. They talked physicality. The Knights were still just a year removed from a winless drag of a season. Scott Frost took the Oregon practice model with him to Orlando when he became the head coach and he remembered well his days in Lincoln, but listening to his old coach took him back.
“Back in the 90s, we’d go some live reps on Tuesday and some live reps on Wednesday and I remember as a player thinking how that kept us so much sharper,” Frost said Tuesday morning after Nebraska wrapped up practice No. 5. “By the time we hit the field on gameday, that wasn’t as hard as Tuesday and Wednesday.”
So Central Florida adopted that. The Knights went “live, to the ground,” even in-season with a hurricane-induced condensed schedule. They played 11 straight weeks without a bye, stretching from Sept. 23 to Dec. 2, and they went live in practice during that stretch?
“That made a difference for us,” Frost said.
Thirteen games worth of difference, to be exact.
So, that’s the plan here. The Huskers are going to hit, the Huskers are going to get hit and the Huskers are going to re-learn how to grind games out the way Frost is used to seeing the Huskers do.
“We need to be able to run and hit and we need reps at it,” Frost said. “We’re going to try to keep the guys healthy but, hey, we need to learn how to be physical.”
Physicality, of course, best manifests itself in the trenches and in tackling, two places the Huskers were miserable in last season.
Let’s start with the former. The Huskers ranked 120th in rushing last year — 112th in yards per carry at 3.51 — while the Knights ranked 33rd and 21st (5.17 ypc), respectively. Central Florida was fifth in sacks allowed with just 13 all year; Nebraska was 52nd at 24. Reversing the course of Nebraska’s offensive slide begins up front, and so far Frost likes what he’s seen.
“The biggest thing on the offensive line is those guys are starting to get stronger,” he said. “[Strength coach] Zach [Duval]’s doing a great job with them and I can see their movement starting to get better. Seeing them start to get some movement up front and get us some yards off the ball and that all comes down to weight room. It’s been that way in Lincoln, Nebraska, for a long time and we’re going to keep pushing the envelope there.”
As for the other thing, tackling, the thing that’s been a topic of interest for years now (too long, really) Frost offers hope there, too. There isn’t a public database that tracks missed tackles in college football (there should be) but Nebraska fans probably don’t need another statistic to remind them of how bad it has been.
Frost is “passionate” about teaching tackling. So much so that the team actually had a meeting Monday night on proper technique. He “was a bad NFL tackler for five years,” then showed up in Tampa Bay and learned the “right way” to do things. He’s used the same method at each stop since.
“On the move, to and through the ball carrier all the time with the right technique,” Frost said of what he teaches. “We’re going to work on it every single day until these guys master it.”
Tackling is probably the spot where the new staff’s “desire to excel and no fear of failure” saying best reveals itself in action. Frost acknowledged that with the way they tackle there are going to be misses every now and then but he doesn’t want his Blackshirts to be scared to go make a play.
“I want guys to continue to try to make the big hit, the splash play, the impact play instead of being afraid to make that play and coming to balance, coming to a stop and giving up yards,” he said. “We’re going to run through tackles and the technique’s going to come along as we keep working.”
And no, there won’t be any outside firms brought in to help.
“They pay us good money to coach,” Frost said after a reporter asked if they’d ever consider hiring a consulting firm. “If we don’t know what we’re doing then they probably need a different 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.