Scott Frost and his staff have been hard at work turning over Nebraska’s roster ever since they got to Lincoln. We’ve seen seven departures since the beginning of spring while Frost has brought in a crop of 27 new scholarship players.
That class includes one sit-out transfer, six junior college transfers and one graduate transfer. One of the junior college players and the grad transfer were both added to the team within the past month. Is this what a normal offseason is gong to look like in Lincoln moving forward?
“There’s going to be a point in time where we don’t take any transfers or late guys unless there’s just an absolute must-have out there because we’re going to grow our own, but Coach [Travis]Fisher talked about getting the room right; right now there’s going to be some subtraction of the room to help get the room right, the culture right in the room,” defensive coordinator Erik Chinander recently said to reporters in Fremont. “There’s going to be some addition to help get the room right and he’s talking about right now, it’s more important to add guys that are great culture guys, great leader guys; eventually there’s going to be a time when we’re going to be able to add some of those wild horse riders because the room is right and they’ll make that guy right. Right now, we can’t have those guys because it’s not what we want.”
Fisher’s defensive backs room has seen as much turnover as any position on the team as there were just nine defensive backs on the roster when he arrived. The Huskers have added two junior college transfers and four freshmen to that group.
“Depth is going to be huge,” Chinander said. “Coach [Fisher] only had eight guys on scholarship when we came in and that’s half of what we need. We’re usually running 15 or 16 at DB so that’s naturally going to be a place where you’re going to bring in a guy that’s two for two [years of eligibility] or a guy that’s three for three or somewhere in there. We’ve already got the freshman piece — [Fisher] got the freshman piece taken care of with recruits. Now we’re going to need to fill the junior, sophomore, redshirt freshman classes.”
The Huskers currently have two seniors (Aaron Williams, Antonio Reed), five juniors (Lamar Jackson, Avery Anderson, Eric Lee Jr., Deontae Williams, Will Jackson), four sophomores (Dicaprio Bootle, Tony Butler, Marquel Dismuke, JoJo Domann) and four freshmen (Braxton Clark, Cam Jones, CJ Smith, Cam Taylor) on scholarship at defensive back. That’s 15 players and it doesn’t include walk-on Ethan Cox who performed as well as anyone during spring ball.
Chinander gave a glimpse into how the recruiting process works for this staff, particularly when it comes to adding more veteran players like graduate or junior college transfers.
“For me, it’s kind of balancing up the scholarship numbers. [Fisher’s] job should always be he’s going to recruit a ton of DBs and he should want to take 10 DBs every class; I can’t let that happen … For me it’s about balancing the numbers so that every year we can get the — I would love to get four DBs every year and to keep that thing as we’ve got four freshmen, four sophomores, four juniors, four seniors, just like every other position.
“The second thing I’m looking for is can we bring in a guy that’s going to breed competition in that room but not upset the apple cart. I want them to upset it a little bit because I want the other guys to say ‘Oh s—, they brought in some guy with some playing experience.’ Instead of feeling comfortable leaving the spring, now buttholes are getting a little tight and they’ve got to go back to work. But I also don’t want a bad guy that’s going to ruin the work that [Fisher’s] done in that room to try to develop the character and the leadership of that kid. I want somewhere in the middle. That’s what I’m looking forward to bringing.”
Will Jackson apparently fit that mold as the junior college corner back is the newest addition for the 2018 season. Lamar Jackson, Bootle and Lee are the only corners on the team that have any real playing experience at this stage.
Fisher shared a similar thought process to Chinander when he spoke to a gathering of about 100 fans at Sid Dillon Chevrolet in Fremont, and he wasn’t afraid of naming names.
“I want to bring in a guy that’s going to compete with the guy that I already have here,” Fisher said. “I want to bring in a guy that’s better than the guy that I have here. And then next year, bring in a guy that’s better than the guy I just bought in. That way, when I have that senior class, my juniors are pushing those seniors. Those seniors spend more time in the weight room because they’re scared the juniors are going to take over that deal. And then I have those sophomores that are pushing those juniors, and those juniors can’t miss a class because they know the spot’s gone. It’s going to be hard to issue out that Blackshirt. It’s not going to be given away to a guy. I’m being very careful of who I’m bringing in.
“I don’t want to just bring in entitled 5-star players or 4-star players. I’ve already got that guy. I want to bring in a guy that can change the guy that’s in my room already, change his mind frame by pushing him every day. ‘Hey, I came to take your spot, bro.’ I’m going to get this kid and sit him right next to Lamar Jackson. And I’m going to say ‘Hey, your job is to take Lamar’s spot,’ right in front of Lamar. I’m serious, I just did it yesterday. Then I’m going to tell Lamar, ‘Hey bro, it’s your job to wake up; it’s your job to not give it up.’ That’s how I was raised and that’s the way it’s going to be in the room. At the end of the day, what did I really do? I really just made my whole room competitive, every day. That way we can have guys getting out of here every year and have the type of secondary Nebraska is used to having every year.”
The evaluation process is going to continue throughout Frost and company’s entire first season, and perhaps further. They’ve built up the numbers in short order, but how many of those who stuck around from the previous regime will prove to be good fits for what the new coaches want? Only time will tell.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.