The word of the day for Nebraska football head coach Scott Frost on Friday afternoon?
No matter what the question, whether it be what his seniors will do with an extra year of eligibility or questions about Big Ten protocols for game day rosters or travelling procedures, it all came back to Frost expressing how grateful he was to be playing Big Ten football this fall.
Another thing that Frost is grateful for is more overall depth in this year’s squad. He said that he and his staff have been able to better develop players in this longer, unique offseason, and Frost hopes the result is a team that can better compete against conference foes.
“We’re deeper than we have been [in previous years],” Frost said in a press conference on Friday. “We have more athletes that are capable of competing at the Big Ten level, hopefully we can keep them healthy this year.”
Two position groups that Frost noted in particular were the tight end group and the offensive line. It’s no secret that Nebraska’s tight ends will be one of its biggest strengths in 2020, as the Huskers return their top three tight ends from a season ago: senior Jack Stoll, junior Austin Allen and junior Kurt Rafdal. Junior Rutgers transfer Travis Vokolek rounds out an experienced tight end room.
Nebraska’s offensive line is a unit that remains nearly intact from a season ago, and Frost is confident that they’ll have a successful year.
“I feel good about the offensive line right now,” Frost said. [Senior] Matt Farniok and [senior] Brendan Jaimes should be ready to have the best years they’ve had in a Nebraska uniform.”
Frost also said that he’s “more confident” in junior offensive lineman Trent Hixson and sophomore offensive lineman Cam Jurgens now that they have a year of Big Ten experience under their belts. He also noted that while the Huskers may also have an array of youth on the offensive line, they also have “more bodies to select from” that have crucial Big Ten experience.
While depth at the tight end and offensive line position is nice to have, for Nebraska to take the next step in 2020 depth at the skill positions will need to emerge. The Huskers do return senior running back Dedrick Mills, who gained nearly 900 yards from scrimmage a year ago, but do not have much experience behind him.
“Mills is a guy with a lot of experience coming back, we’re going to lean on him this year,” Frost said. “I think that [freshman] Sevion Morrison and [freshman] Marvin Scott have done a good job coming in and learning, you see flashes but they still have a long way to go.”
Another player that could assist Mills in providing running back depth is redshirt freshman Ronald Thompkins, who Frost said is healthier than expected coming into fall camp. Frost said that while the running back position, much like the wide receivers, welcome in some new faces, they should be deeper units across the board.
The return of Big Ten football and padded practices have been a welcome sight for Husker fans, but it hasn’t come without challenges, specifically for Frost. On the same day that the Big Ten announced that football was coming back, Frost found out that his father, Larry, had passed away.
“Without faith and hope, I don’t know how people go through something like that. I was blessed to have that type of father,” Frost said. “It’s been a challenging few weeks, but when I feel the most at peace I’m on the field with the guys. It’s been good medication for me to be on the field.”
Frost said that he’s been relying on faith to get through the situation, as well as fully immersing himself in all the intricacies of Nebraska football to divert his mind. And that mind is surely racing, with the week one kickoff against Ohio State looming while having to deal with a shortened fall camp.
“There’s only so much you can get done until you get pads on, and before Wednesday our players haven’t had shoulder pads on since November,” Frost said. “We’ve had to fasttrack things, typically we spend about a month in pads but now we have less than three weeks.”
Frost’s staff is up for the challenge, though. A longer offseason has given him and his staff more time to install new offensive coordinator Matt Lubick’s offense, an offense that Frost refers to as “revamped” and “more efficient,” rather than entirely brand new.
He also said that the longer offseason has given younger players the opportunity to be more familiar with the Nebraska playbook and expects more young players to have a role not only at Nebraska, but conference-wide.
For now, it’s almost go time for the 2020 Nebraska football season. This week symbolized a light at the end of the tunnel of sorts, and Frost noted that he “doesn’t need to motivate his guys anymore” because they have something to look forward to.
It won’t be easy, with the Ohio State contest followed by dates with Wisconsin, Northwestern and Penn State to round out a gauntlet of a first-half schedule. Frost and his team don’t mind, though. They’re just grateful to be able to play football.
“Our guys are just excited to play, I think beggars can't be choosers,” Frost said. “If we play on Thursday, we’ll be ready to play on Thursday. If we play on Friday, we’ll be ready to play on Friday. If we play in Uzbekistan, we’ll probably have to make a couple of stops along the way.”