At latest mile-marker in rebuild, Frost’s Huskers ‘a far cry from where we were’
The same jokes always get made around National Signing Day.
Every coach in the country loves his recruiting class. Every program signed good fits, high-character guys and winners. You won’t find a team that didn’t balance needs with taking the best players available.
Groundhog Day always falls in close proximity to the February signing date, but it wouldn’t have taken Bill Murray too long to figure out what was going to be said when college football coaches step to the microphone to introduce their latest classes.
Still, it would be hard to find a coach in major college football whose February signing day changed as much year-over-year as Nebraska’s Scott Frost from 2018 to 2019.
“Just being honest, when you come in as a new coach, you’re two years behind because, coming in here last year, we were just starting to look at (2018) guys that we could get to Nebraska in December,” Frost said. “We’re a lot further down the road now.”
Whereas back then Frost was two months into the job, scrambling with this staff to put together a full class and busy on National Signing Day landing the signatures of Maurice Washington, Caleb Tannor and Cam Taylor, among others, on Wednesday the Huskers had just one new addition: wide receiver Demariyon Houston of Oklahoma City.
That’s by design, of course, as the Huskers signed 25 players in December, another in January and have three more spots as they probe the transfer market between the end of spring ball and the beginning of the regular season.
It also speaks to the progress Frost and NU have made in the past 12 months of what he’s described all along as a major building project.
“There’s nothing about what we’re trying to do now that can get fixed at the drop of a hat,” Frost said Wednesday. They learned that lesson the hard way this fall, losing six straight games to begin the season before winning four of the final six.
Even still, NU has turned over its roster at a striking rate. After announcing 50 new players — 27 scholarship and 23 walk-ons — as its 2019 class on Wednesday, the Huskers have 160 currently listed on their roster. That net number will come down some between now and the fall as Frost said the program will end up in the low-to-mid-150s to stay in Title IX compliance.
Of those 160, 63.1 percent (101) have joined the program in the 15 months since Frost was hired. Add in eight more that have come and already left in that time, and the numbers push even higher.
“We wanted to grow the roster again,” Frost said. “That was one of the secret sauces around here for a long time.”
The huge amount of turnover has obviously made for a lot of new faces and brings its own set of challenges, but it’s also fostered a young roster that’s growing and learning together.
Of the 85 scholarship players on the roster currently, 36 (42.3 percent) will be freshmen or redshirt freshmen this fall. That number jumps to more than half (81) of the 160 overall.
“I think everybody is excited, and that’s a far cry from where we were,” Frost said. “I walked into the first team meeting (last year) and you could’ve heard a pin drop. That’s not the team I want to coach. I want a team where I walk into the team meeting room and they’re having fun and chatting it up and (they) love being around each other and then they can dial it in and get to work.
“The attitudes that I see and the camaraderie I see isn’t even on the same level, not even close to where it was a year ago.”
So much of program growth only happens once players are on campus. From learning the playbook to strength and conditioning and personal development, the list goes on and on.
The baseline ingredient is players, though, and Nebraska’s added a huge number very quickly in order to try to expedite the building project.