Huskers say buy-in could be better
Nebraska football coach Scott Frost raised eyebrows Saturday following a five-point loss to Troy.
Particularly intriguing in his opening statement to media was the part where he said he told players in the locker room “if anyone doesn’t want to stay on board this ride with us, let me know now and we can get off.”
His comment raised a question: How strong is Husker players’ buy-in to the new coaching staff? It’s only natural to wonder after the team’s surprising 0-2 start to the season.
Several players indicated Monday that buy-in to the program’s new culture is OK but could be better.
“We’re getting there,” Nebraska sophomore cornerback Dicaprio Bootle told reporters during the team’s weekly media luncheon. “Some things in life in general, you’re not going to agree with everything. It might take a little time to come around. But as far as the overall buy-in from everybody, there’s nobody on this team just outright trying to cancel what we’re doing and where we’re trying to go.
“There are definitely areas we can get better in, areas we’ve been working to get better in, and we’re going to get better in.”
Nebraska players understand the urgency in the conversation, considering Saturday’s opponent and setting. The Huskers will play an 11 a.m. game against 19th-ranked Michigan at Michigan Stadium (capacity 107,601).
As preparations move forward, Frost, in his first season at Nebraska, will emphasize to his players the importance of details. Attention to detail indicates strong commitment to the team, and to winning.
“That was our message to the team last week and it will continue to be our message to the team, and it’s not just on the field,” Frost said. “It’s deciding whether or not to make it to class. It’s deciding whether or not to be dressed the right way in meetings and deciding whether or not to go home and go to bed and get sleep instead of doing something else.
“Champions make good decisions in every single decision they have. Average people and average teams don’t make those (good) decisions. Little things lead to big things, and we’re going to get it right. I don’t care how long it takes and what we have to do. We’re going to make those little decisions that matter, because little decisions and little mistakes are what cost us a couple games.”
In losses to Colorado and Troy, Nebraska averaged 86 penalty yards, which ranks 122nd nationally.
“We look like an undisciplined team right now with a lot of the penalties,” Frost said.
In addition, the Huskers are tied for 127th nationally in turnover margin at minus-2.
“Too many mistakes, too many penalties, too many bad plays,” said Frost, who quickly added that Nebraska practiced well Monday, a recurring theme with this particular team.
As for his opening statement Saturday, Frost said he was merely making sure “nobody decides to go off on their own.” He said there’s still work to do in terms of getting the culture right.
“I know I’m 100 percent bought in,” said junior linebacker Mohamed Barry, the team’s leading tackler with 15 stops. But Barry said players let Frost down with their performance against Troy, adding that each player has to look at himself and decide what he can do to help the team improve.
On the bright side, he thinks the team is “this close” to breaking through.
Senior offensive guard Tanner Farmer echoed those sentiments.
“Once things just click, we’re going to have something really special,” he said.
But it won’t happen if there are too many players who aren’t fully on board with Nebraska’s new approach, he said.
“The way I look at it, you’re always going to have some guys who resist buying in,” Farmer said. “This coaching staff has set a precedent of what it wants, what it expects. We have a good group of guys who are leading the way, setting the standards. But you always have a few guys who just aren’t quite buying in. And that can be the difference between winning and losing games by a few points.”
Farmer gave a peek into the dedication required to excel at a high level.
“I don’t have free time,” he said. “I’m up from dusk to dawn, dedicating myself to football and school work, to make sure I’m passing my classes. You’re doing extra stuff. You might want to go to yoga or watch more film. You don’t really get a social life during football season. Leave it or take it. That’s all I’ve got to say.”