Dienhart: Scott Frost's challenge? Make Nebraska matter again
Meet Scott Frost, the man who will make Nebraska matter again.
That’s the hope across the state, from Scottsbluff to Wahoo. Husker Nation is aching to be big-time again. And the arrival of Frost appears to be a great step in that direction.
Frost looked the part when he was formally introduced over the weekend. Wearing a red power tie, crisp white shirt and charcoal gray suit with a red “N” pinned to his lapel, Frost looked sharp, he looked like a leader. Heck, the native son and former BMOC QB just looked good. And he looked like he could throw on a pair of shoulder pads and still play. But most of all, Frost sounded like a man who knows what he’s doing. And that’s good news for a program whose previous coaches too often looked befuddled.
“We’re going to do things in a way that the people of Nebraska can be proud of,” said Frost. “We’re not going to win every game that I coach here, and we’re going to lose a few. We might make some mistakes, but I know that the people are going to be able to get behind what we’re doing here because we’re going to do everything the right way and we’re going to do everything with the right moral compass, and we’re going to do everything in a way that’s going to make Nebraska proud.”
Sorta makes you wanna stand and salute, doesn’t it? That’s important. For anyone who has been shoe-horned into a seat at Memorial Stadium on a shimmering fall Saturday afternoon, they know what this team and this program means to the denizens of the state. Nebraska football is religion to these people, and Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne are the deities.
The last 20 years, theses proud fans have slowly seen THEIR program wilt into the background of the sport, largely irrelevant. Remember when Nebraska was REALLY good? It’s getting harder and harder to do.
While iconic programs like USC, Ohio State and Alabama have remained among the elite for most of the last two decades, Nebraska has been an afterthought, lost amid the middle-of-the-pack rabble and often relegated to second-tier bowls played on a Tuesday night in December in a nowhere place.
The bright-light glory of those oh-so-meaningful trips to the Orange Bowl in the 1970s and 1980s are ancient history to today’s generation of kids. Today’s college players were toddlers during Nebraska last run of glory in the mid-1990s. And children in high school now weren’t even born the last time the Cornhuskers won a league title—1999 in the Big 12.
Think about that. Let’s call them the “lost generation.”
“People here are passionate and nobody here knows that better than me,” said Frost. “We’re going to do it in a way that Nebraska people can get unified and behind it. There’s been, in my opinion, a lack of unity of focus about this place for a while, and if I can bring that back that’ll be really rewarding.”
If Frost can bring that back, he’ll be king. Let’s not kid ourselves. He is a Wood River, Nebraska, native who quarterbacked the program to the national title in 1997 under Tom Osborne. And anyone directly connected to Osborne is A-OK. Frost gets it. He knows what Husker football means—and he knows its potential.
The biggest hurdle is and always will be recruiting. There is no base in the sparsely populated Midlands. That means Nebraska needs to cast a wide net to procure talent—more so than other traditional national powers. It all gets back to talent. And the Huskers just haven’t had enough of it the last two decades. Are Frost and his staff capable of luring blue-chippers from California to New Jersey who didn’t grow up knowing Nebraska as a power?
Frost showed a lot in his short stint making Central Florida a national story. He inherited a team that went winless in 2015. Two years later, Frost had the Golden Knights unbeaten conference champs. No other FBS school in the nation notched a perfect mark in 2017.
Imagine if he can do that in Lincoln? That’s what has Nebraska fans excited. The possibilities dance in their head for a program that has all of the resources to succeed at a high level. But remember: This is a small body of work for Frost. Just two years as a head coach—and at a lower level, too. Is the 42-year-old ready for this stage? It’s worth the risk for Nebraska, which has seen Frank Solich, Bill Callahan, Bo Pelini and Mike Riley famously fail.
“We all know that he has a passion for Nebraska, and we know that he is a very, very good football coach,” said A.D. Bill Moos. “He’s got great integrity, he’s got great morals. He cares about his players, I mean you’ve heard him talking here and he just get back to the fact that he genuinely cares about the players and all those things are important. I said back when I had my press conference that the style of offense that will capture the attention of the Big Ten is the Chip Kelly, Scott Frost, offense. “
It isn’t a big mountain to scale in the Big Ten West, as the Huskers are chasing Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa. They are catchable. Win the West, and you are playing for the Big Ten title. Win that game, and you’ll likely find yourself in the College Football Playoff, where anything is possible.
While no one doubts Frost’s offensive acumen, it’s the defense that needs the most help in Lincoln. The unit was atrocious last season and has only occasionally recaptured the “Black Shirt” ferocity that had come to define the defense under Osborne. Until Nebraska figures out how to stop teams, Frost’s fancy offense will mean little.
“He’s going to require everyone to buy in and be 100%,” said Husker defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg. “We’re definitely just going to keep moving forward and I think that’s important. Just getting everyone to buy in is going to be the biggest factor for us being successful. We’re all really hopeful, but we also do realize there’s a lot of work to do. He basically told us that it will be fun and it will be exciting, but that comes with a lot of hard work and a lot of staying together through some tough things.”
The Big Ten will benefit from having a better Nebraska, giving some balance to the East and West divisions. This is a major school and marquee brand that for too long has been out of the national spotlight. Time and again, we have been told that the Cornhuskers will be contenders. They certainly look the part each August. But too often, Nebraska has come up short. Frost is here to change that. He’s here to make the Cornhuskers matter again.
“We need to make sure the culture is right, we need to make sure the unity is right,” said Frost. “We need to get to work in the weight room and on the field. We’re going to practice hard and fast. I told the players today that everything we’re going to do is going to be difficult, but they’re going to have more fun than they’ve ever had. Once you get that kind of unity and togetherness, and you but in the work, success and everyone follows. Listen, we’re going to go faster than everyone else. Practices are going to be fast, meetings are going to be fast, it’s going to be a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to start building some of those same things here that have been with me over the past two years.”