LINCOLN — As Nebraska searches for a 12th game to add to its schedule, count Scott Frost in for playing during the Oct. 27 bye week.
A Dec. 1 option coincides with the Big Ten championship, and Frost said he wants to focus on qualifying for that.
“Scheduling a game in December — I don’t want our kids thinking we’re not going to be in the championship,” Frost said. “We’re going to be in the championship. So that leaves us October. It’s not ideal to play 12 straight weeks — they don’t really do that in the NFL — but if that’s the hand we’re dealt, so be it.
“These kids have practiced hard enough and worked hard enough, they deserve to have a full slate of games, of 12 games. The administration is dealing with that and we’ll play whoever they line up for us.”
Including Central Florida. UCF has an open date Oct. 27 and just had its game at North Carolina canceled. Frost said it would be an “evenly-matched game.” Frost coached UCF in 2016 and 2017.
But Frost would coach that game very reluctantly, too.
UCF doesn’t have a “true” bye week, Frost said. It plays Temple on Thursday, Nov. 3. And Frost would be “broken-hearted” if players on either team were hurt in a game between the two schools.
“I still love those kids down there that are playing at UCF so much — rooting for them,” Frost said. “It’d be a great game. I think it’d be an evenly-matched game of two really good teams. But, personally, I’d cringe a little when our defensive end hit their quarterback. That’s not how you want to go into a game.”
Martinez a game-time decision
Frost may wait until “two minutes before kickoff” to make a final decision on whether freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez’s right knee is healthy enough for him to play against Troy.
Martinez, injured late in a loss to Colorado, has “looked really good” during the week, Frost said, but he didn’t practice in pads. Frost plans on suiting up Martinez for Saturday’s game and putting him through warmups. After that, he’ll decide.
“The biggest thing is we have to make sure he’s healthy enough that there’s no added risk to further injury,” Frost said.
NU plays its first road game at Michigan next week.
Martinez’s backup is sophomore walk-on Andrew Bunch, who played the final two drives of the Colorado loss.
“Everything we want to do with our offense (Bunch) does pretty well,” Frost said. “The key for him is getting the reps. When he was getting equal reps to the two other guys in camp, he was right in the mix with those guys.”
» Frost said he’s talked to Nebraska players about being wary of underdog Troy, which beat LSU last season and nearly beat Clemson in 2016. NU lost 21-17 to Northern Illinois last season. Frost drew upon his experience coaching UCF in his chat with players.
“I’ve coached at a place like this, and when you go play a game like this, it’s like the Super Bowl for them,” Frost said. “It’s a great opportunity for a team to come into an environment like this and try to win, and they did it last year. They went in to LSU — which is one of the best environments in the country — and beat ‘em pretty handily.”
» Nebraska wasn’t affected too much by the NCAA’s new rule limiting teams to 20 game-day headsets, Frost said, but he doesn’t like the rule because it appears to be regulation for only a few egregious violators. Frost also mentioned that quality control coaches over a certain age aren’t allowed on the headsets unless they’re an assistant or graduate assistant.
“That doesn’t seem right to me,” Frost said. “That seems like they’re discriminating against older coaches who are trying to help with teams.”
Tom Osborne saw more intensity from Huskers in Colorado loss than he’s seen in years
Tom Osborne is pretty sure he’s told this story before.
“When you get old,” he said to the Big Red Today Breakfast crowd on Thursday, “you tend to repeat yourself.”
But he wants to tell it anyway. It’s about his best day in the NFL.
Dr. Tom was a wide receiver in the late 1950s and early 1960s. And one day, he had a snazzy one-handed grab right near the pylon. He was sure to drag both feet to stay in bounds for a score.
“Then the ref blew the whistle and the game started,” Osborne said to laughs.
He then went on to his main point, which was that part of the reason Nebraska was so successful under his tenure is because everyone got the same shot. Walk-ons, scholarship players, they were all on the same level. In the NFL, it isn’t that way.
“It has to be an absolute meritocracy where you only go with performance,” Osborne said. “That makes a big difference on the culture of a team.”
That culture is starting to be rebuilt in Lincoln, the former head coach said. Osborne is a mainstay at Nebraska football practices now under former championship quarterback Scott Frost. And so far, he’s really liked the foundation built by Frost. He has the right ideas about how to start this rebuild, Osborne said, which is conditioning and the walk-on program. Osborne watched film of the 20 walk-ons in the 2018 class and liked what he saw from the in-state talent.
“It’s gonna take a year or two, but those guys are going to make a difference,” Osborne said, predicting that five of them will eventually become starters.
Former Blackshirt Mike Rucker spoke with Osborne on Thursday morning, and said the key with rebuilding a culture is re-instituting a selflessness within the program. Rucker was asked to speak to the team a few weeks ago, and he started his speech talking to redshirt freshmen and walk-ons.
“When I’m a redshirt, I’m going up against the top tackle in the country, it’s my duty to give him a great look,” said Rucker, a defensive end who was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame last weekend. “When you have Scott Frost, who becomes a national championship quarterback, who is running scout team at one time and he’s taking licks, he understands the importance of all that.”
One walk-on in particular Osborne liked was true freshman Matt Masker, who would be Nebraska’s second-string quarterback against Troy behind Andrew Bunch if starter Adrian Martinez sits out with a knee injury. Osborne really likes Martinez and thinks he’ll have a great career at Nebraska. But walk-on Andrew Bunch should be ready to play, and likely will be ready to play, because of how many reps quarterbacks get in Frost’s practices.
In Osborne’s day, they’d run 100 snaps of first-team offense and 100 snaps with the second team. The first-, second- and third-string quarterbacks rotated between the two, getting 70 to 75 total snaps, so everyone would be ready, Osborne said. The system Nebraska has in place now is more similar to that style than anytime in the past few years.
Osborne was generally pleased with the Huskers’ first game against Colorado, despite the 33-28 loss. He thinks had Nebraska played the first game against Akron, it might’ve gone the other way. He was most encouraged by the defensive intensity and offensive line play. Both of those facets of the game looked better against Colorado than any time in the last five years, Osborne said.
The former head coach believes in Frost for a lot of reasons, and one of the pillars of his trust rests on how much Frost cares about his players. Osborne was in contact with Frost near the end of Frost’s Central Florida tenure. Osborne didn’t recruit Frost back home but was more of a sounding board for his former quarterback. And for 10 days last winter, Osborne said, he wasn’t sure what Frost would do. Specifically, because Osborne knew how much Frost cared about his UCF guys.
“The fact he cared about his players was important, because you better care about your players if you’re gonna be a good coach,” Osborne said.
Despite the loss, enthusiasm for the Huskers in the state is as high as Osborne’s seen in decades. There’s been a resurgence of interest, loyalty and enthusiasm, no question about it, Osborne said. He’s fairly certain the sellout streak would’ve “evaporated” had Frost not come back.
But, the cold, brutal truth is Frost has to win, Osborne said. People will wait for that to happen. But it does need to happen.
“If (fans) don’t see a good product on the field, you’re gonna see diminished attitude. So you can’t afford to have that,” Osborne said. “For a lot of years, 42 years, including Frank Solich, we had pretty remarkable success. So I think we can get back to that, and I’m fairly confident it can happen.”
Nebraska cornerback recruit Tiawan Mullen commits to Indiana
LINCOLN — Nebraska lost to Indiana on Thursday for a cornerback it hosted on an official visit for its canceled game against Akron.
Tiawan Mullen, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound prospect from Coconut Creek, Florida, picked the Hoosiers over the Huskers. Mullen visited IU last weekend. The other finalist was Pittsburgh.
Nebraska remains in the hunt for Decatur (Ga.) South DeKalb corner Jamel Starks and Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton corner Javin Wright. Both visited for the Colorado game last week. According to the 247Sports “Crystal Ball,” they’re both leaning toward Nebraska. So was Mullen, though, before Thursday.
The Huskers have a commitment from one defensive back for the 2019 class – Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett safety Quinton Newsome. NU defensive backs coach Travis Fisher said last week he’d like to take as many defensive backs as possible in the class.
Troy at Nebraska
When: 11 a.m. Saturday (Pregame: 6 a.m.)
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln
Radio: 103.1 FM