When Greg Bell chose to transfer late last week, Nebraska granted a release from his scholarship but blocked him from all Big Ten teams, nonconference opponents through the 2021 season and Oregon State.
The Beavers have taken three Husker transfers in the past two months — linebacker Avery Roberts, quarterback Tristan Gebbia and receiver Tyjon Lindsey. Coach Scott Frost said Thursday that Oregon State enjoys an advantage in attracting transfers because of its academic calendar and quarters system, which begins school later and allows students to add classes into early October.
Oregon State was able to successfully enroll Lindsey, who left NU last week.
“Right now, with the way the transfer rule is, quarters teams are at an advantage,” Frost said. “We couldn’t get a player in — if they wanted to transfer here — right when the season started. Some of these quarters teams are still taking them. I think that’s an unintended consequence of the rule they made, but it doesn’t create competitive balance.”
Frost said he had “no doubt” that Roberts, Gebbia and Lindsey were in touch with “coaches who were formerly here.” In this case, that’d be Trent Bray, now an assistant with the Beavers, and former Nebraska coach Mike Riley, an analyst at Oregon State who’s going to be coaching in a new spring football league in 2019.
“It’s hard for me to criticize (Oregon State coaches) without being hypocritical,” Frost said, noting that he talked to Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton on his birthday Wednesday night. “But at the same time, if someone is trying to contact our kids while they’re still our kids and trying to get them to transfer, then I’m not going to be a fan of that continuing to happen. I’m not saying it did happen.”
Bell, who signed with NU out of Arizona Western, was not recruited by Nebraska’s former staff, which did not sign any junior college players during Riley’s tenure.
A new NCAA rule that goes into effect Oct. 15 makes Nebraska’s blockage list moot anyway. Athletes will be able to transfer wherever they like without a school’s permission, entering a nationwide database that allows schools to contact the athletes.
Frost doesn’t know what will happen when the new rule goes in place.
“It’s already gotten a little messier this year; I’m sure it’ll continue to get messy,” Frost said. “The bottom line is, in this day and age, a lot of people want what they want and they want it now. There’s not a lot of patience, there’s not a lot of willingness to fight through and change their circumstance. People have the tendency to think the grass might be greener somewhere else. I hope it doesn’t become the wild west and (like) college basketball with everybody transferring.”
Scott Frost applauds ‘best week’ of practice; Cameron Jurgens breaks foot
LINCOLN — Laughs and spirited conversations filled the hallways of the Hawks Center as Nebraska players filed back to the locker room late Thursday morning.
Coach Scott Frost confirmed the good vibes a few moments later with reporters. The Huskers felt physically rejuvenated after not wearing pads Monday. Coaches felt better about overall progress, and Frost called the past few days “our best week of practice ever, again.”
“Everybody seems happy, seems to be fighting together, seems to get what it takes to do little things the right way to give yourselves a chance,” Frost said. “The detail’s been better. I think the effort’s been better. Understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish and scheme-wise, it’s getting better.”
Hoping for sea of red
Frost was upbeat about the potential for a large Nebraska fan presence at Northwestern on Saturday morning. Husker supporters have traditionally flocked to Ryan Field en masse.
“I hope there’s a lot of red in the stadium,” Frost said. “We’re planning on it. We’re not going to use a silent snap count, so we need Nebraska fans to show up.”
Juco wideout improving
Asked about the development of junior college transfer Jaron Woodyard at wide receiver, the coach said the talent is there. The speedster is working through understanding details like where to line up, how to run specific routes and his various assignments. He continues to be in the conversation for NU’s No. 3 receiver behind JD Spielman and Stanley Morgan.
“He’s getting better every week,” Frost said, “but you’ve got to be able to do that on the vast, vast majority of plays to stay out there. And he’s getting close.”
Motivation for freshmen
True freshmen on the team are motivated to earn playing time late in the season while preserving their redshirt eligibility under the new four-game rule, Frost said. Among those are four injured players — defensive linemen Casey Rogers and Tate Wildeman, defensive back Cam’ron Jones and offensive lineman/tight end Cameron Jurgens.
Frost confirmed that Jurgens — who’s transitioning from tight end to interior offensive line — broke a bone in his foot Monday in practice when his cleat got caught in the grass. The Beatrice product will be sidelined for about a month.
“There’s a bunch of guys we’d love to get that experience in games at the end of the year that we just can’t,” Frost said. “But we will with the ones that are able to go.”
Punt unit a big factor
Nebraska will indeed turn to walk-on Isaac Armstrong as its starting punter Saturday, Frost said. Both Armstrong and Caleb Lightbourn had been kicking well in practice, but Lightbourn’s performance hadn’t carried over into games.
Frost said there are other factors to why Nebraska’s average starting field position on offense (its own 27-yard line) and defense (the opponent’s 36) are among the worst nationally. But a big one is the punting unit, which has allowed a pair of touchdowns and turned in poor net totals through five games.
Overall, Frost said special teams are “nowhere near where I want it to be.” The third phase is one reason Nebraska has topped 500 yards of total offense three times and lost the game each time.
“Some of that has to do with just needing more guys that can cover kicks well, that can block for kicks well,” Frost said. “Some of that’s better effort, some of that’s better decisions. I thought it got better last week.”
The next Dave Rimington? Scott Frost clearly excited about Cameron Jurgens’ move to center
LINCOLN — At first Greg Austin couldn’t believe the comparison Scott Frost was making.
Nebraska’s offensive line coach didn’t pay much attention to true freshman Cameron Jurgens in fall camp. Jurgens was a tight end and Austin was still getting to know players at his own positions.
But now Jurgens is “double dipping” at both positions, Austin said, and is in the process of moving full time to O-line. Frost instigated the change last week while invoking the name of a two-time All-American at Nebraska considered to be perhaps the best center in college football history.
“This guy can be the second coming of Dave Rimington,” Austin recalled Frost saying, whispering the name of the man with an award named after him. “That’s a big name to throw out, and when he threw it out I was like, ‘C’mon, Coach. That’s Dave Rimington, now.’ ”
But the two share qualities — explosive, quick, powerful, gritty, nasty — and Jurgens has impressed coaches by being a “natural snapper.” The 6-foot-3, 270-pound Beatrice product joined the Huskers in the summer after committing as a high school sophomore.
Jurgens, who played against Troy and can appear in three more games while preserving his redshirt, participates in tight end meetings on Mondays and spends the rest of the week with the offensive line. He has been the No. 4 tight end all season.
Tight ends coach Sean Beckton often joked about having to fend off other coaches for Jurgens but said the move is in Nebraska’s best interest.
“We’re looking for the long haul for the best players in position for our team,” Beckton said. “Coach Frost felt he needs to probably start getting some work over there and see where he would be at toward the end of the year as far as putting on some weight. I’ve been surprised on how quick he’s picked up on things as far as understanding what’s going on up front.”
Unfortunately, immediate progress may be stunted by injury. Both Austin and Beckton confirmed Jurgens was hurt in practice this week but wouldn’t elaborate. He was seen leaving practice on crutches while wearing a walking boot on his right foot.