No, Scott Frost hasn’t been hired as the new head coach of Nebraska football as of this writing, but we find ourselves in an interesting situation. All signs point to him being Bill Moos’ No. 1 target at this point. That’s certainly where just about all fan energy is going and there’s absolutely no reason that Nebraska can’t cut him an appropriately-sized check for his services.
Things can change, of course. Frost may head elsewhere or even stay at Central Florida. However, if Nebraska is still his dream job, the stars are aligned perfectly and a window of opportunity like this is unlikely to come around again. Let’s assume that he does decide to take charge of the Huskers. While fans rejoice, there’s still the matter of putting together a proper staff.
In a conversation with USA TODAY‘s Daniel Uthman, Frost went into how he formed his first staff as UCF’s head coach:
“I hired the best people that I could find and the best people I knew. I wanted to hire extremely intelligent people that are team players and, more than anything, are in the business to be mentors to young men,” he said.
There has been some concern about whether or not Frost would merely import his entire staff from Central Florida. Frost may successfully make the jump from a Group of 5 gig, but bringing along everyone along is a major risk. After watching his introductory press conference from when he was hired at UCF, those stresses may end up being unfounded.
“It would show a tremendous amount of disrespect to the people that have worked here long and hard to dismiss them out of hand and just bring in people I know,” Frost said. “I want to know who is here and know more about this thing before we hire too many people. I obviously have a lot of people in mind, but I’m gonna make the right decision on those as best as I possibly can.”
Alright, so we know a few things: Frost has an offensive system that’s not only fun to watch, it can put up points by the bushel. He’s going to want people who can handle being teachers of said system and he’s going to have access to Nebraska’s war chest to hire the best assistants available to him.
With all of this in mind, here’s a glance at what could very well end up being Nebraska’s coaching staff under Frost in 2018:
Offensive Coordinator: Matt Lubick (Co-Offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach at Washington) – Some might automatically tab current UCF offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Troy Walters for this role. However, Walters might be the odds-on favorite to take over for Frost and build his own stock with a Golden Knights program that looks to be chugging along for at least the near future.
While Nebraska wouldn’t get Chris Peterson in this scenario, the son of former Montana State and Colorado State head coach Sonny Lubick would be a prize for Frost to have helping piece together the Huskers’ new offensive look. He was at Oregon with Frost from 2013-2015 as the Ducks’ passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator by then-head coach Mark Helfrich in 2016.
Oregon ranked Nos. 21, 10, 36 and 30 in passing offense during Lubick’s stay while ranking Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 27 in scoring offense.
Quarterbacks: Mario Verduzco (Quarterbacks coach at UCF) – Frost had high praise for Verduzco upon hiring him for this position at UCF.
“When I became a quarterback coach again after coaching a lot of other positions, Mario was the first one I went to in order to brush up on quarterback fundamentals and coaching the position. He’s the best I’ve ever been around in terms of getting a quarterback ready to play. A lot of the things I taught (Oregon quarterbacks) Marcus Mariota and Vernon Adams were what I learned from Mario.”
This would mark Verduzco’s 42nd year of coaching which includes working with the likes of Hall of Famer Bill Walsh. He has plenty of experience in the Big Ten footprint having worked at Rutgers, Northern Iowa and Missouri State before taking his position at UCF.
Running Backs: Ryan Held (Running backs coach at UCF) – A major criticism of the Mike Riley era is that junior college players were not heavily pursued to address immediate needs. A former Cornhusker and teammate of Frost, Held takes care of that problem in spectacular fashion.
In 2011, he was the offensive coordinator for Butler (Kan.) Community College. He would rise to the head coaching ranks at Highland (Kan.) Community College from 2012-2013 and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College from 2014-2015. Nebraska’s ties to Butler would be re-opened and immediate in-roads could be made to Garden City (Kan.) Community College, let alone Iowa Western Community College which is practically in the Huskers’ own backyard.
Wide Receivers: Keith Williams (Nebraska holdover) – The Professor of Savage Professionalism has definitely earned a look by Frost to retain his position if he’s interested. Despite battling a severe case of drops and sitting out due to injury early in 2017, junior Stanley Morgan became Nebraska’s single-season receiving yards record holder notching five 100-yard games along the way.
Williams was also instrumental in helping redshirt freshman JD Spielman break Nebraska freshman records for catches, receiving yards and all-purpose yards.
Turning Nebraska into Oregon Lite is going to take a number of specializations by each new wideout. Who better to help hone those skills than the man NFL veterans visit in the offseason to do the very same?
Tight Ends/Recruiting Coordinator: Vince Marrow (Tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator at Kentucky) – This is a bit of a fantasy hire, but I’ll throw it out there. Marrow was a graduate assistant at Nebraska under former head coach Bo Pelini. Once his two years as a GA were up, Pelini had a decision to make: Keep Marrow full-time or let him find opportunity elsewhere. Not only did he do the latter, he took running back Braylon Heard and linebacker Courtney Love with him.
Heard would be Kentucky’s second-leading rusher in 2014 with 368 yards and four touchdowns before leaving early for the NFL Draft. Meanwhile, Love is Kentucky’s second-leading tackler and a finalist for the 2017 Wuerffel Trophy, an award that honors college football’s top community servant.
Marrow’s recruiting prowess would be a fantastic addition as well, having brought several four-star prospects to Kentucky including Freshman All-SEC tight end C.J. Conrad.
Offensive Line: Greg Austin (Offensive line coach at UCF) – Another former Husker, Austin is considered one of the best up-and-coming coaches at any position in the country. After playing under Bill Callahan, Austin interned at Oregon where he met Frost and would eventually be promoted to an offensive graduate assistant. Austin would then travel to Philadelphia with Chip Kelly to assist Jeff Stoutland with the Eagles’ offensive line.
Through 11 games, Austin’s 2017 crew has only allowed 11 sacks, good for a tie at 15th in the nation as of this writing.
Defensive Coordinator: Alex Grinch (Defensive coordinator at Washington State) – The 3-4 defense didn’t make a proper introduction in Lincoln. While Bob Diaco’s personality bled into his defense leaving players looking baffled and worn out, Grinch’s installation appears to be something Husker fans would find far more palatable.
The Cougars are ranked No. 26 in rushing defense, No. 13 in passing defense and No. 11 in total defense. They’re also tied at No. 8 in the country in sacks, No. 2 in tackles for loss and No. 15 in interceptions.
Like Diaco once was, Grinch is a candidate for the Broyles Award that goes to college football’s top assistant coach. Unlike the Huskers’ soon-to-be former defensive coordinator, Grinch’s success at Washington State has been consistent. If he is hired, one small request, Husker fans. Don’t hold it against him that his uncle is Gary Pinkel.
Defensive Line: Jeff Phelps (Defensive line coach at Washington State) – Considering that up front is where the bulk of a 3-4 defense’s success begins, it seems only logical to bring in Grinch’s man for that job.
Phelps wouldn’t be totally out of his element at Nebraska as he was Minnesota’s defensive line coach for six seasons prior to 2017. While with the Golden Gophers, he coached four players who earned All-Big Ten honors, including 2013 Third Team All-American Ra’Shede Hagemen, a 2014 second-round draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons.
Linebackers/Special Teams: Jovan Dewitt (Linebackers/special teams coach at UCF) –Dewitt’s first go at the FBS level came when he stepped in as Florida Atlantic’s linebackers coach in 2012. He would eventually be promoted to interim defensive coordinator after then-head coach Carl Pelini and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis resigned on October 30 after admitting to attending a local party where marijuana was served.
Through 11 games, senior UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin is responsible for 47 tackles (28 solo), 7.5 tackles per loss, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and an interception.
Defensive Backs: Donte Williams (Nebraska Holdover) – Some Nebraska fans don’t believe in Williams’ coaching abilities and think he’s just a slick recruiter. As previously mentioned, when there’s confusion on defense from player to player, an entire unit is going to look out of whack.
In Grinch’s system, Williams would be given the proper opportunity to display his wares as both a top-notch recruiter and a valuable addition to the team by coaching something that doesn’t feature a playbook that reads like alphabet soup on a gravel road.
Director of High School Relations: Kenny Wilhite (Nebraska Holdover) – Normally, I wouldn’t address the walk-on side of things, but Whilhite has been fantastic at his position. 2017’s haul included the Nebraska Class B single-season receiving yards record holder in Christian Banker, stud Central City, Neb. defensive end Jordan Paup and Kade Warner, a record-setting wide receiver and son of Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner.
If you’re a lover of quality walk-ons, start flooding Frost’s e-mail inbox with demands for Wilhite’s retention from the get-go.
Now that we’ve ironed all that out, all that’s left is for Frost to sign on the dotted line…right?
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