One of the main gripes of fans and pundits alike is that Nebraska football fans are stuck in the 1990s. With no national championships since then, not even a conference title to their name, the Huskers haven’t been…well, the Huskers that Big Red Backers all knew and loved for quite some time. However, Scott Frost’s return signals a legitimate focus towards returning to that culture of dominance according to former Blackshirt Ralph Brown II.
For those of you not familiar with Brown’s Twitter work or who simply don’t bother with the Twitter machine at all, he has frequently been offering a bite-sized synopsis of Big Red recruits. For example:
New #Huskers 3⭐Star Athlete Miles Jones is a Swiss Army knife. Box☑Check
☑Patience to Set-Up Blocks
☑Hungry for the End Zone
☑Quick Burst Upfield after Catch
☑Natural Return Man
☑Great Balance pic.twitter.com/7gmyHRIhtb
— Ralph D. Brown II (@RalphDBrown) February 12, 2018
I was curious to find out if he had to put Frost and his crew under the microscope, and if so, did they check off the boxes necessary to do what both Nebraska president Hank Bounds and chancellor Ronnie Green have suggested might be possible: be the Nebraska that college football fans remember from their dynasty days?
“One thing that they did that was tremendous was Coach Frost kept his entire staff. I think that showed a lot to the kids that wanted to come to Nebraska, recruits around the nation, and parents as well. It showed that this guy’s committed to UCF for the bowl game, now he’s committed to his entire staff, and he brought everybody over to Lincoln.
Second, the whole staff kept the fact that we’re going to transition this stuff over. We’re going to keep this thing going in Lincoln and do the same thing. Their energy was great, everybody was positive, they built up a lot of the players, and they told all of the players what was going to happen when they get to Lincoln and I think that’s why a lot of these players signed with Nebraska and Scott Frost,” Brown said.
Some had concerns about Frost keeping his entire staff from UCF as he transitioned to Nebraska, but Brown pointed out that if he didn’t do that, he may not have had the success that he did. One only needs to look at how they were able to practically guide two programs seamlessly at the same time, leading the Knights to a win over a powerful Auburn squad and eventually signing one of the best classes Nebraska has seen in years, let alone as a transition class.
It’s clear that Frost’s philosophy at least partially revolves around that of the head coach while he played at Nebraska, Tom Osborne. When asked if we might see a modern-day version of staff retention which was unique even in Osborne’s day, Brown pointed out how coaching salaries have ballooned into the range of millions of dollars even for coordinators.
He sees offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Troy Walters and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander as two examples who will perform amazingly well as members of Frost’s staff, and as such will be tempted with dump trucks full of money to go off and do their own thing sooner rather than later.
“I think Coach Frost has a great system in place where he can plug the next guy in. I don’t see Walters or Chinander staying too long, and I think Coach Frost understands that. Right now, coaches get paid so much money in division one and for Walters and Chinander to take the salaries they are and turn down a few more million dollars, I don’t think that will happen.”
He makes a good point, but while coaches such as those two have bright futures, there are still major goals that Frost wants to meet early on at Nebraska. No doubt he feels that he needs the same group that made magic happen at UCF to accomplish what Nebraska has failed to do for the past 19 years. In fact, Brown thinks the Huskers can win a major title within the next three years.
While Zach Duval has the Big Red developing their bodies to accommodate the fast-paced style of Frost’s offense, Brown feels that mentally, confidence in the bigger goals is lacking and that needs to return immediately.
“The staff has to make sure they get everyone to buy into their system which is committing to practice, the weight room, buying into getting to the Big Ten Championship Game, seeing themselves in that big game, knowing what they’re working for and focusing on a national championship. If the coaches can get that in the heads of the players, having them subscribe to their philosophy, I think that’s huge.
You can already see that on Twitter and with what some of the players are already talking about. Saying they want to rebuild the program, win a national title. I saw somebody on Twitter the other day talking about, ‘we want to bring a natty back to Lincoln.’ I think they’re already on their way to believing in that”
Speaks volumes of HC Scott Frost & staff committing tireless hours to UCF in their bowl game & shifting gears to #Huskers recruiting w the same vigor. Simply amazing!
— Ralph D. Brown II (@RalphDBrown) February 7, 2018
As a former Blackshirt himself, the opportunity to find out Brown’s opinion on Chinander’s approach towards the tradition was too good to pass up. The Blackshirts’ new overseer has stated that he felt awkward throwing the bones when introduced at a recent Nebraska basketball game. Brown appreciates the nature of his approach towards a powerful tradition that has evolved over the years.
“I think it’s smart for him. He probably feels like he’s on the outside. The Blackshirts over the past six to seven years haven’t truly lived up at times to what they were, so he doesn’t want to come in and say ‘I’m a Blackshirt.’ He probably feels like (he’s) going to build these guys up, take them through war, break them down and build them up so now they can deserve and appreciate wearing a Blackshirt.
I like the approach because the Blackshirt philosophy and what it is to truly be one has been fractured over the years and I think Chinander’s treading lightly and he wants to rebuild it, get it back to its heyday and truly represent what it is to be a Blackshirt.”
Brown has done some research on Chinander, reading up on his tactics and has spoken with other coaches to find out more about Nebraska’s new defensive coordinator.
Apparently, he pours countless hours into his craft, and Brown fully expects that he will do his research when dealing with a tradition as rich as the Blackshirt mystique and swagger during the days when it became more than a jersey including discussing the history with former players to get their takes.
Brown had a few things to say about exactly what wearing a Blackshirt in practice means, or perhaps should mean.
“If you have a Blackshirt, it means you are not afraid to get on your teammates in practice. You are not afraid to let one know if he’s taking plays off, you don’t take plays off. It means you’re a leader, you’re selfless. You help the next man underneath you who’s not a Blackshirt.”
He recalled when he came in and started as a true freshman. He was approached by players such as Jason Peter and Grant Wistrom who gave him a bit of a dressing down and didn’t mince words when it came to the brotherhood that he was a part of.
They emphasized the necessity to never take plays off, leaving all of what he had in the tank both on the practice field and in game situations. That the honor — and it was clearly an honor — was not to be taken lightly. Clearly, Brown took their message to heart.
For Frost to come in and address his players rather bluntly in regards to things running poorly and their conditioning being flat out subpar, a fine line may have needed to be walked. That said, Brown feels how Nebraska’s new head football coach approached the situation was best for laying the foundation for his new culture.
“You have to be honest and direct with these kids. I think the previous staff babied them a lot. I heard so many different things about practices and how a lot of the players were babied, even with coach Pelini. Coach Frost is not going to baby the kids. He’s going to tell them exactly what they need to do. He’s going to point out exactly where they need to improve, and if it affects you in an adverse way, maybe you’re not built for their system.”
Brown would expand on the idea of program standards. That Bo Pelini had one, Mike Riley had one, but the standard that existed in the ’90s was head and shoulders above what past regimes tried to implement. That they simply didn’t understand the level of commitment and effort.
He pointed out that was a major reason why frustration existed among past players. They were familiar with this model of taking things to the absolute limit and that wasn’t being upheld for one reason or another.
Frost has gone on record saying that he wants to bring in about 150 players on his roster suggesting that 10 coaches could easily make such practices efficient. Brown not only agrees, he remembers practices like that during his time as a player.
“When I was on defense, at one of our stations there were three groups of offenses coming at us after each play would end. We had to hurry up and get back before the next play getting snapped off. I’m watching other stations where the offense is running the option, throwing plays, it’s so fast-paced. There were four or five stations going on and everybody’s rotating in, everyone’s blocking hard, everyone’s doing their job, everyone’s competing.”
This appears to be another throwback to what Frost’s mentor felt was one way to get a major leg up on his opponents.
“Coach Osborne knew the power of repetition and psychology. That’s one of his gifts. He knew if he could get 1,000 more reps than his opponent, he’ll be that much more prepared whether (using) a first-string or backup. They’re going to be ready to perform at a high level. That’s why you saw second-string quarterbacks, backup cornerbacks, and defensive linemen come in while (playing) as if it was the norm. It wasn’t something new to them.”
Nebraska football fans are obviously ecstatic about the Scott Frost era at Nebraska. Some are already predicting nine wins, winning the Big Ten West division and even capturing the school’s first conference championship in forever and a day in Frost’s first year. While Brown does feel that the Huskers will surprise, he’s not quite ready to put the Big Red in the national title picture…yet.
“I truly believe they can win about eight games, give or take. They’re going to shock a lot of people. Here’s the thing: I don’t watch players. I watch coaches. That’s how you know when people win. That’s how Nick Saban keeps winning. That’s how these different coaches across the country keep winning,” Brown said.
“Coaches are the reason why people win. Urban Meyer goes in his first year after following Luke Fickell and it looked like Ohio State wasn’t going to be good. His first year, they went undefeated.
Scott Frost’s system is so hard to stop if he gets the right quarterback in place, everybody buying in. You see all these speedsters coming in at the wide receiver spot, good running backs. I don’t think a lot of people in the Big Ten are ready for what Nebraska’s going to do this year.”
Suffice it to say one more former Husker is on the Scott Frost bandwagon. While we must be careful when comparing Frost to coaches like Meyer and one of the greatest coaches that college football has ever seen in Saban, Brown does have a legitimate point. Ohio State may have had elite talent waiting in the wings under Fickell, but Meyer was the one who made them believe they could perform at their best.
When Saban showed up at LSU, the Tigers went 8-5 in his first year. His first year at Alabama wasn’t anything to write home about either. However, he would go 10-3 at LSU and 12-2 with the Crimson Tide in his second year at each school.
Is Frost ready to make his mark as the next top coach in college football? From Brown’s perspective, it appears like only a matter of time.