The 2017 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl should be a highly entertaining contest between the undefeated No. 10 UCF Knights and the No. 7 Auburn Tigers. While the game has a little bit of everything on the surface, once you dig deeper, you’ll find out that new Nebraska head coach Scott Frost’s place as “game day head coach” isn’t all peaches and cream.
It’s hard to think Gus Malzahn isn’t enjoying the fact that the UCF program has inherited an awkward situation heading into kickoff.
Frost has returned to Orlando with the staff he brought to Lincoln, fresh off flipping a commit from the Knights to the Cornhuskers, 3-star tight end Justin McGriff. The UCF and Nebraska fan bases have been sniping back and forth ever since Frost was announced as the Big Red’s new head man (and unofficially while his team was playing Memphis in the AAC Championship Game).
UCF athletic director Danny White had to move quickly after his former head football coach decided his future. White brought on former Missouri offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Josh Heupel, who wasted no time in assembling a staff. Clearly, the Knights are moving forward mentally where it counts.
Coaching this bowl game has rubbed some Nebraska fans the wrong way. They feel he should be 100 percent committed to working the recruiting trail and doing everything he can to lock down as many quality prospects as he can before the new December 20 signing period begins. That said, he has already collected commitments from 4-star safety C.J. Smith and 3-star JUCO wide receiver Jaron Woodyard in addition to McGriff’s pledge.
The main concern is that one of the main targets of this class (dual-threat quarterback Adrian Martinez) has now visited with Tennessee coaches who have hopes of firming his commitment. However, if you’re a Husker fan, you have to feel good with how Martinez’s visit to Lincoln went this past weekend. He was particularly fond of new quarterback coach Mario Verduzco.
“He just went on about quarterbacks,” Martinez told the Lincoln Journal Star. “Not necessarily the position but the mechanics and what all goes into it. Nobody’s’ ever shared that kind of information. Everybody talks about quarterback school or what they learned from his guy or that guy in different scenarios, but (Verduzco) came from a whole different place. I was totally unprepared for that and you can see why he’s such a guru.”
Another factor in Martinez’s recruitment is the favor of his father, Tony. There may be a clue in his words following the time spent in Lincoln that could help Big Red backers relax on New Year’s Day.
“In talking to Mr. Frost and the rest of the coaching crew over there, they’re just an amazing group of men. Nebraska is very, very fortunate to get a man and a (coaching staff) with such regard and character to lead that team back to where it should be.”
Meanwhile, UCF fans remain as salty as the Dead Sea about the entire Frost-to-Nebraska situation.
A small sample:
Better off naming it “Sellout”
— Chris Hilbert (@iamhilbs) December 10, 2017
I don’t think Frost should coach UCF in their final game. He made the decision to leave them and go to Nebraska during the season. He’s showing he really fits in at Nebraska, classless. https://t.co/fKtuamTOKM
— trex lex 🦖 (@LexyHindt) December 12, 2017
Keep crying children of 🌽 You should be rejoicing since a UCF win is virtually a commercial for you all. You haven’t gotten a good recruiting class thus far, what makes you think everyone will just storm Nebraska? Frost doesn’t, that’s why he’s in Orlando
— Aaron Duck (@AaronDuck7) December 12, 2017
It will be interesting to see how Knight fans react live. Will there be signs cheering Frost or jeering him? I could definitely see a colorful chant or two being made by some of the more disgruntled members of Knightro’s flock.
In returning to UCF with a chance to lead his… wait, what do you call the Knights? Are they his former team? How about “his guys?” That works. Returning to UCF with a chance to lead his guys to a 13-0 season and a win over a top-ten SEC opponent is a bar that will take some time for Nebraska to grow ready to clear.
It’s also important to take into account what ultimately got Frost to sign on the dotted line. No doubt both sides had some demands. A simple one could’ve been Frost’s immediate presence in Lincoln following the AAC Championship Game in exchange for coaching UCF’s bowl game should all parties give the green light. If Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos had to make that concession, he clearly felt it wasn’t a significant risk. As seems to be the case more often than not these days, he appears to be right.
Frost won’t exactly set up shop in Florida, though. He and his staff attended practice Monday and will do so again today and Thursday before returning to Lincoln to host official visitors. It’s highly unlikely that they will spend their time following practice milling around.
There is an important perspective Husker fans should keep. The Peach Bowl will essentially be a three- or four-hour advertisement for Nebraska football. Frost’s hire is the toast of every “winner or loser” column about college coaching searches. The folks on the TV call will be patting the Husker administration on the back at multiple points for securing the native son.
Is the situation ideal? No, it’s not. However, it appears that Frost and his crew are doing everything they can to ensure that both Nebraska and UCF football are looked after as best as possible before they part ways for good. It’s not all peaches and cream, but it’s certainly palatable for the Big Red.