(Originally Published with Athlon Sports)
As of today, none of us know when Scott Frost’s Nebraska Cornhuskers will take the field again. Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren reiterated on Wednesday that the conference won’t reconsider its decision to postpone the fall sports season. But before the focus shifts to the possibility of playing in the spring, Frost and his staff still have plenty of business to attend to.
A great deal of energy and resources are being used to address changes he deems necessary, whether the Huskers play in the spring or not. This includes upgrading and developing the current roster along with would-be members of it. With official recruiting visits not an option at the moment, creativity is demanded when pitching what the Nebraksa program offers. Fortunately, there are several notable talking points the staff can use to emphasize why years spent in the San Diego of the Big Ten is worth a recruit’s signature.
Their determination to play was loudest early on
A considerable number of players have done everything possible to highlight their itch to compete this fall. No, a season played out during all of this uncertainty won’t be perfect, but demand for the experiment only grows louder by the day. However, well before Ohio State’s Justin Fields started his loud #LetUsPlay petition, Frost and his charges made a tremendous ruckus of their own.
Before Frost took questions from local media on Aug. 10, he gave a passionate speech about how Lincoln — with all its facilities and testing capabilities — was the best spot for his squad during the widespread health crisis. Not only that, but they’ve been extremely interested in speaking with teams who crave competition, no matter what the conference’s plans were and are.
Yes, the national outrage that resulted from media members like Desmond Howard, Michael Wilbon, and others was swift and severe. But the irony of their words regarding the Huskers’ modern-day successes or lack thereof shone a spotlight on Lincoln brighter than any Frost has seen since moving from Orlando. The Big Red has been frequently mentioned ever since, and they didn’t have to take a snap to do so.
But this took root prior to last week’s dust-up. On Aug. 5, countless Nebraska players tweeted out support of those who guide them.
Pretty sure Huskers wanna play football. pic.twitter.com/M9pmxqjAsR— Brandon Cavanaugh (@eightlaces) August 5, 2020
A rush of coaches, parents, and fans joined their efforts to lobby for the Big Ten to reconsider its position while questions swirl about why it suspended operations. We’ve seen the determination to give a 2020 schedule a chance, even if the conference has seemingly shut the door on the possibility. Nebraska came hard with proactive messaging about its commitment to play, and that no doubt speaks volumes to those weighing the benefits of continuing their athletic careers in the Cornhusker State.
“Our Red Burns Brighter”
Having fans in Memorial Stadium clapping along to Sirius before the Huskers trot onto their home turf seems a long distant memory. The stands won’t fill anywhere near regular capacity before a new vaccine is ready and embraced by the general populace. This is also only the beginning of precautions needed to ensure public health in such a setting.
Still, the enthusiasm of those who toast Husker victories is evident even now. Social media has taught us a great deal during these unprecedented times. It’s also reminded us of constants.
One is how fiercely Nebraska fans cheer on the Big Red. A grand statement that when the gates open off 625 Stadium Drive in Lincoln, they will be ready to pass through regardless of any line’s length. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms continue to underscore the fact that Husker Nation will champion those who don the scarlet and cream whether in person or virtually.
Commitment to excellence in athletic performance
To suggest strength coaches Zach Duval and Andrew Strop enjoy what they do is akin to saying LeBron James enjoys playing basketball or Tom Brady is a good quarterback. All are severe understatements, and there are ample receipts to back these claims up. While James and Brady have their championship rings, Nebraska’s dynamic duo have the sweat of Frost’s players to bolster their resumes.
Retweets of workouts under their watchful eyes have become commonplace this offseason. Those in charge of transforming the roster’s body composition are happy to give a glimpse of what those who step into their world must prepare for in order to excel and grow.
Playmakers needed immediately
The emphasis put on securing the commitment of tight end Thomas Fidone is blindingly apparent. He’s ready to pledge his loyalty on Aug. 26 with Nebraska among four remaining possible choices. While his addition would be significant, he’d be but one piece of the bigger picture.
Attrition is common at all skill positions and no matter how the NCAA approaches eligibility moving forward, two long-time offensive line starters must be replaced in Brendan Jaimes and Matt Farniok. On defense, Travis Fisher has churned out aggressive secondaries, but the unit hasn’t truly solidified under defensive coordinator Erik Chinander. Losing the leadership and productivity brought by Jojo Domann only adds to his workload.
Three years into this new chapter of Husker football history, seeing new faces muscle their way to the top of depth charts is a long way from becoming unusual. Fortunately, some are planted in the Big Red’s backyard. Offensive lineman Deshawn Woods and outside linebacker Devon Jackson — both Omaha products — would challenge for starting spots. Watching Micah Riley (another in-state product from Bellevue) battle with Fidone for snaps (if not line up in a formation with him) is an exciting back-and-forth on its own.
What speaks volumes is that despite the drought of championships and even bowl games recently, the Huskers remain a profitable brand. We’ve seen how emphatically Nebraska fans embrace those who make up the football roster. Although construction has been delayed, plans for a new $155 million football complex signal the program’s intent to vault into the heart of a facility arms race that doesn’t seem to have a finish line.
The Big Red also now aids athletes in creating individual brands for life after college. The concept of offering rewards from athletic, academic, and business standpoints has become reality. For those willing to invest, the opportunities are extensive. Nebraska is in a unique position to define its competitors as superstars far beyond the state’s borders and well before they graduate or move onto the next level.
Maybe we’ll see a college football season yet. Regardless, Nebraska has many advantages to flaunt regarding their trek back towards the mountain top and how the elite can benefit by being a part of this return.