Usual disclaimer: I am typing as fast as I can in real time. These ARE NOT exact quotes. If something piques your interest, let me know in the comments and I will look up the exact wording to be sure I didn’t misrepresent someone’s words. (You can always play the video in the tweet and listen while you read.)
2021 Spring Press Conference https://t.co/LlpYUD0gBw— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) March 29, 2021
What can you say about what happened when it got out that Nebraska was looking to move the Oklahoma game?
In general there has been discussions on what’s best for the program, a lot of options were on the table. I give Bill Moos a lot of credit, we had fewer furloughs, cuts, etc. than almost anyone else. There was a $40-50 million budget hit and there were discussions on how to help with that. They discussed a lot of things. We were originally scheduled to play in Ireland so it made a lot of sense to take Week 1 off. Now, with that [Ireland] game not happening, it didn’t make sense anymore...We need home games...we only have one home game until October...that hurts recruiting...that hurts the city of Lincoln...we were looking at any or all options.
What about special teams? Will someone be in charge of that?
Mike Dawson is going to do it for us now. He’s going to be the lead and he’ll get help from all the assistants as well as coaching outside linebackers. [when asked if Dawson will carry the title of “Special Teams Coordinator”] Yes, I think we will put the special teams coordinator title next to Dawson’s name.
On changes made in the schedule (later spring ball) this emerged:
...We just did testing for the first time, since I’ve been here. Old school testing like we used to do...seeing the improvement our guys made in those areas gives them a lot of confidence.
On the competition in the running back and wide receivers rooms:
It was a lot of coach-speak...excited about the competition...a lot of talent...tested well...athletic...excited to see them on the field.
Was it you or someone else that even suggested to cancel OK? What’s your comment on the narrative that got out there?
I grew up on the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry. I can’t count the number of times I was in the stadium in the snow watching those games...that’s my favorite rivalry in sports. Our players are excited to take their chances against a really good team. I’m sure they [Oklahoma] are going to be one of the best teams in the country. I think the whole conversation started on ways to fix the budget...Bill was committed to keeping programs intact [not cutting sports]...the conversation was started on how to get more revenue. I’m excited about chances to have more home games, especially early in the season. But we’re excited to play that game.
I don’t remember where the conversation started for sure, I just know with the large cut to our budget, all conversations were on the table. The first thing we did was start looking for home games in week 1 and then looking for more home games. We want our fans to get in and see us sooner and to get recruits on campus sooner.
I’m excited to play it. Our kids are excited to play it.
Culture is a big conversation - there was an effort this offseason to build camaraderie. How do you think those efforts went?
Culture is always a big deal...we’ve been in a process to get this built..this is why it’s important some of those guys came back this year...we’re closer than ever to having the culture the coaching staff wants...we want to have guys that want to be around each other...it’s hard in a COVID year and they weren’t allowed to be in the same room...we made a conscious effort to work on that this offseason.
What was your initial reaction when the Big Ten allowed fans?
I’m excited. I do believe it should be a local decision. We’re past the point where we need to keep it the same. Everyone’s struggling. Athletic departments need revenus and fans want to see games. I just miss the fans. That was rough. It’s part of what makes Nebraska special. We’ve got our fingers crossed that come September we have some home games and we can see them in the stadium.
More summaries from Coach Frost...
- Excited about the offensive line - even with the young guys there is really only one starting spot up for grabs and there should be some depth
- There are some players who will be out or limited for spring practices but he didn’t want to update on individuals until after the first practice
- He’s impressed with transfer receiver Samori Toure and how mature and professional he is in his prep and conduct. Expecting him to work in the slot especially.
- He’s emphasizing fundamentals in practice since they lost last spring and had a short season. He wants to make sure those are in place so they can get creative and build on that.
- The COVID year affected the coaches and the time they could spend together. They’re glad things are closer to normal so they can work together more.
Offensive Coordinator Matt Lubick
After not getting a spring last year. What are one or two things you’d like to accomplish?
Daily improvement is the biggest thing. I didn’t get a chance to go through a whole year with them, so I think they’ve gotten to know me more...the players and the coaches...I’m grateful I have a full year under my belt now.
You guys have added a lot of new blood...what have you seen early on?
First off, we played a lot of young guys last year. We expect them to be a lot better. Part of that is knowing your assignment which gives you confidence to play faster. Another part is to get fit physically - we have a great weight staff and nutrition staff. We train our guys as good as anyone in the country. One new receiver and tight end, Toure and Thomas are here already. We’ve been able to do a little classroom work and they are fast learners.
Will Chris Hickman play tight end or receiver?
He’s going to play both. Right now, we got him at receiver...we cross train...he can do both and that gives us flexibility.
You are starting with Samori Toure in the slot. What do you like about him there?
He can do a lot of different things. He’s experienced, has played four years from a program where he was well-coached. He’s smart, he’s big, he can go up for the 50-50 ball but it isn’t 50-50 ith him, he can win those.
With Fidone, he’s just getting started. Do you envision him playing in more than one spot or at tight end?
He’s a guy that can definitely play tight end. Last year, you watch our tight ends, they were all over the place...we think Thomas is going to be right along with that. He can stretch the field vertically but have physicality at the line of scrimmage.
[On the noticeable increase in size being recruited by this staff] Did you want big receivers?
I think in a perfect world you always want the biggest, fastest, strongest athlete...but there’s more that goes into it...you want the best players. It’s just worked out for us that we’ve been able to add size to our skill spots. What’s a defense going to do? Are they going to put defensive backs out there to block someone big or are they going to put a linebacker out there?
ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! A quarterback question!
What do you want/need to see from your quarterbacks?
Big picture, you want to see improvement. Quarterback specifically, you want them to protect the ball. QB always gets too much credit and too much blame. We’ve got to get better play from everyone around them. If we can be more consistent in making decisions and protecting the ball, we’ll be better.
Anything about Logan Smothers and Heinrich Haarberg?
Reps are the biggest thing. Because of numbers, those guys are going to get more reps. The more reps you get, the more confident you are. I’m excited. They both had great winters and tested well and we’re excited to see where they are starting tomorrow.
Coach Frost has stressed culture. As you look at the team you have now, what is your assessment?
I’ve been here one year and it has improved a lot in that time. You know you have a good culture when it is player led and your guys are stepping up and taking leadership....a big part is showing up on time, working hard and competing to get better. We’ve been stressing it, but it’s a whole different level when your leaders, Adrian Martinez, Austin Allen do it and it becomes contagious. The rest of our team is falling in with them.
Defensive Coordinator Erik Chinander
Congrats on having all those players come back. They’re all experienced. How do you keep developing those guys in the spring?
[Smiles] I thought you were going to ask who got the Blackshirts.
We had a long season time wise but short by the amount of games and reps. Those guys need reps as well to sharpen their craft. They’re working on their leadership - we got six of those guys back so we hope we have six extra coaches. I’m asking them to take on dual roles in sharpening their craft but being an extra set of eyes and ears for us out there. They are going to be instrumental in what we do.
With some guys going through spring the first time how much does that affect how you approach them?
I love spring football because it is a great opportunity to work with newer faces...and just watching those guys get better every day. When you’re in the season and you’re game planning and you’re getting your one and two groups ready you don’t get to spend as much time with those younger guys. In spring ball you get to spend more time with them.
Javin Wright - what is your plan with him?
He’s going to play multiple positions because we think that’s where he’ll have to play in the season. He might take some reps behind JoJo and might have to play some at safety too, Isaac Gifford will have to do the same. You guys documented that JoJo played a lot of reps for us. In a 12 game season, I don’t know how many reps a guy can play for us, so we need to get guys ready that can rotate in there.
Mike Dawson is going to lead the charge on special teams. What if anything do you take from the experience of having a position coach also do special teams and how you support them?
[On team culture] Have you seen specific guys that have stepped up that haven’t in the past?
When the group of seniors decided they wanted to come back, along with Cam, that group got together and talked about their goals and if they came back, they’d like to do it together. That group has really stepped up and taken on a leadership role.
How do you size up the cornerback race now? Who will be working there when you start?
I want to see a bunch of different guys play and I want to see a bunch of different combinations. There are some guys who can play...we really have to find out who can be that guy. Newsome, Quinton, Joseph...we have a lot of guys...when you turn on the lights you will really find out. The only way to do that is give them reps against the top guys. Sometimes it shakes out in spring, but sometimes it’s still a battle into fall camp. You need more than two corners. Last year, we got away with palying two guys more than normal because of the shortened season, but we are going to need more depth, especially with the special teams roles.
How much improvement should we expect? What is realistic for this team [defense]?
That’s a good question. I think you get into spring football...improvement has to be every day, players and coaches...little things add up to big things...last year the missed tackles were down from the season before and if you can get that down a little lower... If we can give up a couple fewer explosive plays or get one or two more turnovers...then those little things turn out to be big and lead to winning more games. If you can break it down as small as you can and accomplish those goals, then a lot of improvement is very reachable.
Swiss Army Knife JoJo Domann
What went into the decision to return?
My personal development and commitment to the program. I wanted to return this place to the winning tradition and create a culture that lasts beyond my time here.
What did you think when all the other guys came back too - did you all talk together?
We had talked about it. We got together at my house and talked about how to move forward. Everyone had to make that decision for themself, but there is power in numbers. So praise to God that we all came back and we have the opportunity to attack this year and give it all we got.
You play a position that requires versatility. Javin and Isaac are learning behind you. How do you give a template for guys to play a difficult position?
It is awesome to grow in leadership. Starting as the only guy to play that position, i didn’t have an accountability group. Now, I have an awesome opportunity pour into the next classes that are going to make Husker football what it is and I’m happy to be here.
What have you seen from Javin and Isaac? What do you want to help them with?
They’re both great athletes. Javon has an awesome build and awesome athlete. Isaac is an awesome athlete and grown up in a family that helps him. I want to help them see what I see so they’re learning curve is faster and they don’t make as many mistakes as I did. I’m excited for their future.
Where do you feel like the next step of your progression is?
Taking the necessary steps to get 1% better every day. Reads...getting off blocks...post snap processing...off the field, continue to pour my heart into these guys...seeing the love and passion that was instilled in me at a young age, to commit themselves to the game and be the example for those young guys. Showing up every day and getting the details right. Showing up on an emotional, spiritual and physical level.
What was the testing like? How did that boost morale? How did you do?
It was good for us. Competing is always good. Going through winter conditioning knowing that we would be tested and it could be shared with the world provided motivation we shouldn’t need, but it was nice. I did well.
Offensive Lineman Cam Jurgens
What was it like going through testing? Did you get competitive?
Oh yeah. It was a lot of fun seeing your old numbers and seeing how within a few months you can improve. Frost would emphasize they would do this in the 90s and to see their scores shows us we can improve on their scores, so we know we are big and strong. There was a lot of cheering each other on, the camaraderie was awesome.
You’ve started for two years. How have you seen the identity of the offense evolve? What do you think it will be?
I think the identity we want to bring is winning football. Any way we can get more explosive plays. Pound the ball and get those yards and break some big ones, that was lacking. We need to find that moving forward.
How is the snapping going?
No doubt, it is something I need to work on every day. It is a problem we’ve had. It shouldn’t be a problem going forward. I don’t want my name brought up for snaps anymore.
Does your role change this spring with the young guys around you?
I definitely need to step up more vocally. Last year, Matt Farniok was such a vocal leader, no one needed to do that because he did. This year, we need to step up. I need to be that voice during a game and practice and be consistent with it.
Defensive Lineman Damion Daniels
What was the performance index testing like? Cam just said it was affirming to see numbers compared to other players in the past. Did you feel that?
I think the testing process was something big for a program like Nebraska. They test everything. For myself, I didn’t partake due to a minor muscle pull, so coaches told me not to participate.
What should the expectations be for the defense?
I expect a lot. It is kind of hard to break it down. Returning key guys gives us a pretty much an upper hand over others I feel like because so much of our defense is coming back.
Who are the leaders?
A guy like Ben Stille is vocal, he shows by his play. Deontai Williams, JoJo, Will Honas show by the way they play.
This will be your fifth year. Do you approach it like it is your last year or like you have two years?
My career path, I look at it like I have two more years to play here. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to play college ball.
A lot of the seniors said they met and talked. How did you younger guys find out? Your reaction?
It was a good feeling, to be honest. Especially JoJo and Stille knowing they were coming back put a smile on my face. They were here my freshman year. Seeing them grow and do what they do for the program is pretty big to see them come back.
What is the name of a young we’re not talking about that we should be (d-line)?
Nash Hutmacher and Ru’Quan Buckley.
Nash is one of the strongest people in the program right now. Watching him move the weight is ridiculous. He is moving way better than when he first got here. Seeing how far he’s come since then is great. Ru’Quan has said a couple of things here and there. Usually a freshman just looks around, but he speaks up. He looks like he can contribute right away.
Can you tell me your expectations for the tight end room?
We’re very experienced, I expect a lot of great things. Teamwise, we are probably the most experienced. That goes hand in hand with being able to lead. Leadership comes with experience. When we know what we’re doing, it allows us to take care of the young guys. WE do have some young guys who don’t know how we roll right now, but we’ll get them right.
Thomas Fidone - are you taking him under your wing?
Yes, all the young guys, receivers and tight ends. One thing about Thomas, he’s learning really fast. I can text him at 10 at night ask him something and he knows. You gotta take the young guys under your wing.
A lot of talk today about returning talent on the defense. How does that help you?
The defense always brings intensity, it is always a competition, even a drill. With those super-seniors, so to say, coming back they bring the intensity. They can show the new guys how to roll and what we want to get accomplished. They know what to expect out of Frost and show the new guys what to get done.
How much discussion is there on special teams and getting that part right, better?
We’ve been able to talk and meet about what we want to accomplish as a team as special teams. This spring, it is more business like. Special teams is one of Frost’s three keys to win. If you win special teams, you put yourself in a better place to win the game...it looks promising in my eyes. It is a very business like feel for what we want to get accomplished.
A couple of senior captains are gone. Is that part of your goals?
For sure. I want to strive for that. Being an in-state kid, it means a lot to have your name on that board. It would be a good piece to show all the people that helped me, to show them what they’ve done for me means. Getting the accomplishment of being named a captain would be great, if it happens. It is my goal.
It is exciting to have spring football back and go through the usual ‘bigger, faster, stronger’ drill. Hope springs eternal and Husker fans are more hungry for hope than most. It will be interesting to see if the extra time together helps increase the cohesiveness of the coaching staff.
Obviously, there are a lot of question marks in the running back and receivers rooms - there seems to be some talent, but no one knows who will actually be available to play or who will emerge. The tight ends are an experienced group and it would be great to see them be really productive. The offensive line has some experience, even if they are young.
The defense is likely going to be the strength of this team, again. People like JoJo Domann continue to impress me with their focus on the development of the team and atmosphere of the program. Hopefully everyone gets through spring ball unscathed and ready to go into summer conditioning healthy and hungry.
Go Big Red!