For the last several years, speculation surrounding Nebraska football has been that it lacked leadership. What has been needed was a true leader of men to get the program back to prominence.
Steve Sipple has been covering Husker football for better than 25 years and has seen the likes of six coaches at the helm. And, he really likes the vision and leadership of the current regime.
Sipple was the guest speaker Aug. 19 at the weekly luncheon meeting of the Lincoln Executive Club in downtown Lincoln at the Nebraska Club.
“Scott (Frost) has a really keen eye for the offense and the X’s and O’s, but the thing that I really like and the reason why I’m very confident in Scott is because he studies leadership and embraces it,” said Sipple, who’s approaching his 30th year at the Lincoln Journal Star sports department and the past decade as a sports columnist. “This is a guy that can carry a lot on his back, and he’s going to have to shoulder a lot.
“He’s really a humble guy,” Sipple continued. “He looks at himself as a servant for the football program, and he feels the sense of duty toward it, and the gravity of the situation, like only someone can who played and was a part of the tradition of the program.”
Sipple also likes to see the tradition of running the football coming back to the Husker football program.
“Scott (Frost) is very interested in having a team that runs the ball well,” said Sipple, a lifetime Nebraskan and native of Columbus. “We all have in our minds the way Nebraska used to run the football, and Scott’s working at bringing that back. But, you’ve also gotta be able to stop the football on defense.”
And to do that, you need some big, tough guys on that side of the ball. Sipple said he likes what he sees up front on the defense. In reflecting back to 2018, Sipple reminded the audience of what Frost said after the Nebraska-Iowa game.
“’How did Iowa get that much bigger and better physically?’” Sipple recalled. “But I like what we’re bringing in with the new guys on the defensive front like Darrion Daniels (transfer from Oklahoma State) and the junior college transfer Jahkeem Green (Highland Community College), and I consider Deontre Thomas a new guy, because he had a cast on his arm almost all of last year.”
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Sipple said the past season was tough on Frost. But he believes it’s going to be a test of time to watch the Huskers turn it around after two back-to-back 4-8 seasons, even though the 2019 schedule looks more inviting.
“I’m going to be patient,” Sipple said. “The league (Big Ten) is really tough. It’s an easier schedule, but it isn’t an easy schedule.”
The Big Ten is a treasure trove of strong defenses and talented offenses, according to Sipple, and Nebraska has them on their schedule.
“Ohio State is loaded up front on defense,” he said. “They’ve got NFL (caliber) guys on their line. Northwestern has a run-stopping defense. Minnesota is a toss-up game, as they have skilled positions on offense and they look to be a step above us. We’re going to be tested.”
But Sipple likes what Nebraska has on its offense, too. Depending on what happens in the courts, Maurice Washington looks “a little quicker, a little faster this year.”
“I can’t wait to watch Dedrick Mills. I’m like a little kid waiting for the season to start,” Sipple said about the 5’11” 220-pound junior college transfer who spent his freshman year running for over 700 yards at Georgia Tech. “He’s a good-looking, big running back, and he does it with a lot of joy. If you get him around the goal line, he’ll get in.”
Sipple said he learned quite a bit from the 2019 Huskers after he witnessed later in the 2018 season Nebraska’s 9-6 win over Michigan State at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
“That game told me a lot – slugging it out with Michigan State, the No. 2 defense in the country.”