Slowly but surely, we march ever closer to football’s return.
Six weeks remain before the lights turn on at Memorial Stadium, Nebraska fans fill it for the 362nd consecutive time and Scott Frost leads the Huskers into their season opener against Akron.
In less than two weeks, NU begins fall camp.
And we get a jump start on the preseason the next two days in Chicago, where the league’s media days will feature every head coach and three players from each school plus conference officials, fan activities and a swarm of reporters.
Here are a few storylines to watch as the Huskers’ contingent of Scott Frost, wide receiver Stanley Morgan, defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg and left guard Jerald Foster gets set to appear Monday afternoon.
Leadoff hitter and center of attention: There’s no messing around on Monday. Frost kicks things off at noon sharp.
All right, technically he’s the second speaker of the day — Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany goes at 11:30 a.m. — but Frost is hitting leadoff among coaches.
And he’s certain to garner as much attention as anybody attending the proceedings.
There’s no shortage of big names, of course, with Penn State’s James Franklin and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh also among the Monday coaches and Urban Meyer (Ohio State), Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) and Paul Chryst (Wisconsin) anchoring Tuesday morning.
Even in a collection of some of the country’s most successful and highest paid coaches, Frost still will likely stand out.
He is, after all, the only new head coach in the Big Ten. He’s coming off an undefeated season at Central Florida and just about every national coach of the year award given out. He’s tasked with reigniting a mostly dormant power — his alma mater, no less — that hasn’t won a league title in 20 years. He’s widely considered one of the most promising young head coaches in the country.
It’s safe to bet that Frost’s news conference and his hourlong side-session will be, uh, well-attended by local and national types alike.
Personnel matters: Frost will field no shortage of big-picture questions about program-building, NCAA policy and much more, but there are also some practical roster matters at hand, too.
For instance, with Michael Decker’s decision to step away from football, what does the competition on the interior offensive line look like? How much do the summer additions of junior college cornerback Will Jackson and, though not official yet, UCF graduate transfer safety Tre Neal change the conversation in the Husker secondary?
Any (unlikely) updates on the statuses of four-star freshmen Maurice Washington or Dominick Watt?
Oh, and quarterbacks: One thing we almost certainly will not learn is who will start at quarterback Sept. 1 against Akron. Frost and company don’t know that answer anyway and a lot can happen in six weeks, so Tristan Gebbia, Adrian Martinez and Andrew Bunch are expected to continue competing throughout camp. But perhaps there will be updates on how the trio progressed over the summer, how captain’s practices went and how Frost feels about the group after the conclusion of summer conditioning.
Stanley and the seniors: There are no big surprises among Nebraska’s player representatives. Ever since Morgan decided to return for his senior year rather than enter the NFL Draft, he’s been not only a locker room leader but also more of spokesman for the program, too.
That’s a role Stoltenberg and Foster each stepped into last year and handled well. Morgan, though, will likely draw more attention in Chicago given his position, status as the most productive returning receiver in the conference and growing bona fides as a professional prospect.
Recent staff additions: In the last week alone, Nebraska’s had two prominent figures return in Ron Brown (as director of player development) and Dave Ellis (director of performance nutrition).
Frost has long relationships with both men dating to his playing days, when Brown as an assistant and Ellis was getting NU’s nutrition department up and running for the first time.
Brown’s hiring came with plenty of adulation but also drew some criticism that stems from comments he’s made in the past — including that he views homosexuality as a sin.
Ellis is running a departmentwide nutrition program but will work with the football program day to day.
Players likely have already crossed paths with both, too, so look for updates on that front.
Beasts in the East (and West): Don’t let the topics listed above fool you. There’s plenty of intriguing storylines around the rest of the league, too.
For instance, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State all figure to be in the top 15 to 20 teams in the country when The Associated Press puts out its first rankings. Many publications already have, of course. Respected college football analyst Phil Steele, for example, has all five in his top 13.
The Huskers play four of the five. Three on the road.
The national landscape: Frost is on the record supporting an expansion of the College Football Playoff from four teams to eight. He’s also been candid in his thoughts on transfer rules and many other NCAA-level topics. Those and more are certain to come up at some point over the two days.
Who knows what else might happen. At the ACC’s media days last week, North Carolina’s Larry Fedora tied potential future changes to football to the downfall of America, while Miami’s Mark Richt gave detailed instructions on how to cook and eat a “hot dog delight.”
So, buckle up. And keep it tuned to HuskerExtra.com.