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Steven M. Sipple: Frost confident in staff; learning to 'step on throats'; and Fred's plight
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Steven M. Sipple: Frost confident in staff; learning to 'step on throats'; and Fred's plight

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Nebraska vs. Illinois, 9.21

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost (left) and Illinois head coach Lovie Smith talk during pregame warmups Sept. 21 in Champaign, Illinois.

Things I know, and things I think I know:

During an interview Friday with the Journal Star, Nebraska football coach Scott Frost didn't explicitly say that he would bring back all his assistant coaches for next season, and I didn't ask him about it directly.

I didn't ask Frost directly because he three times referred to his confidence in his staff's ability. In fact, he often refers to it. Bottom line, I'd be shocked if he fired anyone following this season even though the Huskers are 4-5 (2-4 Big Ten) with a rough road ahead.

I've known Frost since his days as a Husker quarterback in the mid-1990s. He obviously has extremely high regard for Tom Osborne and the way Osborne operated as NU's head coach from 1973-97. During Osborne's tenure, continuity on the coaching staff became a defining trait of the program.

Let's be clear: It wasn't like fans never called for the heads of Osborne's assistants (or even for the head of Osborne himself). Ask former defensive coordinator Charlie McBride how he was treated at times by fans.

To this day, it still surprises me how quickly some Nebraska fans are willing to discard certain traits that made the program feel unique.

Frost holds tight to many of those traits.

At any rate, Frost's crew of Nebraska assistants is the same group that helped orchestrate UCF's dramatic turnaround, culminating with a 13-0 record in 2017. Frost was a consensus choice for national coach of the year. Not many head coaches ascend to such an exalted level without an excellent staff.

A team or position group struggling for a season or two doesn't necessarily mean a coach or group of coaches have lost their way.

Do you think Steve Kerr has lost his way because the Golden State Warriors are 2-8 this season?

You think Gregg Popovich should be removed from Naismith Hall of Fame consideration because the San Antonio Spurs lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs three of the last five years?

You think Mike Tomlin lost his touch as a head coach? Or is it more about the Pittsburgh Steelers trying to win at a high level without Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, among others?

There obviously are times when a head coach has to make moves on his staff. We've seen plenty of those times at Nebraska in recent years. But Frost would be operating with haste if he began making staff changes now. Let's see what his program looks like once it has a roster full of players that his staff recruited -- with veterans who came up in the system. Is that such a crazy notion?

After being formally announced as Nebraska's head coach Dec. 3, 2017, Frost had to work fast to put together the Huskers' recruiting class of 2018. Although that class has incurred significant attrition -- 10 of the 22 signed players no longer are in the picture -- Frost has high hopes for the 2019 class. He says he strongly feels he can build on that class and what's left of the 2018 group.

My read is he wants to build the program with his current crop of assistants intact into the foreseeable future.

* You know the scores: Nebraska led 17-0 at Colorado, 14-3 against Indiana and 10-0 at Purdue before losing all three games.

If you're a Husker fan, you hope those "L's" become "W's" as the program matures.

"We had our chances in all those games to -- it's a bad metaphor -- put our foot on somebody's throat and finish the game and we didn't do it," said Frost, pointing to key moments in each game.

No reason to rehash those moments.

"I just think a huge part of it is kids expecting to win, knowing they're going to win and being determined to do the little things that are going to make it happen," he said.

* Against Wisconsin this Saturday at Memorial Stadium, Nebraska may have to do the little things, big things and everything in between in order to pull an upset. The 13th-ranked Badgers (7-2, 4-2) opened as 13-point favorites, according to Vegas Insider.

* It seems concerning for Nebraska in a big-picture sense that Big Ten West Division programs such as Minnesota and Illinois appear to be ascending rapidly. The Gophers in particular have gotten scary. They looked flat-out powerful Saturday against Penn State. P.J. Fleck's team is talented (especially at the skill positions), physical and disciplined. They definitely belong in the top 10.

TCF Bank Stadium was exceptionally loud. You could feel the energy from just watching on TV.

OK, Nebraska fans, I'll stop. You've heard enough.

* Loyal readers perhaps have noticed that I favor running backs with big frames, especially in the Big Ten. So I naturally had high hopes for Nebraska's Dedrick Mills. Still do.

The 5-foot-11, 220-pound junior college transfer has rushed 90 times for 398 yards (4.4 per carry) and eight touchdowns this season. He could be extremely important this week if Wan'Dale Robinson is still limping, as was the case late against Purdue.

"We just have to keep giving Dedrick chances, and I think the more opportunities he gets in our scheme, the more comfortable he'll get with it," Frost said. "He's not a jitterbug. He's a guy we have to create seams for so he can run through seams full steam and get us more yards.

"We have to be a little better creating those holes for him because he's not a guy who's always going to create space for himself."

* An eye-popping headline in Sunday's Journal Star: "Huskers take step forward."

Make no mistake, the headline fit the story. But the Nebraska men's basketball team taking a step forward with a home loss to Southern Utah? Yikes.

Fred Hoiberg's first season at NU already is trending toward bizarre.

* I'm told Pinnacle Bank Arena was less than half full for the overtime periods Saturday because a lot of fans left after regulation. If they wanted to watch LSU's Joe Burrow on TV, they got their money's worth. The kid's a force.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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"Everybody I see tells me that they knew what an undertaking this was, and that you don't fix 15 years in 18 months," the second-year Nebraska coach told the Journal Star. "But every once in awhile, someone will come up to me and say, 'Hey, don't listen to what everybody's saying.' Sometimes I think they forget you're an actual human being. Then I kind of scratch my head and think, 'Wow, it must be getting bad out there.'"

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