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Nebraska Spring Football

Nebraska coach Scott Frost gestures during spring workouts in April. The new leader is pointing the way as the Huskers open the season against Akron on Saturday.

You can imagine at least one theme Scott Frost might tap into Saturday night as he stands before his players right before the red curtain rises on a new era of Nebraska football.

If you're a Husker fan, you hope players listen to their first-year head coach.

"I just know the right way to get the most out of yourself, and that's by not looking too far ahead," Frost said recently. "That's looking at what challenge lies right in front of you, kicking its ass and moving on to the next one. I want our team to have that kind of attitude."

Sounds like bulletin-board material for your workplace. Or mine.

So go kick some ass this weekend. Clean the heck out of your gutters. Get your dog a perfect haircut. But remember, Nebraska fans, game time Saturday is 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

Like you'd forget.

After all, this could be a night you never forget.

“Anytime a new coach comes in with that energy and enthusiasm and the gift that Scott Frost has for leading a football program, it’ll be a different team," said Akron head coach Terry Bowden, son of Hall of Famer Bobby Bowden. "Their belief in themselves, their belief in their coach, their enthusiasm, their energy — we’re going to see a highly motivated team, a highly motivated crowd. You know what you’re getting into.

“We could be getting into a buzz saw. But we’re excited about coming out to Lincoln. We’re going to play as hard as we can.”

Nebraska fans excitedly try to formulate visions of how Frost's first game — and first season in Lincoln — will unfold, although in many ways it's difficult to predict. His mentor, Hall of Fame coach Tom Osborne, preaches patience. That's wise. That's worth remembering because Frost nowadays views the world through the lens of the leader of a historically powerful program that's endured hard times, at least in terms of its win-loss record and significantly diminished prestige.

Frost made quick work of turning around Central Florida's program, but Nebraska might not be such a quick fix. He doesn't necessarily expect it to be a quick fix. And really, he can't afford to approach this massive project in a harried manner.

“When Nebraska was at the top, from the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s, they weren’t good one year and not good the next," Frost said. "They were good every year. To build a program like that, it takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. That’s where we want to go. One of the reasons I’m back at Nebraska is that I knew we’d get the support and the runway we need to build Nebraska the right way. I don’t know how many wins that’s going to lead to in year one, year two. But we’re going to do things in a way that helps Nebraska to be a competitive team and a team near the top of college football every year.”

It’s “constant gardening,” he often says. His coaching staff had to change players’ mindsets and bodies. It had to install significantly different systems on both sides of the ball. Frost said his players’ buy-in has occurred at a high level. After the Mike Riley years at Nebraska, it’s no surprise players hungered for a new approach.

“They’re hungry for a new result,” Frost said.

So, it’s finally here: the opener. Soak it in. For Nebraska fans, it feels good around here again. There are genuine reasons for hope. If you bleed Husker red, you no longer have to work hard to convince yourself the program has the right leadership. Even so, it's always good to see evidence on fall Saturdays. 

If you're a Nebraska fan, your eyes will be glued on No. 2. True freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez was named the starter Sunday following what Frost portrayed as a close battle in preseason camp with redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia, who this week reportedly transferred to Oregon State. If the battle was indeed close, many folks felt Martinez ultimately would get the nod for a variety reasons, and perhaps one that stems from a sandlot baseball term: tie goes to the runner.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Martinez is a burner. His speed and athleticism are a provocative element in this discussion. That said, the bottom line is always the same in quarterback discussions: avoid turnovers. Bear in mind Akron's secondary returns all four starters from a group that finished seventh nationally last season with 19 interceptions.

As for Nebraska's defense, it will be mindful of Akron sophomore quarterback Kato Nelson's ability to extend plays. He was 2-2 down the stretch last season after taking over for a senior who was suspended.

"He's kind of a guy who's been in the wings," Bowden said. "We've been waiting for him. We've been waiting to build our future around him."

Nelson's mobility is just one game-related element that thankfully will occupy Frost's thoughts as kickoff nears. He'll keep his mind on the Zips' veteran defense (nine returning starters) and getting his team fully prepared. He has scant time for nostalgia. Scant time for pondering the enormity of the situation. Scant time to reflect on his rise to the position once occupied by Osborne. 

“Thinking back to the reverence you used to feel when you walked into coach Osborne’s office, I guarantee you people don’t feel the same way about me," Frost said with a grin. "But I’m going to do my best.”

That's right, one challenge at a time.

How fast can the Huskers turn things around?

"

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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