LINCOLN — Make plays. Live with and learn from the mistakes.
Nebraska coach Scott Frost laid out those objectives for reporters Tuesday as he described his goals for the Red-White spring game.
The 11:00 a.m. Saturday tilt will be more of a traditional game than practice drills, and one team — Frost didn’t say which color — will have most of the first- and second-teamers on it. Expect few live special teams plays and a running clock for the second half, except for the final five minutes.
Otherwise, Frost said, he wants to see aggressive football. No fear of failure. It’s what he’s been preaching all spring. Roll out the ball and have fun.
“Sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back, but I’m seeing guys embrace what we’re asking them to do,” Frost said. “I’ve seen guys improve. We have a long way to go. The spring game won’t look as good as I want it to look. No practice is looking as good as the coaches want them to look right now. But we are getting better every time we go out.”
Junior linebacker Mohamed Barry said Frost’s culture is starting to take hold, and players have goals for themselves heading into Saturday.
“Dominating, getting to the ball and running hard, all that stuff that fans want to see,” Barry said. “Effort. Effort and mentality.”
Coordinators will call plays. Frost will oversee the operation. Aside from a few new plays installed this spring, Frost said NU coaches won’t hold much back from a Big Ten Network audience, which is a change from last season, when former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco didn’t run a snap of his 3-4 system in the spring game. Frost figures anyone who wants to scout his team can watch old tape of his previous teams, Central Florida and Oregon. Not much has changed.
“For the most part, we’re just going to be us,” Frost said. Last week, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander echoed those thoughts, saying he had “nothing to hide.”
Just who plays remains a question. Several players who have missed all or part of spring — such as running back Tre Bryant — are out, while other players — including receiver JD Spielman — have been slowed by “a pretty good virus” that’s been going around the program, Frost said. The spring in Nebraska has been unseasonably cold, and the Huskers have rarely ventured outside for practice.
“Hopefully our guys are able to practice through a little sniffle here and there, but we have some guys with bad fevers and a lot of guys sick,” Frost said. “A number of guys have missed today and JD has missed a few days. We’re trying to get them healthy and hopefully have them ready for the spring game. We’ll see if we can contain this thing and keep everybody healthy. Right now, our numbers are kind of dangerously low.”
Nebraska’s four quarterbacks — Tristan Gebbia, Adrian Martinez, Andrew Bunch and Noah Vedral — should be relatively free of bumps and bruises, having worn green jerseys all spring. Barry even joked on Tuesday that Gebbia — a better runner than Barry expected — hasn’t really been hit yet like he will be next season.
Frost pushed off an immediate time table on who’d be the No. 1 quarterback. Gebbia, Martinez and Bunch have each been taking snaps with the top groups. Vedral has, too, but he’s not likely to be eligible next season because of NCAA transfer rules.
“The quarterback decision won’t come for a long time,” Frost said. “I don’t think it’s fair to evaluate those guys until they’re really familiar with the system … We want to evaluate guys through the spring and all through fall camp.”
Frost said he didn’t know if players would be nervous. Would he? No.
He’s long been able to compartmentalize his life as a Husker player with that of a coach. But Frost’s memory quickly serves up images from all three of his own spring games at NU.
He threw two touchdowns to Riley Washington, he said, in the 1995 game. In 1996, the defense — anchored by Jared Tomich, Mike Minter, Terrell Farley, Jason Peter and Grant Wistrom — was so good the offense couldn’t gain yards. In 1997, Frost said, the competition was more evenly matched.
As for the 2018 game?
“I’ll be a little more of a spectator at this one,” Frost said. “I might take a look up, smell the roses a little bit, and look at the unbelievable facilities and fans we have.”
Scott Frost wants Nebraska’s players to step up and lead
LINCOLN — Nebraska coach Scott Frost didn’t hang a sign outside his office, but he’s still looking for more — and better — player leaders. Previous NU coaches, Frost said, hadn’t developed them very well, so Frost believes he and his staff’s techniques will over the summer.
“Once the team is holding each other accountable and you don’t need the coaches to do it, you have a powerful team,” Frost said.
He said he had specific players in mind to develop. Frost said his staff’s style of leadership accounts for changes in generational culture and society since Frost attended college in the ‘90s.
“Society’s changed and kids have changed, but I think our coaching style as a staff kinda fits those changes,” Frost said. “We try to coach out of love and mentorship more than intimidation or motivation through intimidation. … I’ve got a group of coaches on our staff that genuinely care about every one of these players. For the most part, kids will run through a wall if you know you care about them.
Daniels ready for more
Redshirt freshman Damion Daniels feels better and quicker than ever, he said Tuesday.
Daniels, who is competing for the starting nose tackle position in place of the injured Mick Stoltenberg, lost 10 pounds of body fat and added nine pounds of muscle during the winter. He’s up to 325 pounds and said he feels more explosive than last season.
“Last year I was pretty heavy and I could still move, but I feel like I can move a lot better and I’m more mobile than I was last year,” Daniels said.
Daniels redshirted a season ago, so he’s anxious to get some real reps both in the spring game and during this season.
“He’s doing good. Just learning. Learning everything,” junior defensive lineman Carlos Davis said. “We’re helping him get better, he’s getting us better.”
Proposed rule would prevent schools from blocking transfers, like UCF did with Noah Vedral
A working group studying transfers in Division I sports continues to support a proposal that would eliminate a school’s ability to influence scholarships to athletes after they transfer.
The Division I Transfer Working Group, which met this week in Indianapolis, will ask the Division I Council to move forward with a vote on that proposal in June. The group also backs a proposal that would strengthen the penalties for tampering.
“We have strong support from the membership for allowing student-athletes to transfer and be recruited without losing their scholarships,” said working group chair and South Dakota State Athletic Director Justin Sell in a press release. “This is meaningful change that will benefit student-athletes, schools and coaches.”
Under current rules, schools are allowed to block a player from transferring to certain programs. Without that release, players must pay their own way for one year before going on scholarship at their new school.
That’s what happened to Nebraska quarterback Noah Vedral after he left Central Florida to follow Scott Frost. UCF blocked Vedral from transferring to NU, so Vedral had to join the Husker program as a walk-on.
This same group is also considering other changes to NCAA transfer rules that could potentially give Vedral the opportunity to play next season, though that remains unlikely.
The working group is considering a rule that would allow all athletes to transfer and play immediately if they meet a specific benchmark grade-point average. That benchmark is still to be determined but would be between 3.0 and 3.5.
The group also strongly supports a change that would allow athletes who have signed a national letter of intent to play immediately at a new school if a head coach leaves.
“There’s a lot of proposals out there,” Vedral told The World-Herald last week. “I don’t know which way they might be leaning, and if it would take effect this year or 2019.”
Jamie Vaughn, NU’s Associate Athletic Director for Compliance, told The World-Herald he doesn’t expect anything regarding transfers to be done before the 2018 season.
In regards to tampering — which happens when a school attempts to recruit an athlete at a different school before he or she has received permission to transfer — the working group’s proposal would create a national database for athletes transferring to make it known they wish to be recruited by other schools. If adopted, that proposal would be effective Oct. 15.
>> Linebacker Dedrick Young said one rule linebackers coach Barrett Ruud has is each player gets no more than three shuffles before committing to a play. “Once you take three shuffles,” Young said, “you should know what happened.”
>> While Daniels conducted his first spring interview flanked by members of the defensive line, senior Freedom Akinmoladun stood off to the side. The self-proclaimed “old man” said he was presiding over the event.
“I make sure they say the right thing because it’s easy to say the wrong thing,” Akinmoladun said. “I’m not going to be in the picture. I’m going to make sure they keep it even-tempered. That’s why I’m not always in the picture. I’m there, but I’m not there.”
>> Akinmoladun said a motto the Nebraska defense has adopted is “It’s not enough.” That’s played out with Husker D-linemen running 20 yards downfield in case of a fumble, for example, and trying to strip footballs instead of pushing ball carriers out of bounds.
The senior said he is motivated to make his last season count, adding he has never regretted shifting from tight end to defensive end in 2015
“It was kind of nice to make a touchdown, have everybody take your picture, do a touchdown celebration,” Akinmoladun said. “But you can do the same thing when you get a sack. It’s worth it.”
>> Members of the defensive line found an extra gear during winter conditioning when strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval described the career path of Khalil Mack. Duval worked with Mack — a defensive end who was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft — during their time together at Buffalo in the early 2010s.
“The whole defensive line started going crazy,” Akinmoladun said. “The first week we were dying. Then he told that story and we were like, ‘Well, we all have dreams and aspirations to go to the NFL.’ So we all just picked it up and started lifting really heavy.”
>> Frost had no update on the eligibility status of safety/linebacker Breon Dixon, who transferred from Ole Miss in the offseason.
>> Linebacker Mohamed Barry said Nebraska defenders are trying to create turnovers even as ballcarriers are 30-40 yards down the field, per expectations from new defensive coordinator Erik Chinander.
“The play’s not done,” Barry said. “You made a tackle and you think the play is done? You’ve got to do more, you’ve got to do more, you’ve got to do more. (Chinander) has set the standard for us. We have to get turnovers, we have to go after the ball. Sometimes it’s going to be luck and sometimes it’s going to be technique. But you have to get it.”
>> Barry said offensive players who have impressed him include junior college transfers Mike Williams (receiver) and Greg Bell (running back).
“He’s real fast and he can make multiple moves,” Barry said of Bell. “He has a third gear. He’s a fast dude — and we’ve been missing that.”
Among quarterbacks, Barry picked out Tristan Gebbia and Adrian Martinez.
Nebraska Red vs. White Spring Game
When: 11 a.m. Saturday (Radio coverage begins at 9 a.m.)
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln
Radio: 103.1 FM