Nebraska football coach Scott Frost admits he hasn’t studied the Big Ten much. At least not yet. He plans to, but he’s more focused on his own team right now.
After all, Frost isn’t planning to adjust his system much to the Big Ten. He’ll want to understand it, of course, but he has other ideas.
“I’m hoping the Big Ten is going to have to modify their system to us,” Frost said in December.
Just over three months later, Nebraska has kicked off spring practices. The Huskers spent winter conditioning making gains, and now those gains will be put to the test. There will be changes in scheme, especially on offense, where Frost is known for using a faster tempo and his pace-and-space approach.
Former coach Mike Riley ran a pro-style offense; Frost is installing a no-huddle offense. Senior offensive lineman Jerald Foster said he doesn’t believe the change will take too much adjustment, only because he’s been through it before.
In fact, Foster made the same adjustment from high school to college. Of course, a learning curve can still be expected.
“I’ve done this before and the toughest part would be being able to get the calls and getting used to the different kind of way that you talk and the way that you signal,” Foster said. “Not only just keeping in our mind the old way, but being able to understand the new way that much more in-depth. Just being able to get it off of paper and onto the field I would say is maybe the toughest part of this.”
Frost is prepared for that adjustment, too. At his spring football press conference, he admitted there’s a lot to learn for players on both sides of the ball. He said he intends for practices to give players a lot of repetitions at a fast pace to help with the learning curve. In fact, Frost is hoping for at least 130 to 140 reps of team and 7-on-7 each spring practice. From there, he and his staff will work to dial in on the execution.
For Foster, those adjustments haven’t been too bad just yet, and he said he thinks the changes could impact the defense more than the offense.
“For the defense, they’re going to have to get ready for that. I feel like it’s going to hit them harder than it hits the offense,” Foster said. “When you know what’s going on and you know exactly what you need to do, it’s just the same as you being in the huddle and coming out of it. Hopefully, it will take away more pressures coming from the defense because they won’t have as much time to get that relayed. I always loved that when we did red ball and got into that package of our offense from the old staff.
“Being able to have that whole time and being able to be pushing ourselves and the defense at the same time I think it is going to open up run lanes, open up passing lanes and just allow us to move the ball well.”
Senior defensive lineman Mick Stoltenberg has been through a major change once already. As a junior, he adjusted from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense with former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. Stoltenberg was pegged as Nebraska’s nose tackle, and he did his best to transition to his new role.
One year later, Stoltenberg is ready to give it another shot. Nebraska’s 2017 defense was one of the worst in Huskers history, finishing the season 117th (of 120) nationally in scoring defense and 113th in total defense (yards allowed). Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander also runs a 3-4 defense, but Stoltenberg said he likes what he’s seen so far from his teammates.
“I think there has been a big change as far as accountability,” Stoltenberg said. “Obviously, with what happened, we know last season didn’t work. We had to change, otherwise we would see the same results.”
Stoltenberg said he also has liked what he’s seen from new defensive line coach Mike Dawson. With 19 years of coaching experience, including three at the professional level, Dawson has spent time reviewing Philadelphia Eagles film with the Nebraska defensive line. There are similarities in the 3-4 that the Eagles run, and Stoltenberg has appreciated the knowledge Dawson has brought to the table.
“It is kind of similar, the nuance of [Philadelphia’s] system. It has been really fun to learn from them and to kind of see the kind of stuff he’s done,” Stoltenberg said. “It is a lot different than the old defense, just in terms of responsibility and stuff like that. Not every defense is the same. It is fun learning a new system and kind of getting experience from Coach Dawson.”
Nebraska is now on spring break, but there’s little time for rest for any of the Huskers seniors. Players such as Stoltenberg and Foster are ready for the challenges ahead. Stoltenberg is especially grateful for the timing, and he said he hopes he can be a part of a bigger change in Nebraska football history.
“The impression I want to leave on these guys is that I got the change rolling,” Stoltenberg said. “Depending on how much success we have on the field or not, I definitely want to be a catalyst for that change and I want to be part of that and some of these younger guys’ careers here.”