What felt inevitable as the last couple of months progressed finally became reality on Saturday, when Nebraska announced it had hired Scott Frost to lead its football program — bringing one of the state’s native sons home.
Fans are expecting a quick turnaround on the field, similar to the transformation Frost led at UCF, but Frost also has an opportunity to revamp the Huskers’ recruiting processes right away. Five things to keep an eye on as Frost and his new staff navigate their first recruiting cycle.
1. Quarterbacks, quarterbacks, quarterbacks
As has been well-documented, the Huskers do not have a scholarship quarterback committed for the 2018 class. Bart Harris (Belton, Mo.) accepted a preferred walk-on offer from the former staff, but it remains to be seen if he will want to play for a different crop of coaches. But Frost will want a fresh quarterback in the room — specifically, one of his guys, and perhaps more than one.
Tanner Lee could pursue the NFL. If he does, Nebraska’s new quarterback(s) would compete with the likes of Tristan Gebbia and Patrick O’Brien for playing time. A couple of names to keep an eye on include La’Darius Jefferson (Muskegon, Mich), who was committed to Frost’s UCF program until Nov. 13. Michigan State vaulted into the “favorite” slot, but with Frost now in the Big Ten, perhaps he can convince his one-time commit to follow him to Lincoln.
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Jefferson is a 3-star prospect and is ranked the No. 41 dual-threat quarterback in the nation, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He is also listed as an athlete.
Another name that has been tossed around is Terry Wilson, who is from Garden City (Kan.) Community College and is an Oklahoma City native. He is also a dual-threat quarterback and was once committed to the Huskers before signing with Oregon, where Frost had been an offensive coordinator, and eventually went to the community college ranks.
It could be somebody completely different than Jefferson or Wilson, but expect Frost to land his quarterback in this cycle.
2. Junior college commits to follow
At UCF, three of Frost’s top four commits in the 2018 class come from the junior college ranks. Two of them, Mike Hughes and Nigel Kilby, are from Garden City C.C. — the same school Jefferson attends. The other is Elijah Jones, who is from from Ellsworth C.C. (Iowa Falls, Iowa). All three have 3-star rankings.
Hughes is a 5-foot-11 cornerback who is the No. 3-ranked junior college corner in this class and was previously pledged to North Carolina. Kilby is a behemoth of a tight end at 6-foot-8, 250 pounds. Jones is another cornerback, but is a lengthy one at 6-foot-2. Perhaps his current proximity to Nebraska can help Frost convince him to flip to the Huskers.
JUCO prospects also may be inclined to follow Frost because they have clearly worked to better themselves and their offer lists. While UCF may be in a better climate and has won more recently, Nebraska carries brand-name recognition, along with tradition and a Power 5 designation. For most of these guys, playing in the NFL and playing under a specific coaching staff to help them reach their goals is the main impetus for choosing where to attend school. It’s also why if Frost is going to bring any of his UCF commits, the bulk of them are likely to be former JUCO players.
3. Staff selection
By now, the majority of decisions regarding Frost’s coaching staff probably have been made, since it’s assumed this deal with Nebraska has been in place for some time. But staff decisions are equally important as the person filling the head coach’s seat in some cases, particularly in recruiting and especially at this time of year with the early-signing period beginning on Dec. 20. Frost’s staff will have to hit the ground running to make sure at least some commits sign during that that three-day time frame.
However, Frost should consider retaining a couple of former assistants from the Mike Riley era. Keith Williams (receivers) and John Parrella (defensive line) seem to be the most likely options in the event Frost goes this route, as well as Donte Williams (cornerbacks). The trio holds plenty of weight on the recruiting trail, as Keith Williams will be key in holding the commitments of 4-star receivers Cameron Brown and Joshua Moore. Parrella will help in retaining the other defensive recruits like Tate Wildeman and David Alston.
4. Florida pipeline
Frost made obvious inroads on the Florida recruiting scene, converting those not coveted by the likes of Miami, Florida State and Florida by going undefeated in 2017. He succeeded enough that Florida reportedly considered him for its coaching opening, and not just for Frost’s on-field coaching; the Gators felt he could get the job done on the recruiting trail as well.
At Nebraska, it will be interesting to see how Frost utilizes his connections from Florida and if he can build a pipeline similar to the one Nebraska has constructed to California in recent years. Maybe Frost will take a page out of how his mentor Tom Osborne built his championship teams — recruiting his skill positions from states such as Florida and Texas, but staying in the Midwest to recruit the majority of other positions.
This first recruiting cycle should be a good indicator of how useful Frost’s time in Florida will be for his tenure as Nebraska coach.
5. Sell tradition
This is something that Frost will sell as long as he’s the Huskers coach. He will tell the tales of capturing national titles and the golden days of the 1990s. But this next crop of recruits will determine how heavily he can lean on that. These prospects were not even born the last time the Huskers won a national title and were toddlers the last time they managed an 11-win season.
So Frost will have to pitch recruits something a little different. Yes, history and tradition will be parts of the message, but it will more have to be about how revered an athlete becomes when he achieves success with the Huskers. It won’t be characterized as a rebuild, but maybe resurgence is a better word — the opportunity for prospects to be a part of a culture change at a tradition-rich program.
That’s something Frost can use in living rooms and on campus tours. And his inaugural recruiting cycle will give him the chance to find the happy medium of using his days as a Husker and an his excitement for the future.