Tom Lemming is skedaddling toward his 40th year in the recruiting game, a bridge from John Elway to Josh Rosen, the grandfather and godfather of college football’s second season. He’s seen it all twice over. And the stuff that’s going on right now at Nebraska — the confidence, the momentum, the swag, the chutzpah, the Migos mic drops — reminds him of something he’s seen before.
“He reminds me of Urban Meyer,” Lemming said of new Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost during a recent conversation with Land of 10.
“Urban hit the ground running at Notre Dame [as an assistant], at Bowling Green, at Utah and Florida and Ohio State. He had the same reputation as an aggressive recruiter. You have to be — if not, you’re going to get fired.
“He was undefeated [at Central Florida]. He’s 19-7 as a head coach … It’ll carry over really big. You’ll see. If he hits the ground running and wins, you’re going to see a lot of big-name players [in Lincoln] … I think Nebraska fans are going to be really excited.”
Lemming, who put together his first Tom Lemming Prep Football Report in 1979, said that the sheer enthusiasm behind the Frost train in Lincoln right now is eerily reminiscent of Meyer’s comet trail from the MAC to the Mountain West to the SEC in a span of just five seasons.
“He’ll become a legend. He’s young enough to stay a long time. I doubt that he leaves. They finally got themselves a winner.”
— Tom Lemming on new Nebraska coach Scott Frost
Meyer went 17-6 at Bowling Green from 2001-02 and produced a 22-2 mark and co-coached a Fiesta Bowl champion from 2003-04 at Utah before landing the Florida job. The Ohio native won two national titles with the Gators and averaged 10.8 wins per year during six seasons in Gainesville before becoming the gold standard in the Big Ten, where his Ohio State teams are 73-8 (.901) — 47-3 (.940) in league play — since the fall of 2012.
“There is no ceiling,” Lemming said of Frost. “If he wins right away, which he could do because there’s talent there, there’ll be no ceiling.”
Since leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten in 2011, the Huskers have posted a record of 56-35 (.615) and averaged 8 victories per season. Frost is the program’s fourth coach since 2004; predecessor Mike Riley was fired following a 4-8 campaign — the most losses in one Big Red season since 1957 — and a 19-19 overall mark over three seasons.
“It’s all about winning and the perception of [winning],” Lemming continued. “They’ve got great facilities at Nebraska, great tradition. What they don’t have is a great record over the last 10 years.”
The longtime analyst is particularly impressed with the speed with which Frost, who was introduced at a Dec. 3 news conference, hit the ground running. The Huskers have been creeping up 247Sports’ composite Big Ten recruiting ranking in recent weeks, with the class moving to No. 8 in the league as of late Monday morning, No. 37 nationally.
“They can go into Texas, but they’re not in [the Big 12] anymore,” Lemming said. “For Nebraska, they have to hit Florida and Georgia really hard. Since he’s got ties to Florida, I think you’ll be seeing Nebraska in Florida quite heavily.
“But he does have to have a staff that works really hard. What used to be a weak league now has got really aggressive recruiters … fortunately, he’s in the weaker division. Iowa’s good, but they’re in the same boat in terms of [native] talent that Nebraska is.
“The talent pool is much lower, now, because 75 percent of the guys signed in December. So he’s got a tougher task than he normally would, just because he doesn’t have as big a talent pool as [you normally] would have.”
Lemming said UCF’s 13-0 season, capped by a win over favored Auburn in the Peach Bowl, will pay off for Frost and the current Huskers staff before National Signing Day on February 7. But the real benefits will be felt on the recruiting trail in the months to come, during the run-up to the 2019 cycle.
“He’s got such a good reputation, going undefeated and winning the bowl game,” Lemming said. “I do think, in the little time he has, that they’re going to do well. And he’ll do fantastic next year. I think that undefeated season for him is going to carry over into next year.
“I think you’ll see what he can do. And he’ll become a legend. He’s young enough to stay a long time. I doubt that he leaves. They finally got themselves a winner.”