Scott Frost hasn't even coached a game yet at Nebraska, and he's already playing with fire
Say what you want about Scott Frost.
He’s the savior. He’s overhyped. He’s Tom Osborne 2.0. He’s in over his head.
One thing is for sure, though. The dude isn’t afraid to pull the trigger.
This past week, Frost pulled the trigger on naming true freshman Adrian Martinez as Nebraska’s starting quarterback. That’s historic in itself as Martinez will be the Huskers’ first true freshman to start the season at the position.
It was only a few short months ago that many (myself included) were dumbfounded to see that Martinez was available to speak to the media before taking a snap, which was something you’d rarely see anywhere, much less at a high-profile program like Nebraska.
The boldness of Frost’s move to start a true freshman in Week 1 was two-fold. He had to know that the byproduct of his announcement was there was at least a decent chance that Tristan Gebbia would transfer, leaving Nebraska with a true freshman as its lone scholarship quarterback.
Still, Frost fired away. And now, here he is, once again doing something that’s rarely seen in college football with a true freshman quarterback, albeit with some bigger implications than not saying the politically correct thing to the media.
It’d be fascinating to see what the reaction would be of a team from Frost’s era in the 1990s trying to accomplish a similar feat. It would lead every game broadcast, it would dominate midweek headlines and it’d be all over the local Nebraska news.
I mean, in a different context than it is now.
That’s the beauty of Frost’s current situation. He can do no wrong. The lazy public narrative is that it’s Gebbia’s fault for “not being patient enough” to stick it out and compete (while also ignoring that Frost transferred from Stanford to Nebraska after not starting a game in two seasons).
Picture the reaction had Mike Riley done the exact same thing. That is, manage to keep just one scholarship quarterback on the roster heading into a season. It would’ve been the NIU loss all over again. Husker fans are indeed Nebraska nice, but they wouldn’t have given Riley the benefit of the doubt if he was in Frost’s current shoes.
But maybe that’s part of it. Frost is where he is because he’s strong-willed and he doesn’t beat around the bush. He’s not a world-class schmooze-er because if he was, he’d have found a way to get Gebbia and even Patrick O’Brien to stay in Lincoln.
Instead, he put all of his eggs in Martinez’s basket. That says a lot about Martinez, and it says a lot about Frost.
It’s a sign of the times that a move like that would be made. Jake Fromm and Tua Tagovailoa all but shattered whatever barriers to entry still blocked the notion that true freshmen can’t star at quarterback. Perhaps Martinez’s maturity helps him become one of the B1G’s better quarterbacks by season’s end. Certainly nobody would’ve predicted that for a true freshman 20 years ago.
What remains the same now as it was in the 20th century is obviously the worst-case scenario. That is, Nebraska is one turned ankle away from turning to a walk-on quarterback. Against the Huskers’ daunting conference schedule, that’s a scary thought. It’s because of that schedule that Year 1 win-loss expectations are somewhat tempered, at least by Nebraska standards.
In other words, Frost can afford to take a risk like this during a foundation year. This is the same guy who two years ago turned to lightly-recruited true freshman quarterback in mid-September during his first season at UCF.
A move like this suggests what many expected. Frost wants to turn Martinez into Nebraska’s version of McKenzie Milton. I mean, obviously.
Milton is coming off a sophomore season in which he finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Nebraska, meanwhile, is still trying to produce its first top-10 finish in the Heisman voting by an offensive player since Eric Crouch won the award in 2001.
It might’ve been that UCF found a diamond in the rough in Milton, but he wouldn’t have been put in that spot to break out as a sophomore unless Frost pulled the trigger on him as a true freshman.
The hope is that Frost’s UCF gamble repeats itself at Nebraska. We won’t know the answer to that for awhile, assuming that Martinez stays healthy in 2018.
It’s funny how things work out. Just less than four years ago, Frost was considered “too risky” of a hire for Nebraska because he didn’t have any head coaching experience. That was according to ex-Nebraska AD Shawn Eichorst, who didn’t exactly factor any sort of public opinion into his decision to bypass Frost. A few years later, the only risk was not hiring him.
Now, it’s Frost’s turn to call the shots as he sees them. This won’t be the last gamble he makes. Lord knows he’s got plenty of fourth-down conversions to make and no shortage of downfield shots to take.
Is Frost playing with fire by entering 2018 with 1 scholarship quarterback? Absolutely.
But clearly, he’s not feeling any heat.