Scott Frost pushing all the right buttons to revamp Huskers coaching staff
If you’re a regular reader, or even an irregular one, chances are you’ve seen this column is no safe space for Scott Frost. To go 3-9 overall and 1-8 in the Big Ten with the caliber of talent the Cornhuskers had this season is an all-time piece of coaching malpractice.
But after seeing what Michigan was able to do this season upon giving Jim Harbaugh another chance, Nebraska AD Trev Alberts went the same route with his program’s former star quarterback. Maybe a downsized contract and revamped coaching staff is just what it will take for Frost to turn this thing around.
It seemed like a pie-in-the-sky notion at the time, because Harbaugh was at least winning games for Michigan. He just had a habit of dropping the 2 that mattered most — Ohio State and Michigan State. Frost has developed a habit of dropping games to opponents regardless of their importance on the schedule. You don’t get to 15-29 overall by only losing the big ones.
We’re still a long way from Frost proving himself fully redeemed on the field. But thus far this offseason, he is pushing every correct button in surrounding himself with the best coaching staff possible — much like Harbaugh did last year.
Whipple a cracking good hire
The most prominent move is the addition of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who oversaw Pitt’s high-octane attack this season. The Panthers were third in the nation in scoring and sixth in passing as quarterback Kenny Pickett became a Heisman finalist.
For some Huskers fans, Whipple may bring back shivers of how the offense was supposed to modernize when Bill Callahan scrapped the triple-option. And there’s no question things are heading in a pass-heavy direction.
The Panthers were 72nd nationally in rushing yardage this season, and rated 111th and 119th in rushing during Whipple’s previous 2 seasons. With the exception of this season, Nebraska has been a top-30 rushing team every year under Frost.
This will be a definite culture change. But given the results of the past 4 years, a culture change is just what the Cornhuskers need.
The only question will be whether it is placed on the arm of Logan Smothers, who impressed against Iowa, or from a more experienced entrant in the transfer portal. Given Frost’s seeming mandate to win now, the latter outcome seems likely.
Not your typical pass-happy offense
Though Whipple’s offense is certainly explosive — Pitt was third in the country with 90 plays of 20 yards or longer — it was surprisingly friendly to its own defense.
When you think of a stereotypical run-and-shoot offense, you think of the early ’90s Houston Oilers — scoring in bunches, but doing it so quickly that the defense is worn out by the fourth quarter. Epic collapses can follow. Or defensive coordinators punching offensive coordinators in the mouth.
Whipple doesn’t have to worry about anybody swinging on him.
The Panthers were 24th in the country in time of possession, which is atypical for a pass-heavy, big-play attack. Nebraska, on the other hand, was only 97th in time of possession this season with a much more traditional approach.
Granted, it took a high level of execution from a Heisman-caliber quarterback for the Panthers to operate so effectively. But Pitt was 38th and 45th nationally in time of possession the 2 previous seasons as Pickett grew from serviceable to star. When executed properly, this is a high-reward offense without all the typical risks.
Frost’s other hires will pay dividends
Nebraska has added 2 other offensive coaches who have received less national attention but may end up just as crucial to revitalizing the program.
New offensive line coach Donovan Raiola is the brother of all-time Huskers great Dominic Raiola. So even though Donovan has not himself been part of the program, he’s undoubtedly aware of its expectations. His most recent experience was as an assistant offensive line coach for the Chicago Bears, which should prove fruitful on the recruiting trail. These guys want to get the the NFL. Raiola knows what it takes to get there.
And of the 3 additions Frost has so far made to his staff, wide receivers coach Mickey Joseph may end up being the centerpiece.
Joseph, like Frost, is a former Nebraska quarterback who played for Tom Osborne. But more recently, he was employed as Ed Orgeron’s ace New Orleans recruiter at LSU for the past 5 years.
LSU’s record-breaking 2019 offense in which Joe Burrow made the game look way too easy with uber-talented receivers Justin Jefferson, Terrace Marshall and Ja’Marr Chase? Those dudes were Mickey Joseph’s guys.
Joseph is already busy trying to poach talent from his home state.
S/O to @HuskerFBNation for coming by to recruit @Tre_Citizen1 and our prospects today. (Ron Brown, @daboot02 , and @coach_frost ) #RepThePrep#ThePrepWay #AGNB pic.twitter.com/XbLRR6RUWB
— Lake Charles College Prep 🏈 Recruits (@Recruit_LCCP) December 7, 2021
Mickey Joseph doing work in Lincoln. Check out Shazz Preston's latest offer from Nebraska. https://t.co/H3Hsuk5Wke
— Chris Singleton (@courierchris) December 8, 2021
That LSU-Lincoln offense Mickey Joseph is about to try to build at Nebraska with transfers & Louisiana targets could be sick. https://t.co/XlqcvrtYgt
— Jerit Roser (@JeritRoser) December 8, 2021
If Joseph can land even a quarter of the guys he’s after, the Huskers should regularly be behind only Ohio State and Michigan in terms of quality Big Ten recruiting classes.
In that case, all Frost needs to do is coach ’em up. Perhaps he’s finally surrounding himself with the right lieutenants to do so.