Scott Frost's big bet: Short-term gains for a long-term future at Nebraska
As the second National Signing Day approaches this week, Nebraska won’t generate much buzz. The Huskers are going to sign just 1 blue-chip recruit this cycle. They have the No. 13 class in the Big Ten and the No. 49 class nationally.
And yet, there’s a an argument to be made that no B1G team has retooled its roster more effectively this offseason than Scott Frost and Nebraska. Call it the Michigan State Model.
Only 2 teams (Northwestern and Wisconsin) took fewer than Nebraska’s 16 recruits. The Huskers have a clear directive: Load up on transfers who are ready to play and can get this thing turned around quickly. Nebraska has taken 12 transfers, which is tied for the most in the country with LSU and USC. Those programs obviously are dealing with different circumstances having gone through coaching changes. Nebraska, heading into Scott Frost’s fifth season, is a different sort of case study.
Nebraska is looking for the same success that Michigan State had when it quickly rebuilt its roster through the transfer portal, going from 2-5 and the projected last-place team in the East to 11-2 and a New Year’s Six bowl win. While predicting such a leap from Nebraska is a stretch, the Huskers are loading up. Frost has added 4 former 4-star recruits in the portal. He finally has depth at the most important position, quarterback, which is something he has not had since he took over.
Relying on transfers used to be deemed risky, given that someone who was leaving their prior program was either struggling academically or had a falling out with the coaching staff. But with how often players transfer nowadays, that’s no longer the case. Maybe we’ll find out in a few years that accumulating 10 transfers in a year is a great way to build a program, because it gets that one-time transfer out of the way, and then you know they won’t leave. High school players, who take years to amass via recruiting, can wind up leaving after just a year, before they ever get close to the field.
The short-term benefits of taking a transfer (who is a good fit at your program, of course) are obvious. They’re more ready to play. They’re hungrier. They’re humbled. They won’t take a few years to develop in the weight room, they won’t have an adjustment period in the classroom.
It’s hard to blame Frost for taking this approach, given the stakes of this season (almost surely to be his last if it doesn’t at least result in a bowl appearance) and his recent bad run with high school recruits.
Frost’s previous 4 classes at Nebraska have all ranked in the top 5 in the Big Ten and the top 25 nationally, but he doesn’t have much to show for it. For instance, of the 10 blue-chip recruits in the 2020 class, only 4 remain.
Of course, maybe Frost wouldn’t have to take as many transfers if he could make more inroads in Omaha. None of the top 4 recruits in Nebraska signed with the Huskers, and that includes 2 4-star recruits from Omaha and 2 from nearby Bellevue. In 2021, 2 of the top 3 in the state went elsewhere. In 2020, 3 of the top 4 went elsewhere.
It’s baffling that for as much as the fan base as a whole seems to like him, he isn’t getting the top local players.
Part of the reason Frost’s class this year isn’t great in terms of average player rating (11th in the B1G) is the uncertainty of whether Frost would actually be returning for a fifth season. New athletic director Trev Alberts announced that Frost would be back with just a few weeks left in the regular season, which wasn’t much time for the staff to improve this class.
The hope is that the Huskers hit it big with all of these transfers and the new coaching staff to extend Frost’s run in Lincoln. It’s the last-ditch effort to salvage what has been a lackluster homecoming.
Either way, it’s probably not a long-term solution. But in the short term, it’s exactly what Frost had to do.