Big Ten Media Days isn't happening as planned, but we can always pretend!
Due to the ongoing global pandemic, we did not get a chance to talk to the delightful cast of Big Ten coaches at Big Ten Media Days this year, so we decided to take matters into our own hands and put together our very own Big Ten Media Days – but imaginary.
Here's how it works: each of our interviewers poses a hypothetical question to the coach (some serious, some not at all serious) and provides a brief explanation as to why that question is being asked. In some cases, we even took a crack at how the coach might try to answer it, because roleplaying is fun.
We're working from the bottom up in the conference, and we're more than halfway through with Rutgers, Maryland, Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern, Minnesota, and Iowa already taking their turns. Next up, we've got Scott Frost and Nebraska.
Let us begin.
Ramzy Nasrallah: Coach Frost, this is the first Year 3 of your coaching career. Your second and final year at UCF produced an Undefeated National Champion* while your second year back at Nebraska didn’t even get you a bowl bid. Nebraska is in its longest postseason drought since the early 1960s. Bo Pelini was fired after winning only 9 games way too often. How much patience do you expect Nebraska fans to have for a cherished son of the program, and can you please answer while doing your best Jim Harbaugh impression?
Scott Frost, probably: *holding hands 12 inches apart* "We were *this close* to winning five of the games we lost last season. Colorado, Indiana, Purdue, Wisconsin and Iowa. I expect us to be competitive in every game we play this season, including in Columbus where we should have won in 2018."
Dan Hope: How do you atone for two losing seasons to start your Nebraska tenure?
Much like another Big Ten coach who we’ll get to in a couple days, Frost returned to his alma mater as a golden boy, a former player for the team who had been a successful coach elsewhere and was expected to immediately start turning the program’s fortunes around. In his first two seasons as Nebraska’s head coach, however, success has not followed Frost back to Lincoln. The Cornhuskers have yet to make a bowl game under his leadership, going 4-8 in 2018 and 5-7 in 2019.
While turnarounds take time, and it probably wasn’t realistic to expect the Cornhuskers to start contending for Big Ten West titles right away, back-to-back losing seasons to start his tenure are unquestionably a disappointment. As he enters his third year as head coach, he’ll certainly be expected to start delivering better on-field results.
What went wrong over the past two years? And if Frost can’t start to get things turned around this year, does that mean Frost isn’t the savior Nebraska thought he would be, or that the program has simply fallen too far to be a contender right now? Those are the tough questions that loom over him and the Cornhuskers entering his third season at the helm.
Johnny Ginter: Okay, so this is pretty much just who Adrian Martinez is at this point, right? Runs around a bunch, throws a ton of interceptions, gets hurt at inopportune times, loses a lot. I don't know if this is what Huskers fans were expecting when the Scotty Frost train rolled back in to town, but this is some pretty weak tea for a program that used to be feared all across America.
You know, in the 1990's. A generation ago. My more macro and better question, Scott, is this: is Adrian Martinez the personification of Nebraska football now? Is that really the best you all can do? Just... in general?
It's a little premature to declare Nebraska football dead and buried forever.
Forever is a very long time, and smaller schools than Nebraska with fewer resources and nonexistent name recognition have still found sustained football success. But if Scott Frost and Nebraska want to recapture the same mojo that Tom Osborne had 25 years ago, the Huskers of the 2020's had better start cheating on somewhat the same level that Osborne did. Or get better at it, but either way, Nebraska can be more than what they are now. But I don't think that the team as it looks now is going to pull it off.
Kyle Jones: Coach Frost, for all the focus on your offense, it was your defense that finally took a step forward last year. After losing the entire starting defensive line, though, how do you keep that momentum in 2020?
The Huskers improved from 94th to 64th in total defense last season, and despite getting lit up by Ohio State early in the year, they looked stronger down the stretch with impressive performances against Maryland and Iowa to close the season. After losing all three starters up front, including Khalil Davis and his eight sacks from a year ago, the secondary becomes the strength of the Husker defense in 2020.
This secondary isn’t just a collection of cover corners, but features a number of hybrid safeties who could allow coordinator Erik Chinander to be more creative in the way he defends the pass.
Matt Gutridge: Coach Frost, Nebraska has played five games in Ohio Stadium and lost all five. The Buckeyes won those games by an average of 25 points. Last year, Ryan Day led the Buckeyes into Lincoln and defeated your Cornhuskers 48-7. What are your plans to turn things around at Nebraska like you did at UCF?
Scott Frost, probably: “To turn things around on the field, you need to turn things around on the recruiting trail. Our 2021 recruiting class is currently ranked 9th in the Big Ten and 35th in the nation. That’s not good enough.
“Since I arrived in December of 2017, my recruiting classes have always finished 4th in the B1G and between 17th and 23rd nationally. How bad is our current situation? If Ohio State’s lowest-rated position player, TE Sam Hart (.8804), was in my 2021 class he’d be the third-highest rated player. Damn, we’re in trouble.”
Zack Carpenter: Coach, I mean, how in the hell did Avante Dickerson get away? What happened to let him slip away from your guys’ fingers?
Why it’s important: Apologies for what’s basically a re-run from my Minnesota question for PJ Fleck, but there’s no way at all that Frost and Co. should have let Dickerson get away. Dickerson is a borderline top-100 overall player and the No. 8 cornerback in the country.
Outside of a pair of 2022 prospects (whose rankings will fluctuate over the next two years), Dickerson is the state of Nebraska’s fifth-highest-ranked prospect since 1999 and is the highest-ranked from the state since 2010. In the history of the state. And he had Nebraska in his top three. Minnesota wasn’t in his top three, and Frost let Fleck come in and scoop him. You’re not going to rebuild a program letting guys like that get away.