Frost looks right at home with Nebraska

Published 10:14 pm Tuesday, July 24, 2018

CHICAGO — Scott Frost talks to Tom Osborne almost every week. He welcomes his college coach into his office at Nebraska, or they go turkey hunting or fishing.

Hard at work at rebuilding his storied alma mater, Frost is keeping his friends as close as possible.

The 43-year-old Frost is home again after a successful run with Central Florida, returning to Lincoln in December after coaching the Knights to a 13-0 record last season. The long-term objective is moving Nebraska back into the upper echelon of college football, and the plan is a familiar one.

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“Coach Osborne had the formula that Nebraska figured out,” Frost said. “Some of the things he did to make the program arguably the best in the country can still work today. Nebraska has just gone away from them. We’re going to adopt a lot of things again and do it in a modern way and do it in a way that recruits and kids are going to want to be a part of.”

Frost grew up about 90 minutes west of Nebraska’s campus and led the 1997 Cornhuskers to a share of the national championship in Osborne’s final year as coach. It was part of a wildly successful decade for the Cornhuskers, who went 108-16-1 in the 1990s.

But the program hasn’t enjoyed that level of success in quite some time. Mike Riley went 19-19 in three seasons before he was fired in November.

Enter Frost, who once again was unable to resist the siren song of his home state. Frost began his playing career at Stanford before coming home.

“Being a football coach is rewarding because of the time you get to spend with young men and the things you get to try to pour into them,” he said. “It’s even more special to do it around people you care about and the place you’re from and at your alma mater.”

It’s a high-stakes move for Frost, Nebraska and the Big Ten, which could use a healthy Cornhuskers program to help balance the conference’s West Division with its powerhouse schools in the East. So naturally Frost’s arrival on the scene was a frequent topic of conversation at the Big Ten football media day on Monday.

“I think the fact that Scott played at Nebraska and has had an amazing series of successes as a young coach really breathes a lot of enthusiasm into the fan base,” Commissioner Jim Delany said.

It sounds as if his players feel the same way.

“He’s a championship quarterback. You want to show him that you can play,” star receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. said. “You want to show him that I’m that guy, like I can compete with you. Actually sometimes I want to show him that I could have played with him, I could have been your receiver.”

It’s a familiar script for the Big Ten after Jim Harbaugh took over at Michigan in December 2014. Harbaugh also played quarterback in college and returned to his alma mater with much fanfare and excitement.

He coached against Frost in 2016, directing the Wolverines to a 51-14 victory over UCF in Ann Arbor.

“He brought a really motivated, excellent football team up there,” Harbaugh said. “Expect that he’ll do the same thing in his current position.”

Harbaugh himself is beginning an intriguing year after Michigan went 8-5 last season, dropping its last three games.

Asked about the Wolverines’ six-game losing streak against rival Ohio State and the pressure on him to stop that slide, Harbaugh responded: “We feel like just improvement. We need to improve. And that will lead to success. It will lead to championships. It’s that simple.”

Frost, who signed a $35 million, seven-year contract, has no such problems at the moment. The Cornhuskers went 4-8 in Riley’s last season, and Frost definitely has some time before the honeymoon wears off at Nebraska.

But he is planning for one quick turnaround.

“I know if we’re getting better day by day we’re going to be really dangerous and hard to beat in the very near future,” he said. “We’ll see how this first year goes, but people better get us now because we’re going to keep getting better.”