3 plays that help explain why Nebraska fans are so excited about Scott Frost

Nebraska

Nebraska fans always turn out strong for the spring game. The Cornhuskers are the pride of the state, the ultimate example of the regional mascot that college football offers outside of major population hubs. Even in 2017, when Mike Riley was entering a hot seat season and counting on Bob Diaco to turn the defense around, the Huskers had just under 80,000 fans in attendance.

But in 2018, with all the excitement stemming from Scott Frost’s hire, Nebraska set a school record with 86,618 in the seats.

They were rewarded with an exciting afternoon in which the Huskers showed a lot of competency in Frost’s up-tempo offense (and a sound approach on defense as well). Here were a few of the plays that have Cornhuskers faithful buzzing that the glory days of the ‘90s could be coming back to Lincoln.

Play 1: RPOs involving the TE

This one’s a short gainer, but still a good example:

The Huskers ran this a ton in their spring game. Even in the spread offense, teams that have good TEs must often use them as blockers to account for the sixth defender the OL can’t block. Frost likes to run the option, though, and do what he can to space out and isolate defenders.

The Nebraska D has a seventh man in the box here and is playing Cover 3, but the TE release route nullifies the OLB, who’s either chasing the TE on the route or staying home to stop the run. In either event, the QB can make him wrong. Nebraska has a solid collection of tight ends because they were also an important part of Riley’s offense, and now guys like Jack Stoll are ready to be unleashed.

Nebraska ran a ton of variations of inside zone that would force the OLBs to choose between covering an easy quick route or staying in the cutback lane. When the defense would rotate to stop either, the RBs could find downhill lanes toward safeties who were trying to fill the original creases:

Here, the TE is helping to block the right edge and create extra gaps. Everyone associates Frost’s offense with the spread, but it has a lot of ways for a TE to make himself useful.

Play 2: The power-read give to Tyjon Lindsey

Riley also had an affinity for short, explosive receivers like Oregon State star Brandin Cooks, so he stockpiled a number of them on Nebraska’s roster. Lindsey is a 5’9, 160-pound former four-star from powerhouse Las Vegas HS Bishop Gorman. The sophomore is suited for the RB/WR hybrid role that De’Anthony Thomas played for Frost at Oregon or that multiple backs played at the coach’s UCF a year ago.

There are a lot of exciting playmakers on this offense, young and old, who are going to be shockingly easy for Frost to plug into his spread-option attack.

Play 3: This triple-option TD by freshman QB Adrian Martinez

There’s a lot here to excite a Nebraska fan. The Huskers are running the classic triple option with a freshman QB, it goes for a TD, and if this were a live game, there’s a chance that the safety would actually make the stop short of the goal line to preserve some dignity for the “Blackshirt” defense.

“I’ve rooted for option teams my whole life because of my background [as a Nebraska option QB],” Frost has said. “If we’re not playing Navy, I’m rooting for ’em, and Air Force and Georgia Tech. There’s a beauty to that offense that I respect and admire.”

The design here is pretty lethal:

The right tackle is releasing up the field, and the QB reads the B-gap defender to determine whether to give the ball or keep it. On the keeper, he has Lindsey outside as a pitch option, but Martinez is clearly pretty fast.

At Nebraska’s peak, its star athletes from hotbeds like California ran outside option plays, so watching Frost’s team do exactly that surely sparks some trips down memory lane.

Martinez might only be a freshman, but his main competition is coming from second-year players. He has elite running ability and more than enough arm to be effective in Frost’s offense. The smart money is on Martinez to win the job before the season is over, if not before it begins.

This offseason, Nebraska made several moves by signing some JUCO players like prospective starting ILB Will Honas and adding Ole Miss transfer Breon Dixon to potentially play the position Shaquem Griffin manned at UCF. The team had already been moving towards a 3-4 defense a year ago under Diaco and returns its starting line on that side, plus four starters on the offensive line.

There’s surprisingly much talent and structure in place for Frost to build on, and Martinez seems the kind of special talent who’s worth risking a sluggish 2018 on, much like freshman Milton McKenzie during UCF’s 6-7 2016. Frost’s already found himself having to dial down the buzz.

After the game, Coach Frost attempted to throttle down the Adrian Martinez hype machine. When asked about Adrian Martinez’s performance in the spring game Coach Frost said, “I told the quarterbacks before the game to just go play. We aren’t going to decide who is the starting quarterback is today. In a game like that you might be the guy that is in there when the right play is called or the right guy gets open. And you might be the guy that is in there when somebody misses a protection and you get sacked. And quarterbacks can look good or bad through no fault of their own.”

There’s still a way to go before anybody’s talking another 12-0 season for Frost. Along the way, we’ll start to see the full Frost offense — built around mobile linemen, tons of packaged plays, and getting just about everybody on the roster involved — in live action. Nebraska fans are pumped, and while the rest of the Big Ten probably isn’t “running scared” just yet, they surely are taking notice.

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Comments

Thanks for making me not feel crazy...

first of all – FIRST.

2nd – I have been thinking about the players Riley was bringing in (on Offense) and how I think they would be able to fit very well into Frost’s UCF’s playbook. I don’t think the transition is going to be nearly as painful as say… Solich to Callahan, or even Pelini to Riley.

If it truly was just a coaching problem, and I don’t think anyone would disgree that we "upgraded" in the coaching department, I think we could be in for a better season than expected. If they fight for 4 quarters, we might even see an upset or 2!

The Read/Option is being replaced by the Run/Pass option.

Now if you have a Run/Pass offense with a QB that can run if they see something then it’s a tough offense. The Eagles won the Super Bowl with the RPO and a QB that didn’t run. What does all that mean? Adrian Martinez is the greatest Nebraska QB ever.

Watching a proper triple option in a modern setting is quite a beautiful thing

I know that it was a spring game, and caveats do apply, but still. I probably will watch some Nebraska games opportunistically just to see it used in a fairly consistent manner by a team that is not a service academy or academic school first, with all due respect to them.

Frost is THE MAN!

GBR

Hype is an understatement

Listening and reading Omaha sports media outlets, hype is an understatement when it comes to Frost. The words and phrases "championship" and "return of golden era…of Nebraska football" have already been used and Frost hasn’t even coached one game yet. No, the spring game didn’t count, but I’m getting the impression from some Nebraska fans even the spring game was a display of brilliance.

Of course some fans don’t want to be held accountable for saying it, but I get the impression they are so tempted to act like the playoff committee will only have three teams to choose since Nebraska is guaranteed a spot under Frost. And the Nebraska MVP award will be formerly known as the Heisman Trophy. Walking through Omaha-area stores and Nebraska clothing for sale has Frost’s name on it – not a returning star player’s number.

One Nebraska person even tried to justify Frost/UCF for deserving the national championship last year. But let’s put that in a different context. Let’s say 2017 Nebraska was Alabama and Frost/UCF was still the same. I’m 101 percent sure that person doesn’t say the same thing about UCF. Frost gets the alumni, proverbial pat on the back for a good season, but discounts UCF because of Nebraska’s dominance.

But Nebraska has seen this before. A year ago when Diaco was hired as defensive coordinator, the phrases and words like "defensive guru," "immediate impact" and "urgency" were used. Nebraska’s defense was massively exposed during the season. The Ohio State and Iowa games come to mind. Diaco was let go along with Riley after the season ended.

I can’t imagine the pressure Frost is under. But I’m not concerned about what happens in 2018 nearly as much as what will happen the next three seasons. I’m not a Nebraska fan. What will Nebraska expect (and what will the cumulative results be) after the 2020 season? Will Nebraska be OK with 8-4 years? But that’s not "golden era" of ‘Husker football. Help me here, Solich had 9-win seasons and he didn’t last? Solich was recommended by Osborne to replace himself.

If Nebraska finishes 7-5 in 2018, I’m guessing a lot of first-year grace will be poured on Frost. That’s common with first-year coaches. The schedule is a challenge. But will that increase the pressure for him in 2019 to be 10-2 or at least 10-2?

It’s great a former player, with success, came back to coach. But the hype now is an understatement.

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