It has been a frustrating offseason for Nebraska football head coach Scott Frost and his players. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, spring football was shut down in mid-March, limiting the Huskers to only two spring practices compared to some other Big Ten schools who were able to get a dozen in.
While it has been a long process for everyone in the football program, Frost mentioned in a Zoom press conference Tuesday that he could count the number of players who aren’t on campus on one hand.
So while the preparations for the 2020 college football season ramp-up, teams are still severely limited.
“We’re going to follow whatever protocols they suggest,” Frost said. “It does some like some of the opinions and the facts on that seem to be evolving constantly.”
In terms of testing players, that is something Frost wants more guidance on, especially if players turn out to be asymptomatic or test positive.
“When you’re talking about a contact sport, like football, if somebody tests positive, it’s going to be next to impossible to go back and watch every rep of practice to see who they’ve touched during practice,” Frost said. “I will tell you this, our kids are not scared of this.”
However, as athletes return to campus some universities, including Ohio State, are requiring players to sign a pledge that acknowledges the risk of returning to campus for voluntary workouts. This is something that Frost has no intention of doing.
“I’m not going to do a pledge, our guys understand the rules involved with being around and I’d be shocked if there was a team or organization in sports that has been more careful and followed protocol more strictly than we have,” Frost said.
For now, none of Nebraska’s workouts are mandatory and newcomers, those players who didn’t enroll prior to the summer, are still not able to lift or take part in conditioning. Frost and his staff are still waiting to hear from the NCAA football oversight committee to address that issue.
In addition, the Huskers are awaiting word about when a preseason calendar will be approved for teams to meet and prepare for fall camp. The NCAA is set for a decision on Wednesday that will allow teams to meet for 20 hours a week between July 24-Aug. 6.
“I’m in favor of it because we missed spring ball,” Frost said about the two-week camp. “Missing the amount of spring practice that we did just set us back as far as non X’s and O’s and being able to operate as a team and having a little extra time before camp starts to get some of that done.”
The two-week “mini-camp” will allow Frost and his staff to evaluate where their players are, especially on the offensive line. Frost mentioned the cancellation of spring ball hurt the development of offensive tackle Bryce Benhart, a redshirt freshman who looks to secure a starting spot this fall. He also mentioned Matt Farniok will start this year’s training camp at right guard instead of left guard, where he was a starter in 2019.
While this offseason has been a turbulent one for Nebraska, it has given everyone the chance to bond and talk about social issues that are relevant in so many athletic programs – including Nebraska’s. While Frost wasn’t able to have a full team meeting about the George Floyd killing, he said it was a great opportunity to re-examine things that some people thought were already looked at.
“I think it’s given us all an opportunity to examine some of the things that we thought we knew but might be naive about,” Frost said. “A football team gives you an environment for people of all different races and backgrounds to come together and learn about each other while seeing the good in one another.”
“So, football teams, honestly, are kind of an example that I think a lot of other people could follow.”