The 2021 Nebraska football season was full of close calls, narrow defeats and heartbreaking losses.
Plenty needs to change going into 2022 and that’s the type of urgency that was felt Feb. 28 during the Huskers’ media availability. Coach Scott Frost, his (half) new coaching staff and players are all focused on the upcoming season and how they can improve day after day.
“I want to be on the field with a bunch of competitors that when they have the chance to make a play when it matters they are going to make it,” Frost said. “Some of these guys certainly give you that impression. I have not seen them in those situations yet here at Nebraska but certainly impressed with the energy and leadership we are getting right away.”
Frost praised the Huskers for their mental toughness, as well as their adaptability as half of the coaching staff is new this season. He stressed that coaching continuity will be essential, but difficult to build.
“I mean there are challenges to it, obviously, but I cannot say enough about the guys that are here,” Frost said. “I think it is a work in progress. What they are demanding out of their room, what I have seen from them in recruiting already, there are a lot of things to work through with new guys just getting familiar with each other and familiar with what the expectations are and what everybody is thinking about communication.”
Nebraska brought in four new offensive assistants in Mark Whipple, (offensive coordinator) Mickey Joseph, (associate head coach and wide receivers coach) Bryan Applewhite (running backs coach) and Donovan Raiola (offensive line coach).
It’s not just new coaches that the Huskers will have to contend with, though. On top of their 19-player recruiting class for 2022, Nebraska added 14 players through the transfer portal.
This abundance of new players will result in some renewed competition in multiple position groups.
“The new faces have been bringing competition,” junior cornerback Quentin Newsome said. “So, it makes one person go harder, and it’s just made the room more tough in many ways.”
While the secondary and defense at-large have received lots of newcomers, the offense is the side of the ball that really needs the infusion of new talent. The Huskers return six players that started a combined 47 games last season, so continuity on that side of the ball will be crucial.
Joseph said he’s ready to bring a certain level of intensity to coaching his players to get the most out of them every day and play.
“I’m going to coach you hard,” he said. “I’m going to give you confidence, but I’m going to coach you really hard. I’m going to tell you something every play. It’s either going to be good or it’s going to be bad, but I’m going to communicate something to you every play.”
This type of coaching and more specifically, this type of attitude and accountability from the coaching staff is a big part of what can help Nebraska in crucial moments.
All nine of the Huskers’ losses in 2021 were by single digits, eight of which were by a touchdown or less. It’s not conspiratorial to claim that if even five or 10 plays had gone differently throughout the season for Nebraska that its record would have improved.
However, changing these small mistakes, which cost the Huskers big, is easier said than done. Lots of improvements in lots of key areas is still needed if Nebraska is going to course correct for the 2022 season.
The mantra from this team will be one week at a time, one opponent at a time. While Monday’s comments should inspire hope in the hearts of Husker fans, the questions still remain.
The Huskers open their 2022 season Aug. 27 in Ireland to play Northwestern. There’s still a lot of time between then and now, (177 days to be exact) but a lot can change in that amount of time.