10 things we learned from Nebraska's press conference
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost and several players met with reporters on Monday for their first weekly press conference of the season inside Memorial Stadium.
Here are 10 of the most interesting things we learned from the day...
1. Confidence and belief are flowing
You saw it in the second half of last season, and then even more when Nebraska returned to work for spring practices.
It grew even more when head coach Scott Frost and a handful of players traveled to Chicago for Big Ten Media Days, and then it became more obvious by the day over the course of fall camp.
The 2019 Huskers are different in so many ways compared to where they were a year ago, and no area showcases that development more than in the unwavering confidence and belief the team has built in itself.
From Frost to quarterback Adrian Martinez to linebacker Mohamed Barry and down the line, everyone who spoke during Monday’s Week 1 press conference oozed a swagger that went well beyond just talking a big game.
This team knows it’s good, and it’s counting down the hours until it can prove it to the rest of the country.
“We are so ready,” junior right tackle Matt Farniok said. “We have been waiting… With the way the year started last year, with the way that it ended last year, we needed to figure out what it takes to create a winning habit and create the right type of environment.
“We have seen where we’re headed, and we are just ready to go play. We are all chomping at the bit for Saturday morning.”
2. Still no decision on Washington’s Week 1 status
As Nebraska turns its full attention toward Saturday’s season opener vs. South Alabama, the team still doesn’t know whether running back Maurice Washington will be available.
Frost said he and leadership from NU’s athletic department and university were continuing to gather information regarding Washington’s legal situation stemming from charges filed against in him the state of California.
As of now, the sophomore’s availability remains to be determined, and there’s a chance a decision might not come until game day.
“We’re still trying to determine what’s going on with Maurice,” Frost said on Monday. “I’ve said this before, but we’re taking his issues very seriously. We’ve got to wait and try to get more clarity and resolution as the week comes up, and then several people will sit down and try to make the best decision.”
3. NU hands out 14 new Blackshirts in a special way
Nebraska handed out 14 new Blackshirts for the 2019 season on Monday.
The recipients were defensive linemen Carlos Davis, Khalil Davis, Darrion Daniels, and Ben Stille; linebackers Barry, Collin Miller, Will Honas, Caleb Tannor, and Alex Davis; and defensive backs Lamar Jackson, Dicaprio Bootle, Marquel Dismuke, Deontai Williams, and Cam Taylor.
But instead of having the jerseys hanging in the players’ lockers before practice, Frost and Co. opted for a much more special delivery.
Several former Blackshirts made their way to Lincoln and spoke to the defense about what the tradition meant to them as players and still today. Frost said Jason Peter, Jay Foreman, Steve Warren, Chris Kelsay, Chad Kelsay, Marc Munford, Tony Veland, Kenny Wilhite, Keyuo Craver, Zack Bowman, and Barrett Ruud all participated in the ceremony.
After their talks, each former player presented a current Blackshirt with the coveted practice jersey.
"Now the shirt is not just a shirt," said Barry, who received his from Ruud, his position coach. "It comes to life. It's a real thing. It's a person who has worn it, has represented it, has put their all into that shirt, and he's giving it to you, and he's telling you, you have to earn it every day. It meant a lot how they did it this year."
4. Four team captains honored by selection
Just before Nebraska put on its annual “Boneyard Bash” event for university students at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night, Frost gathered the team together to announce the results from the team captain voting.
It wasn’t surprising when Frost said that the four players who had been selected – quarterback Adrian Martinez, Farniok, Daniels and Barry – had received by far the most votes from their peers, as all had emerged as clear leaders over the course of the offseason.
But that didn’t diminish how humbling of an honor it was for the four new faces of the program.
"To have my teammates give me this honor, to have them vote me to represent them day in and day out, it's a tremendous honor and it means the most to me," Barry said. "I don't think anything will ever mean more to me."
5. Jurgens’ speedy recovery pushed him ahead of schedule
Even though Cameron Jurgens’ development at center was delayed due to lingering injuries since moving from tight end, Frost had been holding out hope that he would still find a way to be ready for the start of the season.
Thanks to some hard work over the offseason, the redshirt freshman not only worked his way back onto the field, but also locked up the No. 1 center job going into Week 1.
Frost said he realistically expected Jurgens to miss at least the first couple of games before he was fully healthy enough to see game action. Even though the Beatrice native will be on a “pitch count” of sorts with his playing time on Saturday, Frost said Jurgens had proven he was ready to roll.
“Cam has done a great job in his rehab,” Frost said. “We weren’t really expecting to have him until a couple weeks into the season I would say. He healed up pretty quick, got out onto the field faster than we thought, and made an impact faster than we thought once he got out there.
“We might keep him on a pitch count early on, just to make sure we aren’t overloading him too fast. But he has a chance to be a pretty good player.”
6. Mills set the tone upon arrival in Nebraska’s backfield
Dedrick Mills made his media debut on Monday, but the junior college transfer running back had already become a household name with the immediate impression he made during fall camp.
Mills set the tone from his first practice as a Husker with his aggressive running style, and it wasn’t long before he locked up a spot as the co-No. 1 running back along with Washington.
Much had been made about Mills’ physicality during camp, and he said that was exactly what he wanted to bring every time he touched the football. He said his goal is to rush for 1,500 this season, and he wasn’t shy about how he was going to do it.
"I like to run people over,” Mills said. “I don't like to do too much juking. If you're in my way, you've got to move. If you don't move, you're just going to get hit."
7. Another day, more praise for Martinez
It’s hard to come up with more ways to pump up Martinez at this point, as the preseason Heisman Trophy candidate has gotten about has much local acclaim as a true sophomore could see.
But the praise continued once more on Monday, as Frost and his teammates further reaffirmed just how good they thought the quarterback could be in 2019.
Frost even threw out a comparison to Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes when describing a pass Martinez made in recent practice.
“Adrian provides us with at least a ‘wow’ moment a day,” Frost said. “He made a throw the other day that I’ve never really seen before. Maybe watching the Chiefs play last year.
"We just need him to play like he’s been practicing. He’s way more comfortable in the offense, obviously he has the talent to make any play he needs to on the football field. Now we just need to be efficient and have that at a high rate.”
8. Allen's big offseason earned him co-No. 1 TE spot
Austin Allen showed flashes of what he could provide to Nebraska’s passing game last year, but after an impressive offseason in practice and in the weight room, he’s set to do that and much more.
Now up to 6-8, 255, the sophomore has worked his way up to the co-No. 1 tight end spot on NU’s Week 1 depth chart along with junior and incumbent starter Jack Stoll.
Allen made his mark last year as a downfield receiving threat, but with his added strength Frost expects the Aurora native to be on the field much more regularly going forward.
"Jack Stoll has had a great camp, and we feel great with him as our lead guy, but Austin has improved by leaps and bounds to the point that there’s no drop-offs when he’s in and Jack isn’t,” Frost said.
“There’s going to be a lot of sets that we run with both of those guys on the field, so we thought it was just and fair to list them both as ones because that’s how we feel about them."
9. Hixson’s rise embodies the Nebraska walk-on tradition
When Nebraska wrapped up its final practice of fall camp on Friday, another program tradition was carried on.
Sophomore Trent Hixson became the latest in a long line of former walk-ons to earn a scholarship after locking up the No. 1 left guard job going into the season opener.
Hixson had been among the prime candidates to receive the honor, if not the most likely. Even so, it was still a special moment when Frost announced his scholarship in front of the team.
“It was awesome,” Farniok said. “He has worked so hard and has been trying to do everything he can like I was saying being a great teammate… We were so happy for him because he is a man that busts his tail, and he may not always be the most talented person, but he is going to give you everything he’s got, and that’s all you can really ask for in a player.”
10. Huskers are interested in future Week 0 game
Florida and Miami were alone in the national college football spotlight on Saturday night, as they opened the FBS schedule with a “Week 0” game in Orlando on national television.
Frost definitely took notice of the opportunity the game provided for the two programs, and said that Nebraska would likely jump at the chance to play in a similar Week 0 matchup in the future.
“If the circumstances were right, I think Week 0 is great,” Frost said. “I think the public is anxious for college football to start. You get to start practice a week earlier, so it shouldn’t really make a difference in your team’s execution. You get the same amount of practice before the game.
"If we are ever (presented that opportunity) I think it would be good for our team.”