Friday notebook: Frost looking for more from QBs
After what seemed like an entire offseason of compliments regarding the development of Nebraska’s young quarterbacks, head coach Scott Frost tempered some of the excitement at the position in his latest evaluation on Friday morning.
Through the first full week of fall camp, Frost said the quarterbacks had fallen behind a bit from the progress they made over the spring and summer.
The main issue, Frost said, is that the QBs weren't processing information or reacting after the snap quickly enough to allow the offense to operate at its full potential.
“I’d like to see them be farther ahead than where they are right now,” Frost said of NU’s quarterbacks. “At the end of spring they were doing a really good job and it seemed like they got it. We didn’t quite pick up there where we left off from spring.
“I think the last few days I’ve seen a big improvement, but everything’s just got to operate faster for them. That will come when they’re familiar enough with the offense that it clicks in their mind faster. We’ve got to make some quicker decisions out there. All the guys are doing a good job at times, but it’s got to be more consistent.”
Redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia, true freshman Adrian Martinez, and sophomore Andrew Bunch have all taken equal reps through the first seven practices of fall camp. Frost said all three had shown flashes of clicking in the offense, but the consistency was clearly lacking in that respect.
This weekend could be a critical point in the competition for the starting quarterback job, as Frost said the Huskers had an upcoming scrimmage that would finally give some clarity to what the depth chart could look like for Week 1.
“We’ve got a scrimmage coming up, and I think after that we’ll adjust the reps at all the positions, not just quarterback, and make sure we’re getting more reps to guys we think are ahead,” Frost said. “It seems like we’ve been here two months already and it’s only been a little over a week. There’s still a lot more reps out there to be had for everybody.”
- Robin Washut
Frost gives updates on Watt, Alexander, and King
We are over a week into Fall Camp, and there is still no word on the roster status of 2018 recruit Dominick Watt.
The Florida native remains at home as he awaits word from the NCAA Clearing House after his ACT score was flagged.
“(Watt) is as work in progress,” Frost said. “We feel good about it still, but we don’t have a definitive answer yet.”
Besides Watt, Frost also updated the status of two other scholarship players currently not in camp. One of those players was sophomore linebacker Quayshon Alexander.
“Quayshon is dealing with an injury,” Frost said. “We are not going to have him this year as he’s rehabbing.”
The other scholarship player not in camp is senior outside linebacker Sedrick King.
“Sedrick King is going through some personal things, and we are trying to be there for him,” Frost said. “He had to go back to Florida to handle a situation. I expect him to be back in Lincoln at some point and make a decision if he’s going to need to spend his time on that or with the football team.”
- Sean Callahan
Gifford has impressed Frost so far
Senior linebacker Luke Gifford continues to impress the new Husker coaching staff.
Gifford missed the entire spring and final five games of the 2017 season with a hip injury but has been able to come back and make an impact in camp thus far.
“I didn’t really know what to expect from Luke, other than what I had seen on game tape,” Frost said of Gifford. “I’d say that he’s exceeded my expectations too. He was still getting his sea legs under him at the beginning of camp. He’s athletic, he’s big, he has pass rush skill and he plays hard. He’s what you are looking for.”
Frost also pointed Gifford out in a group of players that have demonstrated the level of toughness he’s looking for in his players. The other players mentioned were Stanley Morgan Jr., Will Honas, Dedrick Young and Mohamed Barry.
“I want a whole team of them,” Frost said. “I want a whole team of them when they are tired, they are going to play even harder. When we are behind, they are going to play even harder. In the fourth quarter they are going to play even harder. We have a way to go before we get to that mentality.”
- Sean Callahan
Williams still a valuable asset as he eases back from injury
Of all the returning members of Nebraska’s secondary, most assumed that senior Aaron Williams was as close to a lock as a starter in 2018 as anyone.
His place on the defensive back totem pole hasn’t necessarily changed thus far over the offseason, but a shoulder injury Williams suffered at the beginning of the Red-White Spring Game has remained a lingering issue on into fall camp.
As a result, Williams is having to continue to hold on to his No. 1 safety job while still being limited in the amount of work he’s allowed to do in practice.
“I think Aaron’s done a nice job,” defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said. “We’re kind of watching him, obviously, taking some hits off of him because he’s coming back and all those types of things. But he’s done a nice job running around out there."
Considering that seven of NU’s 16 current scholarship defensive backs weren’t on campus during spring ball, the timing is certainly not ideal for an incumbent like Williams to not be full-go during fall camp.
The good news for Williams is he was already able to build up quite a bit of equity not only with his play this spring, but also the 35 games, 22 starts, 134 tackles, and five interceptions on his career résumé.
“He’s a really smart football player," Chinander said. "System aside, he’s very football savvy. He does a lot of nice things and he can kind of guide those safeties and help them out. That’s a great asset to have around.”
- Robin Washut
Bootle embracing challenge of heightened CB battle
Another returning member of Nebraska’s secondary who is having to re-earn his place at the table this offseason is cornerback Dicaprio Bootle.
The Miami, Fla., native played in all 12 games and made his first start as a Husker last season as a redshirt freshman, but he too is going head-to-head with an influx of new defensive back talent added to the roster this fall.
While Bootle nothing is assured when it comes to retaining his place as one of NU’s top cornerbacks in 2018, he’s also not afraid of the uptick in competition.
“I’m always ready to go; whenever, wherever, for whatever reason,” Bootle said. “If I’m called to do a job, I’m going to do it. It’s not just in football, that’s in life. So I wouldn’t say necessarily them bringing in some new guys fired me up or made me have to work even harder, because I’m already a hard worker as it is.
“But I definitely think it adds a dynamic of competition every day, and that helps me get better. Instead of just being complacent every day I’m going out there understanding that there’s other people here that can play too, so I’m just trying to go out and show that I can be that guy.”
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound sophomore said the additions of cornerback newcomers like Will Jackson, Cam Taylor, and Braxton Clark - none of which were in Lincoln for the spring - have only picked up the intensity through the first week of fall camp.
Though Bootle isn’t going to shy away from the challenge, he’s also aware that the time is now for him to make his jump.
“It’s been good,” Bootle said of the cornerback battle. “The competition has been high lately between almost every position group. We’ve just been pushing each other… We’ve got no choice but to get better.”
- Robin Washut
***Frost said there are times when Martinez “looks great” and then others “where it looks like it’s too fast for him.” Frost said consistency was a major thing Martinez needed to improve.
***Frost said freshman running back Maurice Washington has been “better than I expected” so far in camp. Frost said Washington arrived on campus weighing less than he did on his official visit, so they’ll need to build up his frame and strength. But even Frost has been pleasantly surprised with how Washington has hit the ground running this fall.
***Frost said they’re still waiting for some young guys to step up at tackle to provide trustworthy depth behind starters Will Farniok and Brenden Jaimes. He said he'd seen signs of that development, but they’ve still got a lot of work to do.
“We’ve got good depth at some places, and not as much depth as I would like at other positions," Frost said. "I’m still kind of waiting on a couple young tackles behind Jaimes and Farniok to step up and earn our trust that we’re going to put them in a game. Some guys, just like quarterback, have shown signs there, but I haven’t seen it consistently enough.”
***Frost said senior running back Devine Ozigbo “looks quicker and faster than I’ve ever seen him.” He said Ozigbo did a great job reshaping his body and improving his speed this offseason and is clearly “a step faster” now.