CHICAGO — Scott Frost declined to address the specific health of redshirt freshman Cameron Jurgens. But in general, a full-go season from the converted offensive lineman would go a long way for the Huskers.
Jurgens, who has endured multiple lower-body injuries during his football career at Beatrice and Nebraska, came to NU as a tight end before moving to center last season. That position will be one of the main battles of fall camp.
“When he was healthy, I saw some really special things from him,” Frost said. “I think he has a chance to be an elite player if he stays healthy and stays on the course that he’s on. It’s important for us as a team to have him, particularly with our need on the interior of the line.”
Other candidates Frost mentioned for center include Hunter Miller, Will Farniok, Trent Hixson and Iowa Western transfer Josh Wegener. Left guard options include Broc Bando and John Raridon, the coach said
Transfers going strong
Two summer transfers and potential impact players earned praise from Frost early in his hourlong media session Thursday.
Both tight end Travis Vokolek and wide receiver Kanawai Noa became Huskers through unusual circumstances, the Nebraska coach said.
Vokolek, a Rutgers transfer who caught 17 passes for 198 yards in two seasons, is the son of Northern Iowa assistant coach D.J. Vokolek, who knows Frost well. Frost said NU is undecided on whether it will pursue an immediate-eligibility waiver for the 6-foot-6, 250-pound junior, who initially reached out to the Huskers.
“This was a unique situation because we’re familiar with him and the family,” Frost said. “I think he’s got a ton of talent, and I look forward to watching him. All you have to do is watch him walk down the hall to realize he’s got some special things about him. So we’re excited to have him in the program.”
Nebraska already has five scholarship underclassman tight ends on the roster, though none broke out in the passing game last season.
With Noa, Frost said NU was not actively pursuing a receiver. But the Cal graduate transfer has the character and attitude that fits with the culture. He also has a track record of production despite various injuries, making 96 catches for 1,267 yards and six touchdowns in 35 career games (16 starts).
“The quarterbacks are telling me he already knows three receiver spots and is very reliable, understands how to run routes and get open,” Frost said. “He’s a good addition to that room.”
Huskers ignoring hype
There are too many good programs, Frost said at media days Thursday, including many the Huskers have yet to beat under his watch.
“I don’t care who people are picking. I don’t,” Frost said. “I know we’re better, we’re better than we were a year ago. But we still have to go out and earn anything. Picks are picks; guesses are guesses. Ninety percent of the time you guys are wrong when you guess things.”
Test results ‘a big deal’
Frost wants to publicize players’ testing results again. And he thinks the team may be getting closer to testing well enough to do it.
Midway through his Thursday media session, Frost recalled the days when former strength and conditioning coach Boyd Epley would test athletes in the spring, then announce the top performers to the media, which would publish or broadcast the results.
“I still want to get back to a day that, when we test at Nebraska, it’s a big deal,” Frost said. “I remember that. It was in your guys’ papers every year, twice a year when we tested in our 40, our agility run, our squat, our clean, our vertical jump. It was competitive, it was impressive, it was a big deal.”
Frost said strength coach Zach Duval didn’t think Nebraska’s roster was in a position to test well when he arrived. The team is “really close to that now.”
“Some of the numbers I’m seeing now are night-and-day different from when I arrived,” Frost said. “It’s going to make a big difference.”
Marijuana ‘a problem’
Frost said marijuana use on any athletic team is “a problem” that he’s recently addressed with his own team in the wake of several players being cited for possession of either marijuana or drug paraphernalia.
“It’s going to continue to be a problem not just with us but college athletes everywhere, particularly with it being legalized other places,” Frost said. “Our team understands I don’t care where it’s legal and where it isn’t. It’s illegal according to the NCAA. I don’t think it’s beneficial for guys who are trying to accomplish what our guys are trying to accomplish. We’re certainly not unique in that we’ve had a few problems with that, but we’re doing everything we can in trying to help kids not do it. We’ll keep fighting that battle.”
Daniels 'a problem' for opponents
Live on the BTN broadcast Thursday, Khalil Davis called Oklahoma State transfer Darrion Daniels a problem.
He doubled down during his podium time.
“A huge problem,” Davis said.
Daniels, a 330-pound graduate transfer, will likely start at nose tackle for Nebraska. And already he’s become someone the defensive line doesn’t want to let down.
“Darrion, he didn’t come in trying to step on anybody’s boundaries or be a leader. He’s just naturally a leader,” Davis said. “Through workouts and spring ball he just kind of put his two cents in on what we needed to do better on and everybody just took light to that.”
Besides being one of the bigger players, Davis said, Daniels is exceptionally fast.
» Incoming freshman Ethan Piper is moving from defense to offense, Frost said. The Norfolk Catholic graduate listed at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds will be an “inside guy” to start out. He was originally slated to play defensive line.
“That may or may not be permanent depending on how it goes,” Frost said. “But he’s going to be a guard/center/guard for us.”
» Frost reiterated his interest in scheduling more former Big Eight rivals in nonconference games, because Husker fans can drive to opposing stadiums, and those opponents’ fans can drive to Nebraska.
» Frost likes the Big Ten West and East Divisions the way they are and doesn’t expect it’ll be very long before “people are talking about the West just as much as they’re talking about the East.”
» The transfer portal is fair to student-athletes, Frost said, because “this is America, land of the free and home of the brave, and people ought to be able to take advantage of whatever opportunity they want to,” but he’s concerned that immediate eligibility waivers could become like free agency.
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Adrian Martinez is, in short, one of the most talented quarterbacks to roll through Nebraska in many years. And Scott Frost knows it. Click here to read more.
The heart and soul of Nebraska’s defense, Mohamed Barry is perhaps the Huskers' best leader. The run-stuffing linebacker has lacked an elite defensive line in front of him ... until now. Click here to read more.
One of the most valuable transfers in recent Husker history, Darrion Daniels came to campus ready to work and lead. And, by all accounts, he’s done that, immediately becoming one of the top voices for the Husker defense. Click here to read more.
Few players turn and run the way JD Spielman does, and he’s a good returner, too. His health is paramount, and, like a well-tuned sports car, Spielman can’t get too banged up. Click here to read more.
Lamar Jackson has the frame, the length, the speed and the talent to be one of the Big Ten’s best cornerbacks. One of the nation’s best corners, for that matter. Click here to read more.
Nebraska's Deontai Williams has little fear in run support and he can cover ground quickly in the pass game, as evidenced by two interceptions last season. Click here to read more.
Nebraska running back Maurice Washington’s sheer gifts are offset by off-the-field issues that hindered his progress since high school and could mean he misses some playing time in 2019. When he’s out there, it’s clear: He can play the game at a high level. Click here to read more.
While he didn’t win every one-on-one battle, Dicaprio Bootle's league-leading pass breakup total indicates he’s one of the better field corners in the Big Ten West, and perhaps the league. Click here to read more.
Brenden Jaimes’ most important job is to protect the backside of quarterback Adrian Martinez, and other than a few hiccups, he has done that well. As a junior, he’s likely to be one of the better tackles in the Big Ten. Click here to read more.
Khalil Davis is poised for a breakout senior season. He helps anchor an experienced defensive line that should be — and needs to be — among the Big Ten’s best in 2019. Click here to read more.
Carlos Davis, who has 25 career starts, has long been one of the more respected Blackshirts among teammates, but now he has the experience to reinforce his reputation. Click here to read more.
Dedrick Mills could have a Devine Ozigbo-like impact on Nebraska’s running game with his physical, up-the-middle style. Talent and opportunity appear to be lining up for the rounded back. Click here to read more.
Nebraska's Matt Farniok, the new vocal leader of the offensive line, earned the right to be the one holding others accountable after starting all 12 games at right tackle last season. Click here to read more.
Exactly where JoJo Domann will line up on the field isn’t always obvious. That’s just fine for Nebraska as long as he’s out there. NU’s most versatile defender has his own position name — Cinco. Click here to read more.
The hype is high for Wan'Dale Robinson. And the talent is real. Expect to see him take off right away. Click here to read more.
If the tight end position gets going again at Nebraska, Jack Stoll figures to be a big reason why. While others at his position may have more physical upside or long-term potential, no one offers the same reliability and intangibles. Click here to read more.
Cam Taylor has contributed on all four special teams units and can play safety or nickelback if necessary, as well. The ingredients are there for him to quickly become one of NU’s youngest defensive leaders, if he isn’t already. Click here to read more.
After beginning last season as a backup, Boe Wilson started the last nine games at right guard en route to honorable mention All-Big Ten status. Click here to read more.
Nebraska has had success in the graduate-transfer market under Scott Frost. That trend may continue with Kanawai Noa. Click here to read more.
Perhaps the final piece for Ben Stille is on-field disruption. With a full offseason of strength training, he could be the biggest in-house improvement on the team as a pass rusher and edge setter. Click here to read more.
Here comes Nebraska’s long-term answer at nose tackle. A season to learn under older brother and grad transfer Darrion Daniels won’t hurt for Damion Daniels, and neither will another offseason to build his strength and conditioning. Click here to learn more.
Nebraska's Mike Williams already has the speed, the hands and the understanding of the offense. If he can also be a consistent blocker, his playing time could spike as much as anyone on the team. Click here to read more.
Collin Miller made 17 tackles in 12 games as a reserve. Now, Miller's job is more clearly defined, and whether through ability or attrition, he will get a chance to prove his versatility and the fruits of his hard work. Click here to read more.
For all of Nebraska’s uncertainty at outside linebacker, Tyrin Ferguson represents perhaps the most reliable option when 100 percent. For the senior, though, being at 100 percent isn't always a given. Click here to read more.
Trent Hixson, from Omaha Skutt, got a taste of major college football while appearing in four games last year. Since then, O-line coach Greg Austin describes him as playing with “his hair on fire.” Click here to read more.
In a sense, Dismuke is the last man standing. Now the junior with 44 career tackles in 20 games (one start) is perhaps a favorite to start at safety. Click here to read more.
Nebraska's Kade Warner knows the offense, he blocks consistently, and he doesn’t drop passes. The 20-year-old wideout caught 17 balls for 95 yards in nine games last year. Click here to read more.
Noah Vedral, who followed Scott Frost from UCF, is as versed in the offense as any current Husker. If nothing else, he’s a valuable insurance policy for starter Adrian Martinez. Click here to read more.
Alex Davis played all 12 games last year with four starts. Until now, it’s been more about thinking than reacting for the 23-year-old whom teammates call “Ace.” Click here to read more.
Another offseason of strength training and familiarity with Nebraska's scheme gives Caleb Tannor the potential to become one of the team’s most valuable defenders. Click here to read more.
As a redshirt freshman, Austin Allen caught two passes for 54 total yards. The Aurora product will be in a battle with Kurt Rafdal for the second-string tight end spot behind Jack Stoll. Click here to read more.
Inside linebacker Will Honas only appeared in four games last season and racked up 15 tackles, including one for loss. This season he'll have beat out three others for that starting position. Click here to read more.
Miles Jones will line up all over the field. Nebraska’s thin at running back, so there’s a good chance he’ll get a decent load of carries. Click here to read more.
With how often Nebraska will rotate defensive linemen, sophomore Deontre Thomas will see the field as long as he’s healthy. And he may finally be able to contribute to a pass rush with his size and speed off the ball. Click here to read more.
There’s plenty of opportunity for Jaron Woodyard to make an imprint in his senior year. The junior college transfer still presents an opportunity to take the top off a defense, but only if he can find his way onto the field. Click here to read more.
Should he prove he can block and become a consistent option for Adrian Martinez, Andre Hunt could easily become Nebraska's third starting wide receiver. Click here to read more.
Noa Pola-Gates may need to pack on some weight this summer and fall to have a chance at playing right away, but the ceiling for the No. 2 player from the state of Arizona is high. Click here to read more.
The comparison to Dave Rimington by Scott Frost isn’t rubbing away anytime soon for Cameron Jurgens. He has a chance to start in on that legacy this year as the odds-on favorite to be Nebraska’s starting center. Click here to read more.
Kurt Rafdal averaged 16.8 yards per catch, fantastic for a tight end, particularly for a freshman. He gives Adrian Martinez a red-zone option should the NU receiving corps take a while to come along this season. Click here to read more.
Nebraska has struggled to keep linemen healthy the past few years, and if one goes down, Christian Gaylord could take over on either side if needed. Click here to read more.
Though young, Braxton Clark is a tall corner who will fit behind Lamar Jackson and Dicaprio Bootle. Click here to read more.
Matt Sichterman is a former three-star recruit from Cincinnati. He has put on weight and could move inside to a guard spot if necessary. Click here to read more.
You could argue the position group with the most question marks is running back, making Rahmir Johnson’s presence even more important. He ran for more than 2,300 yards as a senior in high school. Click here to read more.
Barret Pickering was money at the end of last season. As a true freshman, he nailed his final 10 field-goal attempts, including three in the snow against Michigan State for a 9-6 upset win. Click here to read more.
Nebraska's Joseph Johnson wears weight on his frame well after a redshirt season, and now he’s needed at inside linebacker, which has a firm alpha in Mohamed Barry and a lot of questions otherwise. Click here to read more.
Watching the tape of Quinton Newsome at safety is like watching a natural at the position. His ceiling as a safety is as high as that of Deontai Williams — who’s bound for a special 2019 himself. Click here to read more.
Isaac Armstrong averaged 43.6 yards per punt — ninth-highest in Husker history — and pinned the opponent inside its own 20 nine times. He can be a weapon for the Huskers this fall. Click here to read more.
The younger brother of starting right tackle Matt Farniok, Will is shorter but possesses many of the same qualities as Matt. Tough, athletic, plays to the whistle. Click here to read more.
In the right situations, Katerian LeGrone can be the kind of big-play guy Cethan Carter used to be for the Huskers. Click here to read more.
Honorable mention: QB Andrew Bunch, RB Wyatt Mazour, P William Pryzstup, DB Jeramiah Stovall, LS Chase Urbach, ILB Jackson Hannah, WR Jamie Nance, WR Darien Chase, QB Luke McCaffrey, DE Chris Walker. Click here for more on the Huskers that received honorable mention.