LINCOLN — Scott Frost expects his defenses to be on the field a lot. That’s what happens when those units are paired with up-tempo, big-play offenses.
Still, the Nebraska coach said Thursday, the snap totals for the Blackshirts through three games are higher than he wants them to be.
NU has seen 238 total defensive plays, fifth most among all 130 FBS schools. Frost said part of that has been positive, thanks to quick strikes on offense. Part has been negative, with too many three-and-outs from that unit.
“Every team I’ve ever coached, the defense has to stop a lot of plays and has to be on the field quite a bit because of the nature of our offense,” Frost said. “But I think it’s been higher than we want.”
The Huskers are seeing an average of 79.3 defensive plays per game through a quarter of the season. Their average last year was 74.6, while Frost’s UCF teams in 2016 and 2017 were at 77.5 and 74.5, respectively.
Huskers in rarefied air
Only five schools in the history of college football have 900 wins or more. Nebraska can join the group with a victory Saturday.
Frost said the Huskers fit right in with the likes of Michigan (955 wins), Ohio State (914), Texas (910), Alabama (908) and Yale (907). All had dips in their history and found ways to rise again.
“Nebraska belongs in conversation with those type of schools,” Frost said. “We’re doing everything we can to get ourselves to that level again.”
NU is tied with Notre Dame and Oklahoma at 899 victories. The Sooners are off this week, while the Fighting Irish travel to Georgia.
Growth in the run game
Game by game, Nebraska’s rushing yardage totals have improved dramatically and, although it sounds like coach speak, Frost believes in incremental progress.
The Huskers ran for just 98 yards in the season opener against South Alabama. The total was 179 at Colorado. Against Northern Illinois — perhaps the stingiest of the three defenses — Nebraska racked up 238 yards.
“There’s no doubt all last year we were improving, and I don’t think there’s any doubt we’ve improved every week this year,” Frost said. “If we stay on that path, good things are going to happen. Not every time, not all the time, but as long as we keep improving, run game, pass game, anything, we’re going to be happy with where we are.”
Nebraska has primarily played two running backs — Maurice Washington and Dedrick Mills — thus far. A third option, true freshman Rahmir Johnson, may be emerging, as well, but Frost wants to see the speedster cut down on his mistakes before he commits to playing Johnson beyond the four-game threshold.
“He’s getting more and more familiar with the offense,” Frost said.
Learning from backups
While sophomore Adrian Martinez is the hands-down starter as Nebraska’s quarterback, he can still learn from his backups, Frost said. Martinez’s backup, Noah Vedral, is particularly sharp in operating NU’s offense.
“The tempo is great with Noah in there, the decisions are crisp,” Frost said. “A lot of that has to do with his time in the offense. This is his third year running this and he’s as familiar with it as anybody. All of those guys should be learning from each other, and they’re good friends, so I know there’s a healthy competition and friendship.”
Vedral is faster and stronger and has a better arm than he did when he started his college career.
Frost said Nebraska plans on getting true freshman Luke McCaffrey some playing time this year even as McCaffrey heads for a redshirt season.
» Junior college transfer defensive lineman Jahkeem Green “is getting really close to being ready” to play, Frost said. His redshirt status will likely depend on any injuries on the defensive line. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Green arrived midway through camp after waiting for his grades to clear.
“He’s got a ton of talent, so we’re excited about him,” Frost said. “I think if we can just play him in four (games) and have two years left with him, I think that’s the direction we’d like to go. But you never know how the season’s going to unfold.”
» Illinois is an “improved team,” Frost said. Defensively, he’s seen the Illini plug holes that NU was able to exploit in last year’s 54-35 win in Lincoln. He complimented the defensive front as better and the secondary as faster.
» Sticking to his policy regarding injuries, Frost wouldn’t comment further on the status of left tackle Brenden Jaimes and defensive back Cam Taylor-Britt. Both were hurt against Northern Illinois but practiced to varying degrees this week.
» Frost and his father, Larry, will both be inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame this weekend. Both are former Husker players who set records as high schoolers. Scott Frost’s mother, the former Carol Moseke, is already an honoree.
Frost said he not only received good athletic genes from his parents, but also learned the value of work ethic and perseverance.
“It’s an honor for me to go in, but it’s even more special to go in with Dad,” Frost said.
Sign up for Big Red Today news alerts
Get a daily Husker news roundup, recruiting updates and breaking news in your inbox.