LINCOLN — This was a signing day free of tension. At times Wednesday, the same appeared true of Scott Frost.
The coach turned a question about a player’s weight back on one reporter, jokingly asking him how much he weighed. He deadpanned about spending a nice Christmas with family during bowl season, but he doesn’t “ever want it to happen again.” He commented on the photographers trying to capture all of his facial expressions.
“How come every time I smile you guys start taking pictures?” Frost asked, drawing chuckles on the sixth floor of Memorial Stadium.
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It was all a far cry from the uncertainty of last year, when nine players considering Nebraska went to the wire with their college choices. NU added one new commit Wednesday — its first since the early signing period seven weeks ago — when Oklahoma City Millwood receiver Demariyon Houston tweeted “IT’S BIG RED BABY” at 10 a.m.
The 27-man scholarship class doesn’t include longtime junior college commit Desmond Bland — academics factored into his expected absence — or running back John Bivens, who officially visited last month but remains unsigned. Other official visitors like Georgia cornerbacks Jamel Starks (Louisville) and Tavian Mayo (West Virginia) signed elsewhere as anticipated. Linebacker Eugene Asante inked with North Carolina after listing NU among his finalists.
Frost said Houston, a composite three-star prospect, has “legitimate speed” at a position where Nebraska needs more depth.
“That was one of our priorities, to get some guys we can start bringing along and developing,” Frost said. “We felt we could use one more and we were glad he was available.”
But the coach reiterated during his 26-minute press conference that most of the work was done weeks ago. Nebraska missed on a few late targets — most notably outside linebackers Dylan Jordan and Steven Parker — yet will still finish with a group ranked around the top 20 nationally.
Now, Frost said, the Huskers are maybe a half-cycle behind in recruiting, instead of two years like they were when he arrived. Not only have they locked down a class heavy on talent and numbers, but they also resisted the urge to “reach” on additional prospects they hadn’t fully vetted. NU didn’t issue any new offers to 2019 players after December and brought in seven official visitors in January, though only one eventually signed.
“We’re getting a heck of a lot closer,” Frost said. “But going into this recruiting (class), I wanted to take the best players I could, and try to help our team as much as we could, knowing that we weren’t going to be able to fill all the holes and get all the pieces that we want in one year.”
Some of those gaps could be addressed by a class of 23 walk-ons, including 20 from Nebraska. Frost said he looks for walk-ons who are good people with athletic potential. The more the better. Frost estimates that the roster size will settle around a number in the low 150s.
“I expect great things out of these walk-ons, kids that we’re bringing in,” Frost said. “We brought a bunch in in the last two classes. I think it will be very soon when some of those guys start helping us, and down the road a little further I think a lot of those guys are going to contribute, play and hopefully start for us.”
As Frost smiled and cameras clicked, optimism trickled into other topics, as well. The return to health of multiple redshirt freshmen who sat out last year like Cam Jurgens and Tate Wildeman. The strength and conditioning progress that has NU “starting from a good spot” instead of square one. The vibe among players, who are around each other and the coaches more often.
“The attitudes I see and the camaraderie that I see isn’t even on the same level,” Frost said. “Not even close to where it was a year ago.”