Shatel: Like Jack Stoll’s mullet, Scott Frost and Huskers all business up front

Nebraska's Jack Stoll said he plans to let his mullet grow until the Huskers lose a game. Hopefully, he said, not until January.

LINCOLN — Nebraska’s football season got off to a scary start Thursday.

Folks streaming Scott Frost’s pre-Fan Day press conference online were greeted by a wide camera shot of the Nebraska media corps.

You have our deepest apologies. Parents, please be careful of the kids watching at home.

Thankfully, the buffet was closed and the scene was uneventful, which could also be said for the first day of the second season of the Frost Era.

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The highlights were the Media Cam, Jack Stoll’s glorious mullet and the fact that Frost didn’t put his team on his initial Top 25 coaches ballot.

There wasn’t any drama, or grandiose plans or statements flying about — as can be the case when summer morphs into Nebraska’s favorite season.

These are all good things.

Frost reiterated what we already knew or suspected. The players have taken more ownership. They enter this camp knowing where to go and how fast to get there. The coach wants to improve the team’s toughness.

The vibe was not overly sunny or giddy, as it was last year. It was extremely businesslike. They have moved on from the honeymoon period. The alarm clock has sounded, coffee is on the stove and it’s time to go to work.

This monotone feel was actually refreshing. Nobody was trying too hard. Like the defenders saying this new Mark Banker defense was so much easier to run than Bo Pelini’s —that was before the 6-7 season. There were no “watch out, here we come” comments flying about.

The attitude was strictly retro, like an echo from the old Big Red lounge in South Stadium. Those were the days when Tom Osborne used to kill time by reading through his depth chart then saying, “Anything else?” When a sign of optimism was Osborne acknowledging, “I think we have a chance to be pretty good.”

Frost was given the chance to blow a trumpet, when he was asked about the lofty predictions for Nebraska by the national media. But he set the perfect tone for a team coming off a 4-8 season that expects to be better but isn’t sure how much.

“Coming back to Nebraska, I expect to coach here for a long time with a lot of expectations,” Frost said. “We had to get it to that point first. We’re just kind of nearing that mile marker.

“We haven’t done anything yet, so I kind of feel like some of the expectations are a little premature. But I’m also happy for our guys that they’ve done what it takes to get them to that point.”

That shot of realism shouldn’t dampen the excitement and anticipation you could feel from a fan base waiting to get inside for Fan Day activities — a fan base that has waited a lot longer to recognize a winning program it used to know.

The buzz around this program wrapped itself around Memorial Stadium on Thursday. But inside, it was interesting to hear the players shrug at the expectations. There’s a lot to prove. And still so many questions.

Frost touched on a couple of important ones.

  • The status of Maurice Washington, the sophomore running back who was so terrific last season. He’s up in the air, stuck in California court traffic, as it were. Why can’t this case move along quicker? If there’s a plea deal to be had, what’s the holdup?

From afar, it seems Cali officials might be making an example of the high-profile college football player, dragging out the next appearance until after the season opener.

While Washington will practice, it’s hard to know when or if he’ll be on the field in 2019. That means Frost will have to hold auditions for a starting running back and possibly a committee.

  • The status of Cameron Jurgens. The coaches are so high on the Beatrice lineman, who was moved to center in the spring. But he has taken a summer injury into fall camp now and is not ready to go yet. Fellow redshirt freshman Will Farniok will take over as camp begins. And while it appears Jurgens will be available sometime during fall camp, it delays the development of the bedrock position on an offensive line that is expected to take big leaps this year.

This is what passes for drama as Husker camp opens. As for interesting, we turned to the thick mane falling on the back of Stoll, the tight end from Denver.

With the cameras rolling, media types sat up straight and tucked in their tummies as Stoll talked about team unity and how it was a big deal this summer that no Huskers “tapped out” during those afternoon workouts in the 100-degree heat.

That was a bigger deal last year. Now, that’s expected. What the media wanted to do was get to the really big story: What’s up with that mullet, and who is Stoll’s mullet hero?

“Billy Ray Cyrus has a pretty good mullet,” Stoll said, wrapping up this mundane yet quirky start to the season.

Pressed for details, Stoll said he plans to let the mullet grow until the Huskers lose a game. Hopefully, he said, not until January.

On the first day back to work, that qualifies as the headline.

Sports columnist

Tom is The World-Herald's lead sports columnist. Since he started in Omaha in 1991, he's covered just about anything you can imagine. Follow him on Twitter @TomShatelOWH. Phone: 402-444-1025.

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