This browser does not support the video element.
Scott Frost believes a variety of factors have gone into the heavy attrition Nebraska's roster has seen in the last 12 months. But the biggest takeaway for the staff is better examining who they are bringing to Lincoln in the first place.
Two true freshmen from Florida announced they were transferring in the last three days in defensive back Ronald Delancy and receiver Marcus Fleming. Since the 2019 season ended, 18 scholarship Huskers with remaining eligibility have departed for a variety of reasons.
“First of all, we have to make sure that we are recruiting the right kids and not just the right athletes,” Frost said. “We have to make sure that we’re going to recruit the type of kid that’s going to flourish in Nebraska.”
Five Florida natives from the 2020 class have left, with linebacker Keyshawn Greene (Florida Atlantic) and defensive backs Jaiden Francois (UCF) and Henry Gray (Florida International) preceding Delancy and Fleming. Others, like receiver Andre Hunt and running back Maurice Washington, were dismissed from the team. Some, like quarterback Noah Vedral, sought more playing time elsewhere. Many, like receiver Darien Chase, wanted to play closer to home.
Junior cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, from Alabama, said he wouldn’t say he’s “upset” when anyone leaves, but rather focuses on what the remaining Huskers can do moving forward.
“I’m here for Nebraska and I’m staying at Nebraska,” Taylor-Britt said. “That was those guys’ choices to make and I hope they succeed anywhere they go. But we have to move on here. The next man is up and they have to play.”
Frost said the pandemic has exacerbated the situation. Players can’t mix with other students, go out on the town or play in front of a sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium. There’s also “a little more impatience” with today’s generation in wanting to play right away, he said, so the team tries to teach patience and resilience about getting on the field.
Marcus Fleming seemed to have a breakout game against Northwestern, but the freshman wide receiver played sparingly after that and is now no longer with the program.
Wrapping up the 2021 recruiting class
The days after Black Friday typically mark the start of a busy recruiting stretch leading up to the early signing period. Frost and his Nebraska staff would be making in-home visits and traveling the country to secure their class.
Not this year. With an NCAA-mandated recruiting dead period still in place because of the pandemic, and with three scheduled games remaining on Nebraska’s pushed-back season, staffers will be splitting their efforts while staying in Lincoln. The early signing period opens Dec. 16.
Frost said Monday he considers NU’s 2021 class — with 19 commits plus grad transfer linebacker Chris Kolarevic from Northern Iowa — to be a “strong addition, really strong in certain areas that we need help on the football team.”
Frost added the Huskers must “keep piling these recruiting classes up.” His first full class in 2019 was ranked 15th by Rivals and 17th by 247Sports. The 2020 group was ranked 17th and 20th, respectively, though it has already lost five members to transfers.
The 2021 class is ranked 18th by both major recruiting services. Frost said those on board still see the vision for Nebraska despite the 1-4 record this fall.
“When we talk to them, I think they see it … until they read some of the articles that you guys write,” Frost said. “If you watch our team, I love how hard we’re playing, I love the talent we have on the team. We’ve been so close, and our kids are tired of losing close games.”
With multiple Big Ten teams shut down due to COVID-19 — including the team Nebraska is supposed to face Dec. 12 — Scott Frost is worried about whether the Huskers' remaining games will get played.
Purdue air attack has Blackshirts’ attention
For all of Purdue’s struggles of late, it remains a top-20 passing offense with multiple touchdown tosses in every game this season.
Nebraska defenders said Monday they’re up for the challenge.
Senior safety Deontai Williams and senior inside linebacker Will Honas both said the Boilermakers dress up their plays to create deception. Taylor-Britt said playing Purdue will test his technique against receivers with good ball skills who are difficult to track in space.
Purdue has a legitimately deep receiver group, led by 6-foot-2 David Bell (43 catches for 493 yards, seven touchdowns), 5-9 Rondale Moore (22 for 192) and 6-3 Milton Wright (21 for 281).
“They’re just another good set of route receivers that we’ve still got to line up and play on,” Williams said. “So, yeah, they’re going to be a challenge. But I believe in the whole defensive unit, I believe in the whole defensive back unit, to do what we’ve got to do to get the job done. It’s a challenge that we’ll accept. Can’t back down from great route receivers like that. Just gotta go to battle with them all the way through.”
Taylor-Britt wants to atone for mistake
Taylor-Britt has never played Purdue. In the defensive back's three years on campus, this will be the first time he suits up against the Boilermakers. A concussion and sickness prevented him from playing his freshman and sophomore year, respectively.
The Huskers lost both of those games. At Memorial Stadium in 2018, Boilermaker quarterback David Blough tossed for 328 yards, helping Purdue to 42 points, while NU totaled 582 yards of offense but only scored 28 points.
In 2019, Taylor-Britt watched the game with the team the following week and saw the Huskers' mistakes.
"It was just everything, and, you know, they executed more than we did," Taylor-Britt said.
Nebraska went up 10-0 at the end of the first quarter, but the Boilermakers scored 14 unanswered points in the second quarter. Behind a 57% third-down conversion rate and a last-minute score, Purdue won 31-27.
Taylor-Britt will be looking to atone for a big mistake made in the Iowa game, when he muffed a punt that was recovered by the Hawkeyes. Taylor-Britt said windy conditions inside Kinnick Stadium made for wobbly punts off the foot of Iowa punter Tory Taylor. Taylor-Britt could see, as he approached the fourth-quarter punt, that the ball was wobbling. He muffed it, and the Hawkeyes recovered. It was a key moment in the game, and Taylor-Britt said Sunday he knew he had to catch it.
Taylor-Britt agreed with Frost that NU has had issues "here and there" with catching punts in practice.
"It shouldn't be that hard to catch a ball coming out of the air," Taylor-Britt said. He's in his first full year as Nebraska's punt returner.
The errant snaps from Cam Jurgens continue to happen, but Scott Frost is sticking with him at center. "He's got the skill set to be really, really special at that position."
More time to watch film
UNL's academic year culminated the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, a few weeks early because of the pandemic. "We're still limited to hours we can spend with them per day," Frost said. "But if we get a little extra time here and there, (it) might help."
For players, they should have more time to watch film, Taylor-Britt said, in addition to having more time to spend with one another to bond and get better.
"Basically, getting in the film room a lot more," Taylor-Britt said. "You know, just stay at the stadium all day. What else do you have to do? Nothing."
NU coaches still have a limit of 20 hours per week with which they can work with the players, but players can choose to watch film on their own if they want.
» Multiple players on Monday were complimentary of senior captain and linebacker Collin Miller for his leadership role on the sideline Friday against Iowa. Miller is doubtful to return this season after suffering an injury against Illinois.
“He’s always been that guy that can get us up when we’re down, that can always motivate us to do better and that guy to always push us,” Williams said.
» Travis Vokolek didn’t mince words when asked about the season going a direction no one expected: “It sucks. No one came here to lose games, especially to Iowa.”
» Running back Dedrick Mills remains “nicked up,” Frost said. Freshman rusher Sevion Morrison won’t be available this week and Frost added NU is “crossing our fingers for everybody else at this point.”
It may seem like Nebraska doesn't have much left to play for this season, but the Huskers fought so hard to play at all, it doesn't make much sense to them to give up now.