LINCOLN — For three weeks, Scott Frost has been busy planning how he’d reassemble his Nebraska coaching staff after firing four offensive assistants.
Frost should make many moves soon, but Nebraska sources indicate he may not execute the first until at least the middle of the week in an effort to get the hires “right.”
With a must-produce season looming in 2022, fit trumps pure speed in making the selections. Frost has said previously he likes the response he’s received for the four openings, but names on a page have to be the correct faces around a table.
The questions Frost is navigating as he enters his fifth year at NU:
» How to handle special teams.
NU can stand pat with Mike Dawson as coordinator, hire a new coach to manage both special teams and an offensive position, or hire a stand-alone special teams coordinator as one of the 10 full-time assistants.
That could include an internal candidates — like Bill Busch, a defensive analyst this season who offered thoughts on special teams — or external candidates like Virginia’s Ricky Brumfield or USC’s Sean Snyder.
Brumfield is in the mix, according to a source, and Snyder was prepared to take an analyst role with Nebraska in early 2020 until USC came through with a full-time job. The Trojans have a new head coach, Lincoln Riley, who is familiar with Snyder’s work.
» What to do with obvious Husker connections who also have good jobs.
A source said NU sought permission to speak with LSU receivers coach Mickey Joseph, the former Nebraska quarterback who has spent the last five seasons with the Tigers. While LSU is headed to a bowl game, Joseph is effectively a coaching free agent as the Tigers search for their new head coach. His connection — not necessarily interest, but connection — to a potential Nebraska job made news Monday morning.
The same happened nearly two years ago when Frost hired Matt Lubick to become offensive coordinator and receivers coach and NU’s camp vehemently denied any interest in Joseph.
Joseph made $500,000 last year to coach receivers, and Joseph’s recruiting resume is so strong, it’s not likely he comes to NU at a discounted salary. The Huskers may have to pay the premium price and wait out other coaching offers, unless NU is willing to make Joseph the offensive coordinator.
Nebraska faced a similar situation in 2011. Then-NU coach Bo Pelini in theory had a chance to hire Frost, then the receivers coach at Oregon, for a retooled offensive staff after parting ways with OC Shawn Watson and receivers coach Ted Gilmore. Pelini instead promoted Tim Beck to OC and hired Rich Fisher to coach receivers. Frost stayed at Oregon, became the play-caller in 2013 and eventually started a head coaching career.
» Whether to consider in-house candidates.
Busch would be one. Could Ron Brown, at running backs, be another? Brown coached running backs 2011-14, developing two of NU’s best, Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah, while incorporating innovative drills. In coaching clinics he conducted before arriving at Nebraska, Frost would cite Brown’s expertise in teaching receivers and tight ends how to block.
» Finding the right balance between fit, fame and functionality for offensive coordinator.
The fame thing — Bob Diaco in 2017 — notably backfired at Nebraska. In the last five offensive coordinator hires — Watson in 2008, Beck in 2011, Danny Langsdorf in 2015, Troy Walters in 2018 and Matt Lubick in 2020 — NU head coaches have prioritized fit and functionality to a high degree. Of that quintet, only Beck was a true hit. Watson wore his welcome with fans and reporters by 2009, Langsdorf’s passing scheme begged for interceptions, Walters grew tired of the fishbowl, and Lubick — excellent with organization — perhaps would have more readily embraced a more analytical role.
Hiring a big name at OC allows Frost to become more of the CEO head coach preferred by Athletic Director Trev Alberts. But Frost also prefers a coach who would operate in a player-supportive template that he learned from mentors Mike Tomlin and Tony Dungy, among others.
Frost’s offensive playbook is so wide and varied that it could marry to almost any coordinator’s preferred philosophy, but Frost tends back toward an option-style wrinkle that manifested itself in a variety of ways since 2018 — read option, two-man speed option, receiver triple option, even military academy wingbone option.
Rumors are likely to fly on whom Frost seeks and when, but there’s a prevailing sense that Frost has to get the hires right from an internal perspective. It won’t matter much how the hires play with media and fans if Nebraska doesn’t win.