I’m 39 years old. I lived half my life in western Nebraska and the other half on the eastern side. I’ve been watching Nebraska football since I was born and my family has had season tickets forever. I’ve got two degrees from the state. And my dog’s name is Red. So with that biography in mind, you can safely assume I’m fairly passionate about Husker football. I’m also comfortable admitting that in 39 years of watching Nebraska football, 2017 goes down as the overall worst season I’ve ever witnessed. 2017 was the worst season I’ve seen since 1978 not because of the win loss record, but because of the attitude I saw on the field. It was the first time I’ve ever been embarrassed by the team’s lack of physicality and absence of toughness which had for so long defined Nebraska football. The Huskers were simply weak. They were soft. And that had never been the case before. Teams under Osborne, Solich, Pelini and even Callahan all played the game violently. Even if the Huskers lost a game you knew their opponent’s players hurt more than they did the next day. That wasn’t the case in 2017. The team lost most of their games and it seemed like half the starters sustained injuries every game.
Enter Scott Frost. If there is a NCAA coach that exudes greater toughness than him please indulge me. The guy played quarterback with a linebacker’s mentality. And he coaches the same way. The Huskers are not going to win the conference in 2018. They likely won’t even win their division. But there should be zero doubt in anyone’s mind that the product Frost puts on the field will resemble the Huskers of the past. The type of team that resembles the Nebraska people. Blue collar hard workers that take pride in their craft. And one thing is certain – the Huskers will play with a sense of violence again. They may lose more games than they win in 2018, but you can be sure that their opponents will hurt on Sunday. What has me most excited entering the Scott Frost era is not the conference championships Nebraska will inevitably win nor the return of multiple first round NFL draft picks which too will happen. What gets my blood pumping is knowing that as long as Frosty is head coach, his players will be tough and physical. They won’t be beaten down in the trenches. Safeties will stuff running backs that get through the line. Defensive backs will knock helmets off of receivers. And pancakes will reach double digits every game. And when those things happen, even if a game results in a loss, us fans can stand proud. Nebraska football will soon resemble Nebraska again. Here are the top five players I am most anxious to see in 2018 purely from a physicality perspective. These are Huskers that you KNOW will play with a sense of violence.
- Mohamed Barry – Standing 6-1 and weighing 235, he embraces contact and his motor never stops. He is built from granite and I anticipate he averages 8 tackles a game this year and plenty of big hits.
- Marquel Dismuke – This name will shock most of you until you watch his highlights from last year. He won’t be a defensive starter this year but he will lead the team in special team tackles and big hits. He is only 195 pounds but he might have been the most violent tackler on the team last year. Even Scott Frost said as much a couple months ago. The former four star safety simply loves to hit.
- Antonio Reed – Came to Nebraska with a violent attitude which quickly got the attention of teammates in practice. He is usually part of any fight that takes place in practice. The guy since his freshman year has always played the game with ill intentions. Should he win a starting spot this year, and I think he will, he will lead the team in knockout hits and maybe personal fouls. The guy just plays nasty.
- Tyrin Ferguson – Perhaps the most physically impressive looking linebacker. He should be a starter this year. He is 230 pounds of pure muscle and comes from a tough background and a very tough high school – Edna Karr in New Orleans. Tyrin is a fighter. He’s probably the last guy you want to spill a drink on in a bar.
- Luke Gifford – Born and raised Nebraska tough. Country strength as they say. Plays with broken bones and hostile intentions. He is always around the ball and a running back will think twice about trying to run through Luke. It won’t happen. Gif will likely not start on defense this year but I expect him to get plenty of reps at linebacker and start on special teams.
There you have it. Nebraska is coming back. The wins will come. But as far as the return of huge hits and playing with bad intentions, that team is here to stay now with Scott Frost and Zach Duval running things.