Scott Frost hopes to expand roster with goal of restoring Nebraska walk-on progam
LINCOLN — Scott Frost strongly reiterated his commitment to the Nebraska football walk-on program Wednesday, including the revelation that he would like to expand the Husker roster to around 150 players — “or maybe a little bit more.”
The build starts with about 20 walk-ons expected to join his first class of scholarship recruits, twice as many as a year ago.
“I think we wanted to introduce more this year, just to get the ball rolling,” Frost said. “We want to make sure we have the right guys in the program, the right walk-ons in the program, as well. And guys we feel like can come in here and get in Zach Duval’s (strength and conditioning) program, and get with our coaches and develop into players, and eventually be on the field and help this football team.
“That’s what’s happened at Nebraska in the past, and I’d like to see it happen again.”
Frost was just minutes into his signing day press conference at Memorial Stadium when he already was talking about the walk-on program. Among the more recent additions of note were Elkhorn South running back Moses Bryant and Kearney defensive back Isaiah Stalbird, although Bryant and Air Force transfer Lane McCallum of Norfolk weren’t on the official list of 17 released Wednesday.
In recent years, a number of players have escaped the state’s borders by choosing scholarship offers from Football Championship Subdivision programs rather than going to Lincoln.
“Listen, I’ve coached at an FCS program a state away (Northern Iowa in 2007 and ’08), and those are good programs and it’s a lot of fun to play football there,” Frost said. “But I want the day to come back when Nebraska kids that grew up here — and come to this stadium and watch the football team — are dying to come here and play. And I want to give them the opportunity to play.”
Frost said that means not only getting them into the NU locker room but utilizing them every day on the practice field.
It was that way during his time as a Nebraska quarterback in the 1990s under former Husker head coach Tom Osborne, both with the walk-ons and scholarship players down the depth chart.
“Everybody practiced,” Frost said. “It wasn’t 22 guys practicing and everybody else on a knee, holding their helmet. It was 88 guys practicing at the same time. And part of that is what led to the development of players, and helped walk-ons and young players get better faster, and get out on the field and help the team.
“I think that’s an asset that Nebraska can have if we’re willing to expand the roster, and that’s something I’m working through with (Athletic Director) Bill Moos.”
Frost acknowledged that most teams don’t carry those kind of numbers.
“I think that Nebraska was about 135 last year, and we’re going to see if we can find a way to get more on the team,” he said.
Shortly after his hiring Dec. 2, Frost set up a #HomeGrown event on campus where about 40 high school players met with staff, were given financial information and toured the facilities. Several joined the Husker class during the early signing period, and Millard West running back Brody Belt and Lincoln Southwest receiver Justin Holm even enrolled last month.
Eight of the 17 listed Wednesday were either first- or second-team World-Herald All-Nebraska selections last season. And among those were players like Yutan defensive lineman Colton Feist, who had 13.5 sacks and 110 tackles during a Class C-2 state championship season.
“I think there’s a lot of guys that we’re getting in this walk-on class that probably could have played at the Division II level or (FCS) level and they chose to be here,” Frost said. “I have no doubt that some of those kids, and probably a number of those kids, will be good enough to earn scholarships here, and we’re going to honor them if they do.
“And that’s going to help us get more walk-ons in the future.”
Amid some of his conversations with Osborne since returning to Lincoln, Frost said his former coach shared that a staff study once showed that about 60 percent of Nebraska kids they brought into the program — either via scholarship or walk-on opportunity — ended up playing, “and the number was way lower for out-of-state kids.”
“So going forward we’re going to give every Nebraska kid that is good enough to play here an opportunity to do it,” Frost said.
Below is a list of the confirmed walk-ons for Nebraska’s 2018 class:
>> Jake Archer, LB, 6-0, 195, Omaha Skutt
>> Anthony Banderas, LB, 6-0, 200, Lincoln Southwest
>> Brody Belt*#, RB, 5-9, 170, Millard West
>> Chris Cassidy*, LB, 6-1, 210, Lincoln Pius X
>> Colton Feist, DL, 6-2, 225, Yutan
>> AJ Forbes, OL, 6-4, 230, Bellevue West
>> Justin Holm*#, WR, 6-4, 175, Lincoln Southwest
>> Joseph Johnson, LB, 6-3, 220, Gretna
>> Bryson Krull, TE, 6-5, 220, North Platte
>> Wyatt Liewer, WR, 6-3, 165, O’Neill
>> Matt Masker, QB, 6-1, 205, Kearney Catholic
>> Cade Mueller, LS, 6-1, 225, Gretna
>> Simon Otte, ATH, 6-2, 180, York
>> Cameron Pieper*, LS, 6-3, 220, Lincoln Southwest
>> Ryan Schommer*, OLB, 6-5, 215, Norfolk
>> Collin Shefke*, OL, 6-5, 275, Lincoln Southwest
>> Isaiah Stalbird, DB, 6-1, 200, Kearney
*—part of early signing classs, #—began classes in January