Nebraska football coaches and players meet with media

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LINCOLN, Neb. Head Coach Scott Frost

On the status of sophomore running back Maurice Washington

“Maurice will be a limited participant in practice this spring. I guess I’ll cover that topic first; I’m troubled anytime anybody that’s involved with our team conducts himself in a way that sheds a negative light on our team or university. We take that seriously. Our players and everybody involved in our program needs to understand that they just don’t represent themselves, they represent our team, the University of Nebraska, the athletic department and the whole state. That’s a lot of responsibility, but there’s a lot of benefits that come along with being a player at the University of Nebraska, too. I’m disappointed anytime there’s a negative shown in any piece of our athletic department.

“In regards to Maurice specifically, we hope we gain a lot more clarity on the matter real soon. To my knowledge, that process is moving along. Hopefully, we’ll get more clarity soon. We’re trying to keep him as close to a normal routine as a student as we can in the meantime. I think anytime anybody on our team behaves in a way that isn’t consistent with the values of our team or our university, they run the risk of losing playing time or putting their status on the team in jeopardy, but to me, it’s important to have clear understanding of the situation before that decision is made. And just to be clear, that decision isn’t made by me, it’s made by myself in conjunction with administration and the university. So, that’s where we stand right now. I don’t know a whole lot more about it.”

On what ‘limited participant’ means for Maurice Washington

“He’s going to be a part of what we’re doing out there, just won’t be doing as much as he might be doing. He has a lot of other things to worry about now and we’re going to facilitate that to try to cooperate with the investigation and everything that’s going on. I don’t know if he’ll be at each practice. Again, that depends on some of the details on what’s going on with his investigation, and we’ll cooperate in any way we can.”

On if he wishes that something was done differently regarding Maurice Washington

“No, just to clarify some of that, I knew very little about this in the fall. We didn’t know very much about it. The extent of what we knew about this was that one of the members of our staff was contacted for an interview by the Attorney General of Nebraska. At that time, several of us in the second floor (of Memorial Stadium) had a relationship with the former Attorney General of Nebraska and we contacted him to represent him (Maurice) in that questioning. At that time, I knew it was a matter that took place when he was in high school, and the impression I was given was that it wasn’t something they thought would elevate to a level that required any more action by us. The next I heard about it was in January, so I don’t know what anybody could’ve done any differently in the fall.”

On rumors that people knew more about the Maurice Washington situation in the fall

“That’s completely not true. Anytime that there’s an investigation or our players are questioned in any way, it’s our job to step to let the legal process run its course and cooperate in any way we can. There weren’t any charges in the fall. I knew the little that was told to me in the fall, and that was that he was wanted for questioning. Knew very little beyond that, and I don’t think it’s my place to do investigations. In fact, that’s when a lot of people get themselves in trouble. This will run its course and justice will be served. Again, I don’t think anybody could’ve done anything differently last fall.”

On what has improved in spring practice compared to last year

“Compared to last year, the two things that stood out to me in practice was No. 1 that guys knew where to go. We weren’t teaching everything for the very first time and weren’t teaching guys where to line up and drill, how we wanted them to be dressed, what the names of the plays were, what the signals were. It kind of took off from a point that it looked like the end of fall camp last year, from that standpoint. The second biggest difference is just the strength and conditioning levels of our team. Zach Duval and his staff are the best in the country in my opinion. Our guys have gained an average of 100 pounds in their lower leg strength and the squat, over 50 pounds per man on average; upper body, put on over 10 pounds per man of lean muscle. They’re in better shape, they can run longer, they can practice like we want them to practice more efficiently. That was obvious in day one of spring ball, so hopefully we’re starting at a lot better place than we were last year.”

On the team’s depth

“We’re thin at a bunch of positions, and we will be until freshmen come in. And even when we get them in, we still won’t be as deep as I like in a few positions. I’ve said this all along, there wasn’t a quick fix at every area needed that we could address in one recruiting class or two. It’s a process, but we’re in a lot better place. Running back specifically, with Maurice (Washington) being limited, Jaylin Bradley is on scholarship, Wyatt Mazour was a walk-on that we put on scholarship and the rest of the guys out there are walk-ons. We’re not very deep at that spot in the spring. The guys that we have did a great job in day one, and we’re hopeful that we’ll add to that depth come fall with the incoming guys.”

On the possibility of Miles Jones and Wan’Dale Robinson playing running back

“I think Miles and Wan’Dale will both be primarily receivers. That being said, both took some reps at running back yesterday. Those are the kind of guys that we expect to be able to play multiple positions: slot, hopefully outside receiver and some in the backfield, too. I thought both guys had a really good day one.”

On recently-hired defensive line coach Tony Tuioti

“Tony is a great addition. We were sad to lose Coach Dawson. He was an important part of our team and our family. Tony is as good a guy as we can hire to bring here. We talked to a lot of people, interviewed a lot of people. There were some really talented people we interviewed, but we just felt Tony was the best fit. The two things I was looking for more than anything were a good technician that was going to get his position group playing with technique and playing hard, and No. 2 just a good man that fits in with our staff. We’ve got a lot of high-character guys on our coaching staff/ and I think Tony fits in on that standpoint really well.”

On players’ phones being turned off during meetings

“We’re not going to be in a police state around here where guys can’t have phones, can’t have social media and that kind of thing, unless it’s because of an issue in a meeting. If they’re getting phone calls in meetings, or staying on their phones during meetings, we want them dialed in. I wouldn’t read too much into that, we haven’t had a problem with that. Particularly, a couple guys in meetings and maybe special teams, if the phone goes off, they’re talking to their mom during the meeting, then we’re going to address that.”

On depth in the secondary

“Again, with guys graduating, there’s depth issues in certain spots. That being said, I think the ‘DB’ (defensive backs) group has come a long way from when we first got to Nebraska. We’ve got some guys coming back with a bunch of experience in the secondary. I think we’ve got multiple people in the secondary that can play more than one spot: Cam Jones, Cam Taylor, I think Lamar (Jackson) could play more than one spot, DCap (Dicaprio Bootle) if we need him to. I think we have a lot of flexibility at that spot and our depth in the secondary considering the number of guys we lost. I was really pleased with where the defensive backs picked up and again, we’re adding a bunch of guys come fall at that position that should make the depth even better.”

On what quarterback Adrian Martinez needs to improve over the spring season

“No. 1 thing is Adrian’s got to do is be the leader of the team. He’s going to be whether he wants to or not, just because of the position he plays and how well he played last year. He can’t back into that. He’s got to take it on, accept it and embrace it. He’s naturally going to be one of our leaders, but I want to see it go beyond that. I want to see him be the guy that’s setting the tone for the entire offense and the entire team. His play on the field is going to take care of itself. It’s hard to be a real leader as a true freshman, but it’s time for him to step into that role.”

On how Frost has helped Martinez step into that leadership role

“I didn’t just talk to him, I pulled a group in the other day with some of some of the guys that naturally should fall into leadership role, some guys that we’re going to lean on to be the voices in the locker room to make sure everybody’s adhering to the standards that we expect. DJacks (Damian Jackson) has done a great job at that, I think the (Davis) twins (Carlos and Kalil) have to step up, DCap (Dicaprio Bootle) and Lamar (Jackson), Mo Barry, Matt Farniok, Boe Wilson, Jack Stoll. There’s a bunch of guys – and I’m leaving some out – that need to take that next step. We’re going to work with them to make sure they understand the responsibilities that come along with that. Any team is stronger when the voices in the locker room are the loudest voices and problems get fixed in the locker room. I don’t ever want to run a top-down program that I’m micromanaging and running everything and fixing every little problem. The more problems that can get fixed before they even get to the coaching staff, the better team we’ll have. And that responsibility falls on a lot of those guys.”

On who mentors the student-athletes on becoming leaders

“They get mentored all the time. From me, from the rest of the coaching staff, from guest speakers we have come in. There’s a lot of people we want to have spend time with our entire team, but specifically our (team) leaders. Making it clear to them what the expectations are is important. I think also giving them the ability to do it. A lot of coaches won’t back off and let a player run something or be responsible for something or take ownership for something. I’m going to be quick to give ownership of things and let them blossom and see where they’re going to take it. A lot of people have good ideas. We have a lot of good players and a lot of good people that are going to be in position to be those leaders, and I need to empower them to do it.”

On potentially having underclassmen as team captains

“I don’t care where the leadership comes from. Historically here it’s been seniors that are team captains. We’ll determine team captains down the road somewhere. But there’s guys like Adrian (Martinez) that’s a sophomore that is going to have to be a leader for us. There are guys on defense that are underclassmen that are going to have to be leaders for us. So if we get good leadership, I don’t really care where it comes from.”

On the progression of the linebacker corps

“I think linebacker is another place we’re a little thin right now. We’ve got several guys coming in in the fall that hopefully add to that. Mo Barry has got to be the ringleader for us. I’m expecting good things out of Collin Miller. He had a good first day. Will Honas is going to be limited because of his injury from last year. And then frankly, we’ve got a lot of young guys. It’s going to be great for us if Nick (Henrich) or some of the other young guys step up, but that’s still a place where we don’t have the type of depth that we hope we’ll have down the road. So it’s important for the guys getting reps to really come along from the top of that group to the bottom, and hopefully we’ll land in a good place at the end of spring and an even better place when we get more guys on campus.”

On the status of the outside linebackers

“Outside is kind of the same deal. Having Ace (Alex Davis) back and Ferg (Tyrin Ferguson) is a good start. JoJo (Domann) had a good first day playing more primarily outside backer for us yesterday. We need some more guys to step up at that position as well, and there’s a bunch of guys that are going to get enough reps to show us what they can do. (I’m) really hopeful that we get some guys that kind of surprise us or make a big jump this spring.”

On junior JoJo Domann moving to outside linebacker after playing some at the spot last year

“I think that was the key when he got his chance as he made plays. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. We can put guys in position to make plays but at the end of the day they’ve got to make a play. That was one of the bright spots about watching JoJo. So when he came off the edge and wasn’t blocked, we got sack fumbles and saw him make a bunch of tackles. It showed up again yesterday. When he gets chances to make plays, he makes them. I think he’ll be versatile enough that he can play some safety for us, but right now we need him a little more at outside linebacker.”

On who he has at safety

“A bunch of guys.”

On bringing back players who have been limited due to injury

“There (are) some that are full-go now. There’s some who might be in those sleeveless black hoodies that are part way back but they’re not all the way back. Cam Jones was a bright spot yesterday. I thought he started to show us some of the things that we saw on tape when we were recruiting him. Tate Wildeman is back in a limited capacity and looking really good. Casey Rogers was back yesterday. CJ (Smith) is not going to be back yet. Will Honas is back in a limited capacity. We had a bunch of guys on the wall last year. There’s still a few that are going to be limited in spring, but we’re not missing very many. It’s every coach’s hope that we finish spring the same way.”

On how he views the quarterback position beginning this spring

“I feel a lot better about the quarterback position this spring than I (did) all of last year. Obviously we have an established guy with Adrian (Martinez), Noah Vedral is going to be eligible from day one, Bunchy (Andrew Bunch) has continued to improve, Luke McCaffrey really surprised me yesterday. I think he had as good of a first day as you can have and that’s probably a credit to how hard he worked when he came in to know what he was doing. You’re never going to be perfect when you’re going through your first few practices and we try to tell our guys but I was impressed by him, and Matt Masker did some good things yesterday, too. We have a lot more depth at that positon. I feel a lot more comfortable where we are right now than I did last fall.”

On what Adrian Martinez’s leadership style is like

“Adrian is the type of kid that is always going to do things the right way. You don’t need to worry about his work ethic, his attention to detail. As a leader you need to start bringing people along with you, and I think he started to do that as the year went on last year but we need more of that. We need him to hold people accountable if they’re not doing the right things. He’s got the type of personality that people gravitate toward. So I think that even when he gets on people, people are going to accept it and embrace any sort of coaching he can give. I want him to worry about accomplishing the mission and taking care of his teammates. Usually as a leader if you start out with bringing one person with you, then two, pretty soon you’re going to be leading a bigger group, and I’ve seen that from Adrian but we need to fast track that.”

On Cameron Jurgen’s transition to center and if he is good to go for spring ball

“He’s not 100 percent healthy yet, but he was a participant in practice yesterday. (He) did a great job in the weight room gaining weight. He looks good. I wouldn’t say he’s full speed yet but he’s getting reps. (He) did a great job yesterday. I thought Will Farniok did a great job yesterday, too. We’re going to be young at center, and really young on offense. Center and one of the guards are going to be new players, and I was really impressed with (Trent) Hixson, Farniok and a few others. Cam Jurgens is a guy with a ton of talent, we’re going to take it as slow with him as we need to.”

On how Frost can pass on his personal experience as a Husker quarterback to Adrian Martinez

“As far as stuff on the field, he’s got a great, not just good, a great quarterback coach working with him. Some of the details he gets from Mario (Verduzco), I wouldn’t be able to coach. Some of the off the field stuff, and what it means to be a quarterback at the University of Nebraska, very few people know that and understand it. I understand it. There are some great things that come along with that and some annoying things that come along with that. I’m going to do everything I can to help him navigate that.”

On how important wide receiver development is this year

“It’s important. Losing Stanley Morgan was a big hit for us. Stanley was a great player around here for a long time, it was exciting to see him do what he did at the (NFL) Combine. He’s one of my favorite kids to coach, just from how he came to work and loved football. We’re going to miss Stan, but it’s great to have JD (Spielman) back. He should have been a 1,000 yard receiver for us as well (last fall), so it’s a luxury for a guy like that to come back. We have a ton of talent around JD. I don’t need those guys to be All-Americans over night, but I just want to see them improve. Woody (Jaron Woodyard) and Mike (Williams), Andre Hunt, some of the young guys with (Jamie) Nance and Wan’Dale (Robinson). There’s a lot of guys that I’m not even mentioning that have the opportunity to take the next step forward and be those guys for us. That’s one of the jobs that’s wide open. Excited to watch those guys compete for it and if we get better as a group, then I think we’ll be a lot deeper at that position and hopefully better as a whole.”

On bringing in new players in the spring, and his thoughts on early enrollment

“It’s becoming more of a thing. If kids are like me, about spring semester of my senior year I had senioritis, ready to be done anyway. Maybe that’s because I lived in a town with 1,300 people I don’t know, but if kids want to play early in college, I think it gives them an advantage if they get accustomed to college, if they get on campus and they get the 15 practices of spring. Then you’re not starting from square one come fall. You have some experience under your belt, and I think it gives you a better opportunity to compete for playing time early. There was more this year that I expected to keep going but kids kind of have to have a plan for that by their junior year at least, of high school, so they can begin to take classes that are appropriate so they can graduate at semester.”

On Athletic Director Bill Moos

“I’m as big of a Bill Moos fan as you’ll find. It was important to me, before I took this job, that we had an athletic director that was going to do everything possible to give the football program, and every sports program what they needed to be successful. Bill hasn’t disappointed me. We haven’t asked for anything out of line. When we do ask Bill for something he tries to find a way to get it done. He’s been a great support and a great resource for me. I probably wouldn’t be here, possibly wouldn’t be here, if Bill Moos wasn’t the athletic director.”

On Coach Jovan Dewitt

“First of all, our thoughts and prayers are with Javon. One of my first messages to my football teams every spring and fall is, boys this is important, but football isn’t life. There are more important things in life than football, football is just what we love to do. Any time a situation like this comes up it kind of reinforces that. There are bigger things out there. He’s certainly fighting a fight that’s bigger than any game we’re going to play this fall. In the short term, Coach (Erik) Chinander doesn’t have a position as a defensive coordinator. In our time together at Oregon, he was the outside linebackers coach so whatever he can’t do, between Coach Chinander, Jack Cooper, and others on our staff we’ll be able to pick up the pieces. The biggest thing is we’re pulling for him (Dewitt) and are there for him and hoping he makes it through this.”