Another step towards normalcy starts Thursday morning as Big Ten Media Days get underway at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Here are a few things to watch for with Nebraska coach Scott Frost and players Ben Stille, Deontai Williams, and Austin Allen set to take the microphone Thursday.
The national interest meter in the Huskers
Judging from Wednesday’s Cleveland.com media poll, not high. The Huskers were picked fifth in the West Division ahead of only Purdue and Illinois. There is likely to be interest in the temperature of Frost’s seat, especially with a new athletic director in the chair, but reality is reality: NU is largely an afterthought on the national scene unless it’s locking horns with the Big Ten on whether or not it should get to play football.
The local interest meter in the Huskers
It’s always high. NU will have one of, if not the, largest media contingents in Indianapolis. There’s plenty to talk about on a micro level, with Frost having a new boss, and NU needing a good year against a difficult schedule, among any number of other topics. These will be Frost’s first public comments since Trev Alberts was hired as AD, and some of his last before fall camp gets going at the end of next week.
Five Husker storylines for Indy
Alberts will be there: He is expected to be in Indianapolis, where he spent the entirety of his three-year NFL career after being picked fifth overall by the Colts in 1994. There will be questions, not about his playing days, but about his head football coach and the program that is 12-20 over the past three seasons. Has he already met with Frost? What are his expectations for the upcoming season? And what kind of presence will the former All-America linebacker carry at one of the league’s flagship events?
Nebraska’s relationship with the league: As you may recall, it’s not great. Especially after last fall’s drama over whether or not NU would attempt to go rogue and play as an independent before the Big Ten reversed course and decided to play football. There was that pesky little lawsuit filed by the parents of Husker players as well, and NU being handed an undesirable schedule when the league finally did play.
Frost’s demeanor: In 2018 Nebraska’s coach was brash and swashbuckling when he took the stage in Chicago. Now, after three years of being battered in the league, will Frost dial back his tone this year? One would figure, given his record, he’ll probably dial it back. But perhaps he presents a confident, if not cocky front ahead of his most important season in Lincoln.
The Oklahoma fiasco: Frost, and maybe Nebraska’s three player representatives, will certainly be asked about the wild day that transpired back on March 12, when reports surfaced of the Huskers potentially trying to back out of the matchup against the Sooners. Frost a couple weeks later said NU had “any and all things on the table” as it related to finding another home game early in the season. Still, the Huskers were pilloried locally and nationally after taking the entire day to respond to the initial reports.
The veterans speak: Two grizzled veterans — defensive back Deontai Williams and defensive lineman Ben Stille — will represent Nebraska in Indy, along with tight end Austin Allen. What do Williams and Stille, who have both played a lot of football for NU, have to say about the potential of a defense that returns eight of its top 10 tacklers and might be asked to lead the way for the Huskers, especially early in the season.
Three non-Husker storylines for Indy
Kevin Warren in the spotlight: This will be the Big Ten commissioner’s first appearance in front of the league’s assembled media. How will Warren approach his Thursday morning news conference? There figures to be plenty of COVID-19 talk, whether that involves how the league will approach this season, or how things went last year. He’ll almost certainly be asked for his thoughts about name, image, and likeness as well, and perhaps even about his feelings towards a certain scarlet and cream-clad school on the league’s western frontier.
NIL: The name, image, and likeness topic could very well rule the weekend. Everyone has an opinion. Every coach will be asked about it. Every player will be asked how he’s using it. With close to 60 people taking their place behind a microphone at some point, there’s bound to be something juicy that comes out of the discussion.
Ohio State rules the roost: The Buckeyes are always a story. One vote short of being a unanimous pick to win the Big Ten championship in the Cleveland.com poll, OSU is the sun around which the rest of the conference orbits. Even with a first-year starting quarterback, an unsettled situation at running back, and a defense that will have six new starters, the Buckeyes are on top until someone knocks them off. There will be plenty of interest in coach Ryan Day and his crew.