INDIANAPOLIS — Don't ever say preseason media gatherings with coaches and players are a waste of time.
We learned plenty from Nebraska football coach Scott Frost as reporters fired question after question at him Thursday during Big Ten Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium.
We learned a lot about his team, and maybe most important, we got a better feel for how the man in charge has evolved in his extremely difficult job.
Has Frost's recruiting philosophy changed since he took over in late 2017? Not necessarily, he said. He said Nebraska's staff knew right away that the program needed better size, physicality, speed and athleticism.
Yeah, that's all.
"There's no doubt we have more talent in the building right now, by far, than we've had since I've been at Nebraska," said Frost, who never would've imagined being 12-20 at this point in his tenure in Lincoln.
However, he believes his roster is better in essentially every area. He thinks his team is more confident than ever and more unified. He thinks the leadership is better. Of course, Frost saying all this basically puts much of the onus on the coaching staff. If the talent and culture have improved, you would expect the win-loss record to improve significantly at some point, right?
Maybe the most important question of all: Has the head coach improved?
No question, he's had to adapt to the Big Ten after making his head-coaching mark a world away in the American Athletic Conference.
Turns out, the Big Ten didn't have to adjust to Frost after all. Quite the opposite.
"It's been an interesting few years, particularly last year with the things going on (with COVID-19), but even going back to my first game at Nebraska getting canceled (by a lightning storm)," Frost said. "You know, in some ways, I think we've done a lot of the right things. In other ways, there were some things we needed to get into the league in order to learn.
"The game is a little different in this league than other leagues I've coached in."
At Oregon and UCF, an offense might get 95 snaps in a game. In the Big Ten, it gets 60 on some Saturdays.
"Because of that, you better be a lot more efficient," Frost said. "Fast and frantic and wasting a play here and there is fine when you're an explosive offense that gets 90 snaps. In this league, teams are going to keep the ball away from you. So, there's not necessarily major adjustments that we need to make. But I think there are ways we've learned to be smarter with what we're doing."
Because the margin for error is small in the Big Ten, a team better be detail-oriented, he said. So, he's learning. But has he learned enough? He understands there are doubters. He also understands the need for his program to show significant improvement in 2021. He doesn't run from that conversation at all. That's a good sign. Or seems to be a good sign.
It's also a good sign that Frost is effusive in his praise of Nebraska's offensive line. He likes its attitude. He likes the mix of veterans and youth. Most of the younger players already have Big Ten experience — most notably center Cameron Jurgens, who still has three seasons of eligibility remaining. Think about that for a second.
"I think that's a group that can make the former Pipeline guys proud," Frost said.
He also emphasized his confidence in the receivers and tight ends while also highlighting the defensive backfield.
All in all, Frost displayed his usual cocksure nature, but it's now mixed with a clear understanding of his program's place in the Big Ten. You hear more humility. That's not to say he thinks Nebraska is treading water. At one point, Frost was asked if there's a sizable gap in the Big Ten West Division separating Wisconsin, Iowa and Northwestern from the likes of, well, Nebraska.
Ouch. This isn't exactly the line of questioning Nebraska fans envisioned when the Huskers entered the conference 11 years ago.
"I think it's a tight gap," Frost said. "But I have a ton of respect for those teams — the job that Pat (Fitzgerald) did last year at Northwestern, the consistency in the Iowa program, the years Wisconsin's had. Those coaches have been there a long time and got their cultures established. They've been able to recruit the players to their culture, to their systems, and start training them from the time they were freshmen.
"That being said, we've played some really close games with those guys. It's been a mistake here or a mistake there that's cost us. One thing about this league is, you can't do that."
Be efficient. Be detail-oriented. You know, be the stuff new Husker athletic director Trev Alberts identified Thursday as being critical for any program trying to improve. It's certainly applicable to Frost's program at the moment.
Bottom line, Alberts seeks "incremental progress." Frost says his program is already taking steps forward. The results should follow, he said. But it's obviously not that simple. The fan base is anxious, even a bit on edge, as another intense autumn approaches.
Frost has a vision for what he wants to see from his team. But can he coax it out of his players?
We're still asking that question. That's a concern.
"I want a tough team that's going to play physical and not beat itself," Frost said. "I want a team that plays well on special teams and takes care of the ball, and fight. I think that's what Nebraska people want, too."
The onus is largely on the coaching staff, and Frost in particular.
Nobody has to teach him that.