In my opinion, one of the attributes of a head coach which separates the good ones from the great ones is their ability to inspire confidence in their players and appeal to potential recruits. Many coaches can talk a good game but when the pressure is on, they often reveal chinks in their armor.
I believe that Tom Osborne was, overall, a much better coach than Barry Switzer. But one of the things that ol’ Barry had going for him was a cockiness that bordered on arrogance (in the opinion of Husker fans) that, nevertheless, appealed to the top players in Texas that he was able to recruit to OU. I believe it was the combination of Switzer’s natural swagger and ‘good ole Arkansas boy’ charisma that helped him keep the OU steamroller humming.
And when you think of CFB’s most legendary coach, the mere sight of the grizzled features of Bear Bryant in his Houndstooth hat inspired confidence in his players – while casting a shadow of doubt and trepidation in the minds of his opponents.
One might ask when it comes to confidence and championships, what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Obviously championships breed confidence. But I would argue that the coaches who seem to naturally ooze confidence have a heads-up when it comes to building championship teams. As a lifelong CFB fan, I’ve had an opportunity to see some great young coaches. I’m not going to act like I’m some head coaching savant when it comes to predicting greatness. But I observed the kind of tangible confidence early-on from coaches like Barry Switzer, Johnny Majors, Jimmy Johnson, Les Miles, Urban Meyers, Bill McCartney, and Dabo Sweeney to make me believe they would someday become elite coaches. You could just tell they were different birds from the rest of the flock.
This is not to say that you’ve got to ooze charisma and swagger to become an elite coach. I would argue that neither Tom Osborne or Nick Saban started out with the same charismatic leadership gifts as someone like Barry Switzer. But they both continued to improve their coaching over the years and with the wins came the reputation, and with the reputation came a public persona that grew larger with every win. In the case of Osborne, his image morphed from a “good guy coach” who ‘couldn’t win the big one’ to a tough-as-nails, intense “Clint Eastwood-like Coach” on the football field.
While Frost’s character is more closely aligned with Osborne’s, Scott brings the same natural ‘swagger’ to his coaching that Switzer brought to his OU program. Barry had his failings but self-doubt was never one of them.
With all the misfortune that hit the Huskers in the first month and a half of the season, it would have been tough for any coach in his first season at a new school to keep his team together. But the way the team responded to Scott Frost and his coaching staff midway through the season after starting off 0-6 was remarkable. Especially when you compare it to how poorly Husker teams responded to adversity under Mike Riley.
But Scott’s swagger is not limited to the football field. “The Frost Confidence Factor” permeates the entire program, from the practice field, to the coaching rooms, to the weight room. It was particularly evident at the recent Pipeline Camp. There was an obvious, extra ‘pop’ to the one-on-one hits whenever Frost walked by.
The Head Coach’s confidence has been particularly evident with recruiting. Nebraska’s recruiting has gone from ‘poor me’ excuses about being “in the middle of nowhere” to approaching the task with the kind of quiet swagger we haven’t seen since the Osborne glory years. Any coach worth his salt can talk a good game – and that works for some, particularly the prima donnas without a lot of parental support. But good players with savvy parents can usually smell it when there’s bullsh*t in the air.
In a Mitch Sherman article in The Athletic, Adrian Martinez’ step-mom, Kristi, said about his recruitment, “I don’t need to be sold. I don’t need to have smoke blown up my (butt). Towards the end, I was like, ‘I’ve got stuff to be doing right now.’ Every single night, we had someone in our living room. I’ve got sh*t to do. ‘Like, are you done? With Scott, it was chill. I just liked sitting down (with Frost) and having a conversation that was real.”
Keep in mind that this was a description of a brand-spanking-new head coach who desperately needed a great QB prospect to jump-start his new program. You don’t give off the “relax and chill” vibes in a situation like this unless you’re supremely comfortable in your own skin and supremely confident in the program you’re going to build.
One of the best examples of Frost’s confidence was shared recently in another Athletic article by Mitch Sherman on the recruitment of Turner Corcoran who recently committed to Nebraska. Sherman talked about how the type of players that Frost is recruiting appreciate his matter-of-fact, no nonsense, approach (as do their parents). He is confident enough in what his program has to offer that he doesn’t feel compelled to play the hype-game or sugar-coat anything.
In this new age of the ‘transfer portal,’ that’s a much bigger thing than we might realize on the surface. In his Athletic article, Sherman shared a comment that Turner Corcoran’s Dad (Allen) mentioned that Coach Frost shared with him early-on in Turner’s recruiting process. Allen said Frost told him and Turner to always carry their “BS meter” with them into recruiting visits.
“He said that coaches are going to tell you what they want you to hear,” Allen said. “That always stuck with me when we visited other schools. You felt like, at Nebraska, you didn’t have to have your BS meter out. It just felt right. It felt sincere. If felt like the place that would be the best fit for our son. Something just seemed to stick out. It felt to us that they had our son’s best interest.”
If Frost and his coaching staff can exhibit this level of confidence in themselves on the heels of a 4-8 season, imagine how recruits and everyone associated with the program will respond once the wins start coming. You can talk “Xs & Os” all day long but, depending on how you look at it, supreme confidence (when his name is Frost and he’s your coach) or insufferable cockiness (when it’s Barry Switzer) breeds success.