Steven M. Sipple: Although it’s a bit awkward, Frost discussion will persist | Column

It’s often illuminating to hear what national pundits are saying about Nebraska football.

The Huskers are a fairly popular topic these days — maybe not for reasons NU fans prefer, but at least it’s something.

Earlier this week on ESPNU Radio (SiriusXM), Tom Luginbill and Andy Staples discussed head coaching jobs that might come open, mentioning three schools in particular: Tennessee, LSU and Nebraska.

“Would those three schools be going after the same people in a coaching-candidate pool? Absolutely,” said Luginbill, also an ESPN sideline analyst. “But I would almost guarantee you that any available candidate, if they were ranking the jobs, would go LSU, Tennessee, Nebraska.”

Let’s be clear: I don’t enjoy this topic. Mike Riley deserves a fair chance at Nebraska. But the reality is the discussion will continue unless the Huskers get on a serious roll. Meanwhile, there’s at least one aspect of the conversation that will persist regardless: the Scott Frost part.

His Central Florida squad is 3-0 and has an excellent chance to get to 5-0 entering an Oct. 21 game at Navy. The 42-year-old former Nebraska quarterback obviously is being watched closely by many Husker fans. His profile is rising nationally, as illustrated by appearances this week on “The Jim Rome Show” and ESPN’s “SportsCenter” with Scott Van Pelt.

You can’t help but wonder how many athletic directors have Frost in mind at the moment. In that regard, you really have to wonder about Tennessee AD John Currie. The Volunteers (3-2, 0-2 SEC) have a bye this week to mull a 41-0 home loss to Georgia. Butch Jones’ record at the school dropped to 33-23 overall and 14-20 in the conference. His future is shaky, to put it mildly, and his offense is awful.

LSU, by the way, ranks 67th in yards per game and 83rd in points, but I have a hard time believing the Tigers will fire Ed Orgeron five games into a five-year contract.

As for Luginbill’s contention about where coaches would rank Nebraska’s job in relation to LSU and Tennessee, he’s probably right — NU would be third. Of course, the Huskers may be higher in Frost’s pecking order.

But what if Tennessee came calling this season while Nebraska held firm with Riley? I would think Frost would at least consider UT, which competes in the SEC East (Alabama is in the West). In Knoxville, Tennessee, he would remain in close proximity to fertile recruiting regions. I think he would be a better fit at UT than, say, LSU or Texas A&M.

Something Frost told me last year sticks in my mind when his name arises in job speculation. As we talked about why he was so patient in waiting for the right head-coaching job (he turned down multiple offers before taking over at UCF in December 2015), he emphasized the school’s strong recruiting base.

“There are recruits everywhere around us,” he said. “I knew I wanted to run an offense similar to what we ran at Oregon (an uptempo spread), and I don’t think you can do that in a lot of places. In Orlando, we should be able to get the type of players that allow me to run exactly what we were running at Oregon and try to put up the same numbers offensively. That really drew me to this job.”

“We’re right smack dab in the middle of Florida,” Frost said. “Almost every high school in this state is running a version of what we’re going to run. Kids are used to playing in it. Kids are going to want to play in our system. There’s speed down here everywhere you turn.”

He clearly understands what he wants to do and how to go about doing it.

For now, he’s ensconced in his gig at UCF, preparing to play Saturday at Cincinnati (2-3).

Leave it to others to wonder what his future holds. 

Thumbs up to Reggie Davis, the third-year Nebraska running backs coach. You want to see player development? Check out his top three running backs (Tre Bryant, Mikale Wilbon and Devine Ozigbo). Each has improved markedly since last season.

Thumbs down to Les Miles, who says Florida head coach Jim McElwain used negative recruiting against LSU in late 2015 to lure quarterback Feleipe Franks from the Tigers. Lemme get this straight: A (former) SEC coach is complaining about questionable recruiting practices? That’s fresh.

Nebraska led the nation by averaging 392.7 yards rushing in 1997. In fact, the Huskers ran for at least 335 yards in all 13 games. Yeah, those were the days. Nebraska will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its 1997 national crown with a Friday night banquet and on-field recognition Saturday night. Excuse “Run The Ball Guy” if he tears up a little.

2. Barry Odom, Missouri coach, second year. The Tigers scored 72 points against Missouri State, and then got outscored 117-30 by the next three foes, two from the SEC and all at home. The school could make a change for only $1.8 million this year.

3. Butch Jones, Tennessee coach, fifth year. Coming off a 41-0 home loss to Georgia, the Volunteers (3-2, 0-2 SEC) get a bye this week before playing host to South Carolina on Oct. 14. I’m sure the bye week will be just wonderful.

4. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M coach, sixth year. The Aggies (4-1, 2-0 SEC) haven’t always looked great during their four-game winning streak, but they clearly are still playing hard for their head coach. Could we have a “Nebraska situation” on our hands — that is, A&M goes 9-3 and still fires Sumlin?

5. Gary Andersen, Oregon State coach, third year. Andersen last week received the dreaded vote of confidence from his athletic director, then watched his team fall 42-7 to Washington — the Beavers’ fourth loss this season by 29 points or more. Andersen’s record at the school is 7-22. Next up: at USC.

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