See that photo above? It was taken Dec. 2, 2015, the day Scott Frost was introduced as UCF’s Football’s next head coach. Obviously, much has changed in those nearly 21 months.
For one thing, the stadium Frost is standing in there has a new name. The program he took over has new life, having risen from the pits of its 0-12 despair to reach a bowl game in Frost’s inaugural campaign. Not that he really cares about that accomplishment today; it’s ancient history. New and greater expectations are held by the Knights this season, and the focus remains on improving every day.
On the field, some of the improvements are evident. Sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton has earned the right to be the team’s Week 1 starter. #UCFast is becoming more of a reality than just a motto. So how has Frost improved as he enters his second year at the helm? When our Jeff Sharon asked him that question earlier a couple of weeks ago, Frost immediately gave the credit to those close to him.
“I have really good people around me, from the coaching staff to the support staff,” he said. “I think we’re better organized now. I think, across the board, we all understand our roles a little better and we’re doing a little better job at it.”
That increased organization has been one of Frost’s keys in Year 2. He wants to make sure his players know their jobs and that all they have to do is play. Everything else from a football standpoint will be taken care of. To that end, Frost described his director of operations, Gerrod Lambrecht, as being “invaluable to me.”
Another hallmark of Frost’s second-year improvement appears through his team’s love for one another. Myriad players and coaches have mentioned throughout the summer how tight this group is for 2017. Attaining a high level of camaraderie was placed atop Frost’s to-do list once he grabbed the reins in Orlando.
“The culture in this program is getting better every day,” he said. “When I first got here, I met with every player on the roster and one of the most common responses that I got when I asked what needed to improve was the companionship and feeling of team. … This team is a lot closer this year, a lot more tightly knit, and I think that could potentially get us over the hump in some close games.”
This emphasis on companionship was passed down to Frost from Tom Osborne, the former head coach at the University of Nebraska who won three national championships in the ’90s with the Cornhuskers. Frost has played for some of the giants of the football coaching profession — Bill Walsh, Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick — but it is Osborne whom he calls “my hero in this business.”
Osborne and Frost spent three years together as teacher and pupil at Nebraska after Frost transferred from Stanford in 1995. Their on-field relationship culminated in a national championship with Frost at quarterback in 1997, but they continue to talk at least once a month to this day and try to meet up whenever Frost travels back to his home state.
“Coach Osborne genuinely cares about every single person he’s ever coached,” Frost said. “He’ll tell you the names of their families, where they’re from. Football players will run through a wall for a guy like that, and I learned a lot of lessons from Coach Osborne, but that’s probably the No. 1.”
When Osborne was in town this month for UCF Football’s Kickoff Luncheon, he talked about ever-evolving expectations. In regards to the Knights, Osborne said winning six games was “probably OK last year, but the bar always gets higher.”
That high bar has been set by Frost, his coaches and his players. Don’t applaud them for their 2016 bounce-back campaign, as one of their daily guest speakers recently tried to do. He quickly ended up in a very quiet room.
“The [player] didn’t like hearing it,” Frost said. “I don’t think the guys are going to be satisfied with the same level of success that they had last year. But as long as I’m here, we’re going to measure our success on being better than we were yesterday.”
From 0-12 to 6-7 to some unknown greater benchmark. The changes are occurring #UCFast.
Check out our previous questions in this UCF Football Preview series:
Question No. 1: Is McKenzie Milton Still the Man at QB?
Question No. 2: What Will Shaquem Griffin Do for an Encore?
Question No. 3: Will the Offensive Line Be Better This Year?