Football season might feel like a long way off still, but it’s already shaping up to be a short summer for Nebraska.
In fact, Cornhusker players are already halfway through a short break between the end of spring ball and the beginning of summer conditioning. June is going to be a sprint on the recruiting front. There are player comings and goings that have already started. And NU will be into preseason camp before July is out.
"We really break the year up into four segments. It's winter conditioning, spring ball, it's summer conditioning and it's the season," head coach Scott Frost said Thursday on the "Sports Nightly" radio program. "We're getting ready to start the third quarter of that."
Let’s lay out what is sure to be a busy summer for the program.
The returning players report back May 17 when summer classes begin and will jump into an eight-week summer strength and conditioning program that Frost said will be split into four-week halves with an off week in the middle.
“Summer is going to be all about maintaining (strength) while getting them in shape and getting them maybe a touch faster and getting ready to run the lengths that they have to run,” Frost said. “(Strength coach Zach Duval) and his staff did a great job over the winter and you could see those results in spring practice.”
Over that time, players will also get together and play seven-on-seven, watch film and do drill work on their own.
"Even after the spring game, we're talking about, 'Look, we’ve got to put in some work this summer,’’ senior wide receiver Samori Toure said after the spring game. “We're all getting closer and I think it's starting to show on the field. I'm excited for the fall."
Portal out, portal in
The post-spring transfer portal movement began Saturday when reserve wide receiver Demariyon Houston left NU. He likely won’t be the only one, though Nebraska’s roster situation is such that it could be a quieter summer than normal on that front.
Players are more and more aware that there are more names in the portal than there are scholarships to go around.
With Houston gone, the Huskers stand at 86 scholarship players overall, including five returning seniors that don’t count against the 85-man limit. NU has some players that have likely earned scholarships — think 2020 walk-on transfers like receivers Oliver Martin and Levi Falck and Big Ten kicker of the year Connor Culp — so they will take up some of the available spots.
So, too, will a couple of incoming transfers. Nebraska has two spots left to use in the 2021 class (remember, each class is capped at 25 scholarship newcomers regardless of how much space there is on the 85-man roster) and is likely already surveying the landscape for potential additions.
Frost said NU doesn’t intend to take a quarterback. Beyond that, the goal is simply to find the two best guys you can get.
Freshmen arrive in early June
Nebraska had a big group of 13 midyear enrollees get to campus in January, but the rest of the class and a large set of walk-ons will begin arriving in Lincoln in early June.
In terms of scholarship players, here’s who will be getting to campus for the first time: wide receivers Latrell Neville, Shawn Hardy and Kamonte Grimes; tight end A.J. Rollins; defensive lineman Jailen Weaver; linebackers Mikai Gbayor and Wynden Ho’ohuli; defensive backs Koby Bretz and Malik Williams.
Recruiting and camp bonanza
When the calendar turns to June, the recruiting world will also lurch back to full speed.
For the first time since March 2020, high school players will again be able to take official and unofficial visits, meet with coaches in person, see facilities and campuses, and attend school-hosted camps.
Long story short, it’s going to be a sprint from June 1-27. Then there’s another dead period from June 28-July 24.
“In June, that’s going to be a marathon now,” NU running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Ryan Held said. “I told my wife, ‘I’ll see you in a month.’”
In addition to hosting official visitors each of the first four weekends of June and also a full set of camps — highlighted by Friday Night Lights camps on June 4 and 18, and the Adidas national “Pipeline” linemen camp on June 19 — Nebraska’s staff will also try to get out and staff some satellite camps in other parts of the country.
Nebraska will host dozens of official visitors from the 2022 class and have hundreds of high school athletes through campus for camps. It wouldn’t be surprising, either, for NU and other programs to go on summer runs of verbal commitments as kids finally get to see the colleges and coaches they’ve been hearing from for, in comes cases, more than a year.
Hole in the ground
At some point this summer — athletic director Bill Moos guessed June — demolition will begin at the Ed Weir track complex and the excavation will start on NU’s new $155 million North Stadium expansion project.
It won’t be completed until summer 2023, but the first big signs of work are slated to get rolling soon.
Nebraska started and finished spring ball late, but will kick off preseason camp early since it's playing Illinois on Aug. 28, which is “Week Zero” on the college football calendar.
Teams can begin camp 29 days before their first game. That puts Nebraska in line for getting to work July 30, which means players will report back in a day or two before that.
Realistically, the Nebraska players and coaches will be around campus working for most of the time between then and now.
Even so, it’s bound to feel like a short summer for the Huskers as a critical fourth season under Frost approaches.