While Nebraska football's culture may be taking a step back to its championship-winning roots with Scott Frost at the head of the program, its offense will be rapidly evolving.
The spread offense has been a part of Husker lore recently during both the Bo Pelini and Mike Riley eras. However, those attacks cannot compare to what Frost wants to bring to the table. He has even swept away the fullback position, a move once thought unforgivable amongst Husker Nation.
One of the best perspectives of this evolution comes from Jordan Westerkamp. He had the opportunity to thrive in a balanced run-pass attack under Pelini while becoming a household name catching passes from good friend (and, what we almost assuredly must now legally point out, then-roommate) Tommy Armstrong.
While Westerkamp wasn't able to leave Lincoln as the first Husker with 1,000 receiving yards in a single season, he did provide a glimpse into what we may see Frost look for in future slot position wideouts. With the fullback now a thing of the past and Frost's offense all about using the entirety of the field, Westerkamp sees the potential for the focal point of Nebraska's skill position players to go from its running backs to the ranks he used to be among.
"The spread's unique. You can use it in different ways when it comes to running it, but they have so many weapons at the receiver spots that I can't see them not (taking advantage of them). I'd say in this offense, the receivers will probably be the focal point."
He fully acknowledges that running backs still have an extremely important role to play. Greg Bell, Tre Bryant, Devine Ozigbo and others will help provide a run-option element that's immensely difficult to corral on its best days.
During Frost's first year at UCF, Jawon Hamilton, Dontravious Wilson and Adrian Killins all made an impact out of the backfield. It wouldn't be a shock to see the aforementioned trio be huddled at the top of Nebraska's 2018 rushing chart, and we'd be remiss to not mention Jaylin Bradley.
Still, while Westerkamp sees nothing but promise under Frost and hears so many positive things from those he speaks with still in the program, there will be bumps in the road for those who he feels will lead the way in scoring points. In fact, he can see one of the offense's major perks offering some hurdles of its own.
"From some of the guys I've talked to, it is so up-tempo that you have to be in incredible shape. Terminology could also be a little difficult especially if they go no-huddle. If they have to learn hand signals, that's something that can be hard for guys, too. You're going so fast that you have to be able to think while you're going at that speed, remembering (all of that)."
Unfortunately, Westerkamp hasn't found a home to continue his career professionally yet, but he still maintains a heavy training regimen. Given what we've heard about new Husker strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval trimming fat and adding muscle across Nebraska's roster, those who aren't ready to put in the effort to scratch and claw every Saturday will quickly be ferreted out. The Lombard, Illinois, native wouldn't mind another year of eligibility to experience what some of his former teammates are, though.
"One of the guys I'm real close with, he said it was a crazy offseason. Everything they were doing in the weight room, too. Their workouts were up-tempo and fast. Metabolic workouts were just 'go-go-go.' I think at one point they had them wearing a wristband or watch that kept track of how much sleep they got. I would've loved to have a year with Coach Frost and have trained with those guys to see how different it might be. I'd love the challenge and I'd look forward to it. I'd love being a part of that," he said.
All eyes will be on Stanley Morgan Jr. (right) this season as he looks to finally give Nebraska football its first-ever 1,000-yard receiver. However, Westerkamp advises fans to not let their eyes stray too far from former freshman All-American JD Spielman.
"I personally can't wait to see how he does. He and Stanley (Morgan) should be the two leaders in that offense. It'll be great to see how much (he) has grown from year one to year two. Usually, that's where you see the biggest jump in a player's maturity or how they play on the field. He's at the perfect position for his style of play, the slot receiver that can move around and do everything in a spread offense. It doesn't get much better than that."
In talking with Westerkamp, it's clear he's as jazzed about what's happening in Lincoln as any casual fan. Now, it's time for the modern-day Nebraska offense to make him feel both nostalgic and jealous at the same time.