Football head coach Scott Frost addresses media at National Signing Day. UCF added 20 new players to its roster. Video by Evan Abramson, Central Florida Future
Among UCF football coach Scott Frost’s bona fides are status as one of the greatest athletes in the state of Nebraska’s history, and a seven-year NFL career playing defense after a college career as an offensive player.
But Frost has another claim to fame that is a bit more pertinent these days. He’s coached the past two NCAA pass efficiency leaders — Oregon’s Marcus Mariota in 2014 and Vernon Adams in 2015.
Now in his sixth month in Orlando, he and his staff are installing the same offensive system at UCF. “I think our system does a good job of highlighting things that a quarterback can do,” Frost said. “If you’re a quarterback, you should want to play in this system.”
The past six months have included a new job, a new place of residence, a slew of new hires, the signing of recruiting class, a first time running a spring practice as a head coach and even a wedding — Frost got married March 11.
Now he inherits one of two teams in the FBS that is coming off a winless season. He says he’s looking forward to the chance for his team to navigate tough situations in games and find something to get it over the hump.
“You’ve got to learn how to win,” he said. “Guys have got to believe they can get it done. We still have a ways to go with that, I'm sure, but you go 0 and 12 and you are conditioned to find ways to lose. I want our guys to be straining to find ways to win.”
Frost, who coached seven seasons at Oregon including the past three as the Ducks’ offensive coordinator, recently spoke with USA TODAY Sports about what motivated him to take on so much at once and what motivated him to become a coach in the first place.
Q: Had you been wanting to be a head coach for a while and were just waiting for the right opportunity?
A: I think one of the key things is wanting to be a coach without being desperate to be. I've seen a lot of people that have been in a hurry to be a head coach and they take jobs that are hard, jobs where it's hard to win. Those guys are at a place for three years, four years, and it doesn't work and they may never get another chance.
I've had some opportunities, but I wanted to go to the right place. I wanted to go a place that I felt that if I could do a good job and the staff does a good job, that we would have a real chance to win.
This one came open and I looked at this with the second largest university in the country, a great recruiting area, up and coming school in a beautiful city. I think this is one of the places that if you do it the right way, you've got a good chance at winning.
Q: You mentioned some things, like the size and the chance to win. What were some things that over time you had decided you had to see in a program to want to be its head coach?
A: Winning is the biggest thing. I'm taking nothing away from any coaches out there, it's not an accident that coaches at Alabama, Ohio State, Florida and USC, those type of programs win. Not to say they're not great coaches, but those places are built to attract better players than most or all of the people they play, year in, year out. Not that it's a given that you're going to win at those places, but it's easier. It's easier to win at Alabama than it is at Iowa State.
UCF I think has some inherited advantages on the other teams in the American conference, just with location, proximity to recruits, facilities and campus. I think anytime you're starting out two steps ahead of some of the people you play, I think it gives you a great chance to do well if you do things the right way.
Q: What is it like recruiting, particularly being located in that geographic area, compared to the recruiting you've done over the past six or seven years?
A: Every kid in the country wanted to come to Oregon. They saw how we played, they saw the facilities, they saw the uniforms, the winning. Everybody was interested in Oregon. I'm telling recruits down here they don't have to go 3,000 miles away to get that anymore, Oregon just came to them.
It's hard in those places because we're just not in close proximity, Oregon wasn't and isn't in close proximity to the fertile recruiting ground. At the end of the day, recruits have to decide to leave southern California, or Georgia, or Florida, or Texas, where there's some other pretty good schools, and go all the way to Eugene.
It's great being in a place where those kids that want to stay close can stay here, not to mention it's a lot easier to get kids to visit our campus unofficially, there's a lot more kids here to choose from.
One of the things that drew me to the job is I knew I could run a version of our offense that was practically identical to Oregon's because we can recruit that type of player here. I don't think you could run Oregon's offense at Wisconsin; I don't know if you would get enough guys that can run well enough to do it. In Orlando, Florida, there's fast guys in high schools in every direction in close proximity that are already running systems in high school that are similar to this and should want to play in it.
Q: Will the offense be identical to Oregon, or have you already been scheming ways to show the world a new evolution? Or is that down the line maybe?
A: I think it's down the line. We've been constantly evolving. The offense we ran last year was different than when we had Marcus (Mariota) and different than when Chip (Kelly) was there. It's always going to evolve, but I hope it will be similar and it will probably look more and more similar as we get the type of guys that will fit our schemes, offense and defense.
Q: Central Florida has been ranked as having one of the two best recruiting classes in the American, and you put it together in essentially two months. Are there players in that class you are expecting to contribute immediately in 2016?
A: We're expecting a lot of them to contribute, but you never know with freshman. It's not really talent that decides all the time whether they play or not, it's how quickly they adapt to college, the speed of the game, how quickly they learn the scheme offensively or defensively, and how aggressively they attack it.
Obviously, coming off an 0 and 12 team, we've got some really good players, but there's some holes to fill. We're going to give those freshman every chance to compete. We're really holding our breath that a lot of them can come in and help us, especially in certain position groups. We're doing everything we can to get them prepared before they get here to be ready to contribute. It really is up to them and how quickly they adapt to see how many of them can come in and impact our team.
Q: What was the most meaningful thing that came out of spring practice or something that is important to you that you already feel good about?
A: One interesting thing, our practices in Oregon obviously were revolutionary to me, and that was mostly Chip Kelly. I thought it would take a long time to get our players to practice at the speed and tempo and pace that Oregon did. It took a while at Oregon to get it to where we wanted it. I thought coming into a new place, I always wondered how long it would take for guys to understand the way we wanted to work on a practice field. These guys, I couldn't believe it they bought in immediately. They did everything we asked them to do. I was surprised at that, now our execution within that pace needs to get a lot better, but that will come.
I think coming off an 0 and 12 season, those are hard, they're hard on players, coaches, players, everyone. I think our players needed to find some confidence again, I think they needed to believe in who they were as players, who they were as a team, the process we were putting them through and that it could get them where they wanted to go. Sometimes coming off a tough season, I think you also need to find your love for the game again. We worked really hard this spring, but we had some fun doing it to, and I think our players enjoyed it.