Besides recruiting some of the most talented skill-positions players in the country, the Oregon Ducks also find capable and innovative coaches to bring the best out of their stars. The program has been on the rise since 2008, and the steady progress has prompted many experts to tip their hat to up-and-coming coaches.
Enter offensive coordinator Scott Frost. Many will hear the 40-year-old’s name throughout ESPN’s Monday night broadcast of the College Football Playoff final against Ohio State, but what exactly do we know about Frost?
A close look at the trajectory of Frost’s career as a player and as a coach reveals a young assistant coach with a rich background in football at all levels, coupled with exposure to some of the great coaches of his time.
Himself a national title-winning quarterback with Nebraska back in 2012, Frost actually began his collegiate career at Stanford before returning to his home state in back in 1996. As a freshman, he played at safety, but he was moved to quarterback by legendary head coach Bill Walsh.
In his first season with the Cornhuskers, Frost would throw for 1,440 yards and 13 touchdowns, while gaining another 427 yards and nine scores for one of the program’s last championship runs under another legend: Tom Osborne.
It gets better. A year later, Frost would be selected in the third round of the NFL Draft by the New York Jets. Lasting five years and playing 59 games, Frost only played defensive back in the professional ranks. But he did learn from the great Bill Parcells while spending his first three years with the Jets. The defensive backs coach at the time was Bill Belichick.
If you're counting, that's three NFL head coaches who have won a combined eight Super Bowls, and one collegiate head coach who has won three National Championships. And that's just Frost learning the ins and outs of football as a player.
"The coaching pedigree he's had is ridiculous," Frost's older brother, Steve, told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2013. "The thing about Scott is he's got the best memory of anybody I've met. If you put him in front of a white board right now, he could draw up all the plays and protections from Bill Walsh's Stanford playbook.
"He's one of those people who can cram for a test five minutes beforehand and ace the test."
Undoubtedly, Frost has learned the game from of the best minds in history, but how has he applied those lessons?
After leaving the NFL, Frost cut a wide swatch from 2002 to 2008, first as a graduate assistant with Nebraska and Kansas State, before using his defensive know-how from pros as a linebackers and defensive coordinator with Northern Iowa.
But as a former quarterback, offense was clearly where Frost wanted to end up, and in 2009 he found his way to Eugene.
A wide receivers coach for four seasons before moving up to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2013, Frost has kept the Ducks offense humming at a blistering pace the last two seasons and could be one of the more coveted offensive minds in football in the coming years.
Frost's name was tossed around for the previously vacant Nebraska job in December, and there were reports that he turned down the head coach position for Colorado State. The idea of a possible move to the pros could be in the cards as well, particularly if more NFL teams consider adopting Chip Kelly's philosophy with the Philadelphia Eagles.
There were some questions about how the Ducks offense would run after Kelly left Eugene for the NFL in Jan. 2013, but under Frost’s watch Oregon’s attack has remained just as lethal. In 2012, Kelly’s last year with the Ducks, Oregon averaged 49.6 points and 537.4 yards per game. A year later, the scoring dipped slightly to 45.5 points, but the Ducks improved to 565 yards per contest.
Consider the Ducks ran 1,058 plays in Kelly’s final run, and 973 in Frost’s first, a sign the team was just getting started under Frost. The Ducks jumped to 47.2 points, No. 2 in the nation, and 552.9 yards per game this year.
Frost also deserves a bevy of credit for developing Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota. In two seasons Mariota’s accuracy has improved, his passing yardage jumped from 2,677 as a freshman in 2012 to a whopping 4,121 yards, and his touchdown numbers improved from 32 to 40 this season. Mariota’s passer rating also increased by more than 20 points from 163.2 to 184.3 under Frost’s tutelage.
The success extends further down the backfield. Frost’s system has allowed a true freshman running back in Royce Freeman to quickly assimilate at the next level and gain 1,343 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Throw in the production of several underclassmen receivers like Devon Allen, Charles Nelson, Dwayne Stanford and Darren Carrington, who combined for 22 receiving touchdowns this year, and Frost deserves praise heaped upon him.
Perhaps one day he’ll be recruiting talent for the Ducks, or anywhere else he wants.