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Scott Frost's crazy month juggling Nebraska and UCF

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Frost's unorthodox recruiting process for Nebraska (0:37)

Scott Frost is preparing UCF for the Peach Bowl against Auburn while staying in contact with his recruiting team to land players that will fit Nebraska's system. (0:37)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Aboard the rented Cessna Citation Excel, Scott Frost swapped his figurative UCF and Nebraska hats almost hourly, trading a game plan against Auburn for a recruiting strategy with the Cornhuskers and other responsibilities tied to the job as coach of two teams at one of the busiest times of the football season.

But as this Tuesday night crept into the second Wednesday of December, Frost was sick. He left Fresno, California, at shortly before 9 p.m., bound for a refueling stop at his new home base in Lincoln, Nebraska, with a quick turnaround set for Orlando, where he landed 90 minutes before sunrise.

By midmorning, Frost, surrounded by his entire Nebraska-bound coaching staff, led the Knights' second practice in preparation for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN).

While vomiting on the sideline.

Showered this month with awards as the national coach of the year, Frost, 42, won the AAC title at UCF on Dec. 2 and officially took the job at Nebraska, his alma mater, less than two hours later. The only coach to lead an FBS team this year to a perfect record, he has since juggled recruiting for the Huskers -- in this first year of the early signing period -- and coaching the Knights ahead the biggest game in school history, on New Year's Day.

From Dec. 11 to 17, his work turned especially insane, as UCF returned to practice in the midst of a contact period in recruiting. Frost and his staff coached by day, recruited by night and slept hardly at all.

For the rest of December, he has maintained merely an impractical schedule, searching for time to see his wife and newborn son.

"It's not easy," Frost said, "but I appreciate people on both sides allowing us to do this."

His task is rare. Of the five FBS head coaches to leave for another school this year, Frost is the only to attempt double duty. He took note that Urban Meyer, at age 40, coached unbeaten Utah to a win over Pitt in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl before taking over full time at Florida.

And Frost chatted on Dec. 7 in Atlanta with Dave Doeren, who jumped from Northern Illinois to NC State after the 2012 season. Doeren told Frost that the decision to skip the Orange Bowl against Florida State still ranked as "one of his biggest regrets in coaching."

Frost wanted to leave UCF free of regrets.

"I know the meaning of the words 'wearing two hats' now, and they're both full-time jobs."

Scott Frost

The culture of loyalty that he brought to Orlando contributed to a foundation on which the Knights improved from 0-12 under former coach George O'Leary in 2015 to 12-0 this season.

"Having him coach [the Peach Bowl]," said Gerrod Lambrecht, Frost's chief of staff, "having the rest of the staff be there to coach, it always seemed like the right thing to do."

More than just the right thing, it was what they wanted to do, Frost said. Yes, even if it ran him ragged as he traveled the country. When Frost fell ill on the sideline at UCF practice, he was the latest to catch a bug that circulated through the coaching staff over several days.

"He's trying to give everything he has to two programs," said Matt Davison, Frost's former Nebraska teammate who ushered his reunion with the Huskers this fall. "You know, it's just a lot."

In the same breath, Davison, who will work with Frost in Lincoln as associate athletic director for football, said he's not feeling sorry for Frost. The coach agreed to a seven-year, $35 million contract at Nebraska, making Frost the third-highest paid coach in the Big Ten behind Michigan's Jim Harbaugh and Meyer at Ohio State.

"Look, he has a great life," Davison said. "But to go through the coaching search as you're having your first child and going to your alma mater and flying all over, trying to recruit, man, he's had a lot to do. It's a good thing he's young and energetic."

SO JUST HOW CRAZY was it this month?

Frost first flew from Orlando to Lincoln on Dec. 2, arriving around midnight -- nine hours after a double-overtime win over Memphis -- with Davison, Lambrecht, recruiting aides Sean Dillon and Ryan Callaghan, support staffers Frank Verducci and Mike Cassano and Barrett Ruud, a quality-control specialist at UCF under Frost and Nebraska's all-time leading tackler who will fill the role of linebackers coach next month for the Huskers.

Before Nebraska announced Frost as the replacement for Mike Riley, fired after a 4-8 season that ranked as the worst at the school since 1961, Dillon drew up a plan for the first days of the Frost regime in Lincoln. At Frost's side since 2009 as part of Chip Kelly's Oregon staff, Dillon needed little guidance from the coach to prioritize needs.

Atop his list sat quarterback Adrian Martinez. No. 56 in the ESPN 300, Martinez was committed to Tennessee -- at the time without a coach and mired in a messy search. The situation appealed to the new Nebraska staff, which first tried to recruit Martinez to UCF nearly two years ago.

"We knew right away," said Dillon, Nebraska's new director of recruiting, "that he was the one guy we had to jump on fast."

Quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco called Martinez minutes after Frost told his players in Orlando of the decision to leave.

Frost, hours after his introductory news conference at Nebraska on Dec. 3, visited the home of longtime Wisconsin commit Bryson Williams of Lincoln Southeast. Accompanying Frost was Ruud, who starred nearly two decades ago at Williams' high school before his career at Nebraska and eight seasons in the NFL.

Riley's staff had not offered a scholarship to Williams. And the defensive lineman ultimately stuck with his pledge to Nebraska's division rival, signing last week -- an illustration of the ground Frost must gain in Lincoln.

The next night, Frost called Martinez and helped arrange an official visit during the staff's first weekend in Lincoln, Dec. 8-10.

"When I was evaluating quarterbacks for this class a long time ago," Frost said, "Adrian was my favorite in the country. We didn't think we had a chance to get him at our previous school, but now getting to Nebraska, he was interested."

From there, Frost recruited locally, attended the college football awards show in Atlanta and visited prospects in Kansas, Missouri and Texas before he flew to Orlando on Dec. 11. Around 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 12, following the Knights' first bowl practice and a Peach Bowl news conference, he boarded the 52-foot-long Cessna for a cross-country trip to see Martinez and his family at their home in Fresno.

The QB, one night after visiting with new Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt, accepted the Huskers' offer in front of Frost and Verduzco.

When an image of his signed letter of intent arrived in Lincoln on the morning of Dec. 20, Dillon exhaled.

"That's a big one," he said.

"All right, all right," said Davison, walking away from the lobby where the recruiting staff congregated in the Huskers' empty coaching offices.

Frost, on the practice field at UCF, awaited word from Dillon. Midway through the practice -- with the majority of signatures collected from Nebraska's additions last week -- Dillon took a call from Lambrecht, who handed the phone to Frost. Dillon and the head coach talked for less than two minutes, and Frost went back to work with the Knights.

Dillon also shared recruiting news with the coaching staff in Orlando via a group text. When Martinez signed, Verduzco got his own message from Dillon. And when UCF finished practice on the third Wednesday of this crazy month, the coaches called each of their new Nebraska players to offer congratulations.

"I know the meaning of the words 'wearing two hats' now," Frost said, "and they're both full-time jobs."

Frost said he's aware of false narratives that surround his staff this month.

"People think we're not committed to this," Frost said of the coaches' work to prepare the Knights to face Auburn.

After he got sick at practice on Dec. 13, Frost returned to Lincoln to host an evening event at Memorial Stadium for potential walk-ons at Nebraska. He spent less than three hours on the ground and boarded another late flight back to Florida to attend practice and devise a game plan on Dec. 14.

Auburn, meanwhile, didn't start bowl practice until UCF had finished three workouts.

"I understand some of the frustration," Frost said, "but I can promise you our staff is dialed in and ready to do absolutely everything we can for these kids."

UCF athletic director Danny White, in fact, said he was "proud" to see Frost talk at bowl practices with his replacement, former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, hired Dec. 5.

White and Frost have discussed that Nebraska "isn't a competitor" of UCF.

"I know he wants the success that he's built here to continue," White said. "And having a communication between the two staffs is a unique advantage to the situations."

Heupel has moved into Frost's old office and shares space with his new assistants, leaving the transitioning assistant coaches to work in their usual space. Frost has taken over the recruiting office, with that operation transplanted to a more luxurious setting in Big Ten country.

Until 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 2, the new Nebraska assistants are classified as part-time employees by the school.

Still, there are kinks to work out. For instance, Dillon has not changed his cell service since the move from Florida. He can't get adequate reception in his new Nebraska office, obviously unacceptable for the director of recruiting.

Nevertheless, Dillon said of the transition: "We had a good plan. I thought when [the change] hit, we jumped right into it."

CHANGE IS NEVER EASY. White talked with Frost in November about a scenario for the bowl game should Frost choose to leave the school. Clearly, the UCF athletic director was ready for Frost's decision.

The same can't be said for all of his players.

"There was a little bit of animosity at first," UCF linebacker Titus Davis said, "but at the same time, we're grown men, so guys got over it."

Davis said the Knights looked forward to working with their coaches for a final game.

"At the end of the day," Davis said, "it's all about winning games and keeping that streak going, so regardless of who's coaching or who's leaving, we have to focus on the main thing -- and that's to keep winning."

This arrangement, White said, "by far, gives us the best chance to win."

Frost said he has already won, no matter the result in Atlanta.

"If the guys rally and come together one more time and play like we played all year, with that kind of passion and effort and unity," Frost said, "win or lose, it will be a victory for us."

According to Lambrecht, Frost's chief of staff, UCF and Nebraska share a mutual respect for what the other program is working to accomplish. The awkward moments, as a result, have been limited.

The Knights traveled to Atlanta on Tuesday. Heupel plans to join the team on site ahead of the Peach Bowl to participate in donor and alumni events. The new coach will stay away from game preparation to let Frost's staff complete its work.

Frost, in a way, feels similarly about his place at Nebraska before next month. But, of course, in his position, it's impossible to avoid the spotlight. He tried in vain to stay in the shadows before tipoff of the Dec. 17 Kansas-Nebraska basketball game at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Nebraska prepared a video for the scoreboard, set to dramatic music and red fog, to welcome Frost. In the locker room minutes before the planned festivities, Frost said he didn't want to get in the way of coach Tim Miles' team.

"Hey, you're doing this," Miles said, according to Davison, who stood alongside Frost.

He walked on the court to thunderous cheers.

Frost will land in Lincoln for good a few days before the spring semester opens Jan. 8, which marks the official beginning at Nebraska for a handful of his recruits, including the QB Martinez -- just five weeks after Frost was hired.

He will have crammed perhaps three months of work into those five weeks. And even after that whirlwind, Frost might need time to adjust to what awaits.

"Everybody is going to want a piece of him," Davison said. "Every charity, an autograph, a picture, donors, politicians, former players. There's going to be a lot of that. That's part of the deal. But I don't feel bad for him. He's going to be fine."