ORLANDO, Fla. -- When UCF began practicing how to defend option teams this past spring, defensive coaches told their players to expect a special guest to play quarterback on the scout team.
They all looked at each other and immediately knew.
Coach Scott Frost walked over, wearing cleats, a shirt, shorts and helmet. He stepped under center, barked instructions and snapped the ball. Then he did it again. And again.
"He's running, dropping dimes," linebacker Chequan Burkett said. "You just think in your head, 'Hey man, this guy won a national championship doing this, so it's a wonderful experience to be able to face a quarterback who really did this and happens to be our head coach. He's giving us a great look. If he puts on shoulder pads and full gear, you'd really think he'd want to play us."
For Frost, the decision to run the scout team was an easy one. With both Georgia Tech and Navy on the 2017 schedule -- UCF visits the Midshipmen on Saturday -- Frost and his staff knew they had to start practice against the option months in advance. Most teams do that, just to get their teams acquainted with the offense.
Given his background, Frost figured it would be easier to play quarterback himself than begin to teach it to one of his players. And at age 42, he still runs and works out regularly so his conditioning would not be a problem.
"There is an art to playing option quarterback," he says. "I can't tell you how many reps I have at doing that kind of stuff. Even though I'm slow and old, it's probably still better than somebody that's doing it for the first time."
The reps have to seemingly number in the millions, going all the way back to when he ran the veer at Wood River High. After transferring to Nebraska in 1995, he starred in the option offense for the Huskers and led the team to a 13-0 record and a share of the national championship in 1997.
Though he played defensive back in the NFL, Frost never lost his love for the option. The spread offense he learned under Chip Kelly and runs at UCF employs option principles as well. But what Georgia Tech and the service academies do is so rare, Frost said, "I feel like options quarterbacks now are kinda like giant pandas. They only exist in zoos and military academies."
UCF practiced against the spread at least once a week during spring and fall practice. But it is not only Frost taking the scout team reps. He continues to alternate snaps with freshman Darriel Mack Jr., who is redshirting this season. The Week 3 game against Georgia Tech ended up getting canceled because of Hurricane Irma, but the early preparation has been beneficial now that Navy game week has arrived.
"He wanted to make sure that when the time came for us to play an option team that it wasn't a surprise," linebacker Shaquem Griffin said. "We didn't understand then, 'Why are we doing this now?' But going through the first day of practice Monday and everybody flying around and fitting the right spots, it showed what we did in spring and summer is paying off. I feel we're a step ahead. It's not like we're learning something new."
Players also detected a bit more intensity from Frost, starting Monday.
"He's a lot more focused," noseguard Jamiyus Pittman said. "His face is a lot more serious, there's no more smiles and giggles. He's running it like he's back at Nebraska. I'm not even mad at him because that's the best look we can get.
"I tried to run him down from the back side and I didn't catch him, so I don't know if the looks can get any better than that."
Said Frost, coyly: "I don't know about that. I've just done it so much that I want to give them the best look that I can and our offensive coaches are doing such a good job they don't need me over there. ... I'll take a pulled hammy for the team."
Players also noticed that Frost went without a chinstrap on his helmet this week during practice.
"It must be an old-school thing: I don't need a chin strap, I just throw on the helmet and play football," Griffin said. "He had us laughing all practice every time he put the helmet on with no chin strap. He doesn't care about getting hit, obviously."
Said Pittman: "We probably need to hit him to let him know he needs to put his chin strap on."
Frost wasn't having it.
"Well, they all know if they hit me they're in trouble," Frost said.
Frost has not worn full pads yet but says he is thinking about possibly putting them on for practice later this week. But getting hit is not something that scares Frost. "Blowing a hammy or an Achilles' -- that's what scares me," he said.
And the hardest part about this entire endeavor?
"Putting the cleats on is the worst part," Frost said. "My feet aren't used to those things."
The pain is worth it. Because now his team is used to defending the option.