How is Nebraska’s quarterback competition shaping up with two weeks until the season opener? Quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco and his two main contenders chose their words carefully.
Verduzco said Thursday the decision on whether NU ultimately rolls with two-year incumbent Adrian Martinez or redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey will be up to head coach Scott Frost. He said the experience gap between the two isn’t a key factor, considering how McCaffrey has gotten a “boatload” of reps in fall camp. Further, he sees both QBs as similar “in a lot of ways” with their physical skill sets.
Asked about the theoretical stress NU could give a defense having both on the field at the same time, Verduzco said that would be a better scheme question for Frost. Saturday’s upcoming live scrimmage will be a factor in future decisions, Verduzco said, “but I don’t know if it will be the overall major factor.”
McCaffrey acknowledged that missing valuable spring reps was a “bummer” but said spending extended time with his family — including his brother, NFL star running back Christian McCaffrey — was a boost to his offseason development. He said he’s up to 205 pounds after an extended stretch of strength training.
Martinez said he’s been encouraged by the replenished receiver group, saying they are collectively moving faster than a year ago. Along with the help of new offensive coordinator Matt Lubick and a return to full health, Martinez is optimistic for 2020.
“I would say I’m feeling as good as I have in a while,” Martinez said. “That’s obviously exciting for me and I’m ready to get out there and show it.”
Martinez also repeated what Frost and Co. told him as a recruit — the QB job would always be an open competition.
“The best quarterback is going to play. Period," Martinez said. "Luke’s been pushing me and I love it. I’m here for the competition. He’s a talented guy. He gets after it, I get after it. I think that’s definitely helped me progress as a player. It’s gotten some fire out of me and I think it’s great for both of us and it’s great for this team”
Other quick hits from Thursday's interviews with Husker players and coaches:
» Running backs coach Ryan Held called senior Dedrick Mills the “bell cow," someone who would handle a good share of the carries. Beyond that, scholarship backs like Rahmir Johnson, Ronald Thompkins and freshmen Sevion Morrison and Marvin Scott are all in the mix for backup jobs. Held also mentioned walk-ons Cooper Jewett and Zach Weinmaster as players who have stood out in fall camp. Held said NU would have to start narrowing down the Nos. 2 and 3 spots soon.
» After splitting time at receiver and running back out of necessity last year, Wan’Dale Robinson will be almost exclusively at receiver moving forward, Held said.
“I don’t plan on him being in the backfield very much,” Held said. “…His game is going to be slot receiver and doing his thing from that end.”
» Verduzco has been conscious about keeping quarterbacks socially distanced in order to prevent the entire room from potentially testing positive for COVID-19. QBs sit in the same chairs and spread out for meetings. When Verduzco arrives every morning, he wipes down seats and areas where they congregate.