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Husker QB battle heats up; mystery around Omar Manning's availability grows

Husker QB battle heats up; mystery around Omar Manning's availability grows

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Nebraska is two weeks out from the season opener at Ohio State.

LINCOLN — Nebraska coach Scott Frost hasn't made a final decision on who will be the starting quarterback, he said Tuesday. The top two competitors, Adrian Martinez and Luke McCaffrey, will go into a final week of competition. 

"I wouldn't say it's clear yet," Frost said. The coach would prefer to pick one starting quarterback and stick with him, but will do "whatever's best to help the team." 

McCaffrey could play other positions if he's one of the best athletes on the field — coaches have indicated he is — but he remains primarily a quarterback, Frost said. 

"He's a quarterback," Frost said. "I want to make that clear. Right now our offense moves exceptionally well when he's playing quarterback. He finds ways to make a lot of plays work, he's throwing the ball really well and I don't think anybody has any questions about his athletic ability or his speed. If he's one of the best players to have on the field, and he's not playing quarterback, then we'll certainly look for opportunities to make sure our best players are out there." 

Will receiver Omar Manning be out there? Frost wouldn't say. 

"When Omar's been out there, he's been really good," Frost said. "He's been dealing with some health things that kind of kept him in and out. We need him out there more consistently if he's going to help us the way we expect him to and hope that he will." 

Frost mentioned Wan'Dale Robinson and Alante Brown have been "nicked up" at times, too, and the receiver situation "needs to work itself out pretty quickly." 

When asked if Manning would be available for the Ohio State game, Frost kept the answer brief: "I hope so." 

 More notes from Tuesday's press conference: 

» Tight end Austin Allen said the feeling he and the team had after the 27-24 loss to Iowa fueled him in the offseason. The season opener against Ohio State has the team fired up, too. Allen said the challenge of the Buckeyes and the faster tempo of the Husker offense has the team in the best condition it's been in. 

"We've been grinding" Allen said. "He's got us in the best shape we've ever been in. We've been running more than we ever ran, we've been conditioning up-tempo more than we ever have been. That's what Coach Frost wants to see. That makes me feel better about what we've got going." 

» Allen lauded the leadership on offense, especially that of junior receiver Kade Warner, who is holding chalkboard sessions with receivers during Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football games. Warner is on now scholarship, Allen said. 

"Kade Warner's leadership has been unmatched," Allen said. Frost said the "best thing" Warner has done is stay on the field because he's healthy. 

» Allen said the quarterback battle between Martinez and McCaffrey is a "true competition." 

"It's going to help us as a whole in the quarterback room," Allen said. "We have two really great guys back there." 

Defensive end Ben Stille, who faces Martinez and McCaffrey in practice, said both make plays. 

"I'm excited to see how it turns out," Stille said. 

» Cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, when asked about Nebraska's receivers, mentioned Warner, Levi Falck, Robinson, Brown and Marcus Fleming as players who stand out to him. The receivers have improved in their blocking, too. 

"They're better now after we brought it to them," Taylor-Britt said. 

» Taylor-Britt has been watching college football games each weekend, and noting the struggles of college defenses across the nation. Even some historically strong defenses — like Alabama and LSU — have struggled mightily. 

What Taylor-Britt sees — and what Nebraska can learn from — is poor communication on the field and a lack of conditioning. 

"When I watch football now, I watch from the perspective of, I'm playing the game, so I  try to call some of our calls to their offensive plays in the game sometimes," Taylor-Britt said. "I watch some of the corners, the way they backpedal, they're looking at the ball and things like that. ... Defenses, they're not going full speed, everybody's kind of tired, that's why I think, Coach Frost's staying on us to keep hydrating, staying in shape, because we have to play four quarters." 

» Marquel Dismuke said the competition in practices over the last several weeks has been so significant, "we've started a fire ourselves." 

"It's a good thing we have an opponent in a week or so, so we can take our anger out on them," Dismuke said. 

Dismuke played through an undisclosed neck injury last season that he called "mind-blowing." Taylor-Britt, who also played through injuries last season, said he appreciates Dismuke's toughness.

"He's an older guy and I was a younger guy, and I feel like we're on the same page now," Taylor-Britt said. "We have that chemistry just a little bit more. He's always lifted me up and I'm always lifting him up. He was a strong guy last year. I commend him on that." 

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