LINCOLN — A short week of preparation with a new starting quarterback and still-shorthanded coaching staff is the challenge as Nebraska closes in on its season finale.
The offense won’t undergo an overhaul by any means, coach Scott Frost said Wednesday, but the past few days also haven’t exactly been business as usual. Instead of QB coach Mario Verduzco and longtime starter Adrian Martinez, it’s former offensive quality control coach Steve Cooper and second-year freshman Logan Smothers.
Taking all the first-team reps in practice should help Smothers — set to make his first career start — and the Huskers as they prepare for the 12:30 p.m. Friday kickoff against Iowa.
“It’s a good opportunity for him and it’s a good opportunity for us to see what he can do,” Frost said.
Martinez had shoulder surgery Wednesday, Frost said, and the QB has been in a “good place” leading up to the procedure. Martinez is among 21 junior-eligible players who must decide whether to return in 2022 or move on from the program.
Frost said there is a sense of urgency from both Nebraska and its quarterback to quickly plot a course of action for the future.
“I don’t think that decision will take too long,” Frost said. “I want what’s best for the program, definitely want what’s best for Adrian too. I’m sure he and I will have some more conversations.”
Big Red could also be shorthanded elsewhere. The status of running back Rahmir Johnson and starting safety Deontai Williams is “going to be tight” for the game, Frost said, while defensive lineman Damion Daniels — another Husker who may be appearing in his last college game — could “potentially” contribute after being limited physically against Wisconsin.
“We’re just nicked up,” Frost said. “They’re nicked up. A lot of people around the country are nicked up right now.”
Frost said senior day will include players who walk during pregame ceremonies and end up coming back next year, while others won’t walk and may not return.
“The way I feel about it is any time we can honor any of them for the hard work they put in here, we need to honor them,” Frost said. “I think the decisions will come later on.”
Frost said it's not overblown that the impact of the Iowa game could linger into an offseason that will include heavy work with the transfer portal and multiple assistant coach hires.
“I want to send the seniors out the right way and would love to have some momentum going into the offseason and what we’re doing from here forward,” Frost said. “It’s been such a trying year, coming so close against so many good teams. We’ve got another one coming in here. I know the guys are going to fight and we’ve got to try to put ourselves in position to win one and then get it over the hump.”