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McKewon: Casey Thompson's leadership will be just as important as his physical talent

McKewon: Casey Thompson's leadership will be just as important as his physical talent

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The former Texas quarterback will play for the Huskers next season.

Nebraska received a commitment from Texas transfer quarterback Casey Thompson on Friday. Three takes on the decision of the 6-foot-1 195-pounder:

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1. A strong personality forged in the spotlight that can win over teammates quickly. Let’s start with what matters: The 23-year-old fifth-year junior will be expected to start and have to prove to guys who spent years with Adrian Martinez that he can get the job done.

If offensive coordinator Mark Whipple likes tough guys who are vocal leaders, Thompson appears to have those traits. It'll be needed at Nebraska since there’s an urgency to win and a lot of eyeballs waiting to see how Thompson responds.

Thompson throws the ball well, tries to stay in the pocket and had the penchant for big games (five touchdowns in the loss to Oklahoma). His physical attributes are helpful.

How he handles the leadership role and media/NIL spotlight are more important.

2. A so-so Husker history with transfer QBs. If you go back almost 50 years, one of the best quarterbacks in school history, Vince Ferragamo, was a transfer from Cal. Scott Frost was another after he came from Stanford.

More recently Nebraska has had Sam Keller (Arizona State to Nebraska), Tanner Lee (Tulane to Nebraska) and Noah Vedral (Central Florida to Nebraska). Zac Taylor — who left Wake Forest, went to junior college, then landed at NU — sort of fits the “transfer QB” label.

Transfer quarterbacks have had terrific success at other schools — hard to beat Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts all in a row at Oklahoma — but when NU has gone to the portal, it hasn’t meant elite success.

Thompson can change that if certain things are in place.

3. Thompson needs a better offensive line and good running back play. Regardless of who's the quarterback, NU has to improve the talent, development and execution around him for the program to have a long-term upward trajectory.

Ask Adrian Martinez, a talented guy who never had all the pieces around him. When NU tried being a downhill running team in the season opener against Illinois, it fell apart. Ditto at Oklahoma, when the Huskers scored 16 points.

If Thompson is asked to reprise Martinez’s role as the scrambling hero, Nebraska may not get much more than the combo of big plays and big mistakes it had the past four years. Thompson is a better short-to-medium passer than Martinez — NU needs that — but the problems with Nebraska’s offense extended well beyond Martinez.

That is why four offensive coaches were fired in November.

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