Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Freshman Quarterback Heinrich Haarberg Developing Behind the Scenes for Huskers

October 24, 2021

The waiting can be difficult. Kearney Catholic graduate Heinrich Haarberg is having to wait to get his shot to play. The freshman quarterback knew that coming to Nebraska. The Huskers haven’t had many opportunities to get backups into the action this season. The team did have that chance during the Northwestern game. Backup quarterback Logan Smothers got a few series. Matt Masker also was able to get on the field at Memorial Stadium.

Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said Haarberg has gotten his reps in practice. It just didn’t work out to get the freshman in the game with the way it unfolded against Northwestern. There is also the consideration of getting Masker some time as a multi-year player in the program. The four-game redshirt rule can tempt coaches to get young players some snaps too. Those are things that Verduzco and coach Scott Frost talk about before the games.

Haarberg took over the reins as a sophomore quarterback at Kearney Catholic from Masker. It’s been a while since he was not the starting quarterback for a team. During his career playing Nebraska high school football Haarberg put up good numbers. He threw for more than 3,600 yards with 42 touchdowns over the last two seasons. He ran for more than 1,000 yards in his career.

Haarberg was in a battle this spring and fall camp. He and Logan Smothers went toe-to-toe for the backup quarterback spot. Both young quarterbacks battled hard and Smothers won the job. It’s easy to push the early-enrollee freshman out of your mind but that battle was close. Verduzco gave an update on how the signal-caller is doing so far this season.

“He’s doing good,” Verduzco said. “He’s a character and he’s got a gun for an arm. He’s athletic. He’s doing really well. It was a little bit of an adjustment for him, like all high school quarterbacks, but particularly for him. But he’s adjusted really well. He really has the last couple weeks, been coming along.”

There is an change coming from Class C1 high school football to playing in the Big Ten. It’s expected for there to be a learning curve with that. He’s got the physical tools but catching up on the mental side of the game is daunting. Those physical tools do include his big arm which fans got to see in the Red-White Spring Game this year.

Verduzco thinks there are throws that Haarberg can make that other players can’t. They’ve never tested to see how far he can throw the ball. As Haarberg gets more comfortable in the offense he’ll be able to show that ability more. So, what do you tell a quarterback waiting to get his shot? Verduzco tells his players the time is always now.

“I tell them, don’t wait man, keep going,” Verduzco said. “Don’t wait till next spring. Don’t wait till you’re a junior.  Get going now. He appreciates that. I guess I’m hard on him a little bit. But to get the mental part, at least with regards to the playbook lined up with the strength of his arm and his athleticism? That’s the goal. I think he’s taking that coaching well.”

Haarberg will look to reemerge next spring to potentially battle Smothers again. This time for the starting quarterback job. Until then he can continue making the most of the reps he gets in practice to improve his game.

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