You knew Nebraska's selection of a quarterback in 2019 was going to be interesting. It's going to be interesting every year because of the unique QB math now going on in Lincoln: New QB x Mario Verduzco training + Scott Frost play calling = Top–of–the–Charts Efficiency.
Watching the Huskers solve for "New QB" is going to be fun based on this first full recruiting cycle. Last December Nebraska had little time to mess around. The coaches made Adrian Martinez a top priority and won the battle.
This year the Huskers cast a wide net evaluating and offering a speedster in Texas, an ace pitcher in Mississippi and the son of an Oregon coach to name a few. Athleticism was the common thread.
Athleticism Nebraska got with the commitment of Luke McCaffrey. Part of what has become the First Family of Football in Colorado, McCaffrey has the numbers and measurables of . . . an all-purpose back. I would be very surprised if there's a quarterback commit in the 2019 class with fewer career pass attempts (78).
Cornhusker Nation, we got our guy. The future just happened…Again!!!
— Mario A. F. Verduzco (@Coach_Verdu) June 4, 2018
More than a red flag, however, I find that fact fascinating. Is Nebraska really going to look for the best athletes it can find and turn them into quarterbacks? While there's a portion of the quarterback recruiting industry that's reserved solely for the 6-4 pocket passers of impeccable pedigree and expensive training –– the guys that end up at places like USC, Alabama and Georgia –– plenty of other teams take the "let's put an athlete back there" approach. And results vary. Athletes present their own set of problems for a defense, but at some point a quarterback is going to have to do real quarterback things to win at the highest level. (See also: Taylor Martinez, Tommy Armstrong Jr.)
Nebraska's big bet is that if it can source the raw goods (a 4.5 40, a 35-inch vertical) the craftsmanship will produce winning quarterback play. The past performance here is pretty good, whether that's Frost's Oregon QBs, Verduzco's Northern Iowa gang or the remarkable rise of McKenzie Milton over two seasons at UCF.
So bring your 78 pass attempts, Luke McCaffrey. And your 7.6 yards per carry and 11 rushing touchdowns. And your 66 receptions, 10 touchdowns and 13.1 yards per catch. It's all part of the package. While McCaffrey sat behind talented quarterbacks he still found ways to contribute.
Reminds me of another guy.
"He could be the best strong safety in football," Bill Walsh said of Frost in 1994. So Frost played safety as a sophomore while backing up quarterback Steve Stenstrom. He had two sets of shoulder pads, big ones for defense, small ones for when he was behind center.
Could Husker fans see McCaffrey contribute in other ways before they see him take snaps? Our staff kicked that question around last night, and I don't know the answer but I love the idea of it.
Nebraska landed a football player who will play quarterback, and that remains one of my favorite things about college football.
The Grab Bag
- Nebraska didn't land on the list this year (it did last year), but here are the win totals ESPN's FPI is betting against.
- The 2018 World Cup teams as college football programs.
- While 5-7 can be good enough to get a team to a bowl in certain circumstances that won't be the case in the Pac-12 going forward.
- ICYMI: We've got a special edition of The Varsity Club podcast for you this week (now also available on Apple Podcasts!), here's a good story from Jacob Padilla on recent Nebrasketball recruit Chucky Hepburn and Greg Smith shared a slew of recruiting information yesterday.
Today's Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.