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Football Flying into Net at Nebraska Football Practice
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

All Calm in Nebraska’s Quarterback Room

August 17, 2019

Adrian Martinez’s day on Friday was limited. Not because he was limited, because there’s no reason to push him or risk anything in a live scrimmage. Nebraska knows who its quarterback is going to be and, for the most part, what it is going to get from that spot when the season begins on Aug. 31. 

When asked how this offseason was for him compared to last season, Noah Vedral, one of a few competing for the backup spot (more on that in a minute), said he felt calmer. Really, that’d be an accurate way to describe the entire room this fall. 

A year ago this time there was controversy. Real controversy. Was this new coaching staff going to roll with a guy in Tristan Gebbia who had at least been around an extra year but still had as much in-game experience as the guy selling hot dogs or were they going to tab the true freshman Scott Frost flew literally coast-to-coast to personally recruit?

And when the decision was made on who to go with, would it be done in a way that would allow both quarterbacks to remain on the roster?

Because that was a legitimate worry last season. If and when Martinez became the guy, how would the former Mike Riley recruit assess the situation? He’d be with a coaching staff that didn’t ask for him behind a guy with all four years of his eligibility. 

Gebbia left, as we all know now, and Nebraska entered the season without multiple eligible scholarship quarterbacks. There was very real angst. 

Excitement over what Martinez could do, but a nagging worry of a scenario in which Martinez couldn’t do those things.

Now the only unknown is whether a third-year guy in this offense will be the primary backup or another true freshman who’s a little further along than this staff expected him to be. 

What a difference a year makes. 

“That position in particular is I think an example of the whole team — there’s improvement across the board that should help us from a frontline talent standpoint but also from a depth standpoint,” Frost said Friday.

“We just feel like a family,” Martinez said in the spring. “It’s definitely a special bond we all share.” 

Vedral has nothing but complimentary things to say about freshman Luke McCaffrey, even though McCaffrey is currently fighting to make Vedral No. 3 on the depth chart. Andrew Bunch stuck it out in Lincoln even though significant playing time looks scarce.

Credit Mario Verduzco, the Huskers’ quarterback coach, for creating an environment that guys want to be a part of or credit Frost for fostering that family-like vibe within the team or credit the individual members of the room for not running from competition but embracing it. Whichever way, Nebraska is in an enviable spot with its quarterback room.

Ohio State currently does not know who its starting quarterback is (or at least, it hasn’t publicly said so), and the winner of the competition will be a transfer who wasn’t playing for the Buckeyes last year. 

Northwestern’s quarterback is a transfer. Wisconsin has a quarterback competition. Minnesota played two guys last year and one of those guys was just sidelined indefinitely at the start of camp. Illinois has a competition. Maryland still hasn’t named a starter. Neither has Illinois. Indiana has an incumbent starter and still is in the middle of a competition. Rutgers probably should be in the midst of a competition.

Maybe some of those are just for-show competitions, but the fact remains, there are three sure-things at the quarterback spot in the Big Ten: Shea Patterson at Michigan, Nate Stanley at Iowa, and Martinez at Nebraska. 

That’s got to count for something, right?

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