Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Logan Smothers makes a pass during practice
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Competition at Quarterback as Huskers Sort Out Spot Behind Adrian Martinez

August 11, 2021

It’s pretty certain that Nebraska’s starting quarterback is junior Adrian Martinez. The conversation through the Huskers’ first two weeks of fall camp has centered around who will win the job behind him. That’s not how the quarterbacks view it though.

“Right now I’m working for that (starting) spot,” freshman quarterback Logan Smothers said. “I’m trying to beat out Adrian. It’s a competition and I want to push him to be the best he can be.”

That’s what quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco wants to hear, too. He’s glad to hear his room is competing for more than just that backup spot, especially as the Huskers work toward the season opener at Illinois.

As for the breakdown between Smothers and Heinrich Haarberg, the freshman from Kearney Catholic, Verduzco provided some insight on both quarterbacks. For Smothers, he’s worked quite a bit on refining his throwing motion and becoming more consistent as a passer.

“(I’ve worked on) the whole rhythm of the throw, start to finish,” Smothers said. “It’s been a grind but he’s been working with me and I trust him to get me right. It’s been going good.”

Nebraska hasn’t worked on Haarberg’s throwing style at this point, but Verduzco said he has to continue to work on his knowledge of the playbook and his comfortability in the offense. He’s improved in that already, with Haarberg crediting his fellow quarterbacks for help in that area.

Haarberg also credits Verduzco for bringing him out of his shell more.

“Coach Verduzco, I guess I’ve just gotten more comfortable in the quarterback room and especially around him,” Haarberg said. “He brings out the best in us all.”

No one in the quarterback room is quite ready to say who is leading at that backup spot, but Smothers has been practicing with the 1s and the 2s behind Martinez during fall camp. That doesn’t mean things couldn’t be different by the time the Illinois matchup rolls around. It also doesn’t mean that the quarterbacks couldn’t be used in various situations depending on scheme.

For now, Verduzco is pleased with what he’s seeing from his room and the quarterbacks are too.

“It’s been exciting. I love competition,” Smothers said. “I think the whole group loves competing so it’s been a good camp so far.”

More news and notes: 

>> Smothers said he has gained around 12 to 15 pounds since he first arrived at Nebraska. As for Haarberg, he arrived at Nebraska weighing 200 pounds. The Huskers hope for him to play around 230 pounds.

>> Ryan Held said four players have separated themselves in the race to play at running back this fall. He wouldn’t name the four backs, although Sevion Morrison, Markese Stepp and Gabe Ervin Jr. were all made available to the media following practice.

>> Stepp said Ervin had a great scrimmage on Sunday, noting a 50 or 60-yard run from him.

>> While Stepp wouldn’t say exactly what the injury was this spring, he said that he “tweaked” something in the second spring practice for Nebraska. He had surgery following an MRI.

>> You can check out the sights and sounds from the day below. You can also get premium practice observations here.

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