Hot Reads: Huskers QB Situation Becomes a Little More Volatile
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Hot Reads: Huskers QB Situation Becomes a Little More Volatile

April 29, 2020

I wasn't sure, given the lack of spring football, how Bad News Season would work this year. Turns out it arrived right on time and works just the same.

The unofficial start to Bad News Season is the Monday after a team's spring game, the Memorial Day to the start of fall camp's Labor Day. During that version of football’s cruel summer, there isn't a whole lot of good that can happen to a football team, only small news items that each damage a team's stock bit by bit. Spring games across the country were canceled, but Bad News Season wasn't.

Quarterback Noah Vedral's decision to enter the transfer portal qualifies as bad news for Nebraska. You hope it ends up being good news for Vedral, that he finds a place to run an offense full-time after dutifully doing all of the behind-the-scenes work to prepare for such an opportunity at two different stops with this Nebraska staff. He deserves that chance.

Vedral arrived at UCF just as McKenzie Milton was blossoming into the AAC's Offensive Player of the Year and a Heisman contender. Vedral’s return to Nebraska coincided with Adrian Martinez playing at a freshman All-America level. It's possible that in a game of QB War, Vedral is holding a king and he just happens to have run into two guys that were holding aces. We don't know. But that it is possible makes taking the last opportunity to find out make a lot of sense. What would you do in that spot?

For Nebraska it means a little less security at quarterback in 2020. Security is pretty scarce at that spot in this transfer-laden era, so it always seemed like the Huskers were defying the odds a bit when they had a starter, a completely capable and even intriguing backup (Vedral), and, in 2019 at least, a big-play-in-a-bottle freshman that could be unleashed.

Removing Vedral from that equation raises the stakes for the other two. It's even more important now that Martinez regains his freshman-season form. On 387 plays last year, Martinez had an average predicted points added (PPA) of .151 on passes and .345 on runs. In 2018 those corresponding numbers were .196 and .531.

Vedral's 2019 PPA was pretty similar to Martinez's numbers from 2018, .204 on passes and .549 on runs. That was on 80 plays and sample size definitely matters. If Vedral does that over an entire season, you've got something.

Luke McCaffrey's numbers were also intriguing on even fewer plays. On 34 countable plays the true freshman posted a .921 PPA on passing plays and .344 on rushes. The latter made him as valuable a runner as Martinez in 2019 (though on far fewer plays). The former is probably a bit of fool's gold. At worst, it's a number that would come down with more pass attempts.

As Jacob Padilla noted in his brilliant breakdown of McCaffrey's pass attempts in 2019, there were only 11 such attempts as a quarterback once you remove his one pass when lined up as a wide receiver. Of the remaining 11, just one pass was a down-field pass from the pocket. I'm as intrigued by McCaffrey as anyone else, but what can we say we know about him as a passer right now?

Without Vedral, Nebraska's quarterback situation gets more volatile. To be clear, the Huskers are still in a better spot than many teams. They have a presumed starter, still have a backup and there's yet another interesting true freshman in the mix. One of those will have to be the potential answer for Nebraska in 2020 and we have a good idea of which is the most likely.

But Vedral could've been the answer, too. Possibly a strong answer. That's what Nebraska lost here near the start of Bad News Season.

The Grab Bag

  • Kelly Hunter got a crash course on volleyball recruiting during her time as an interim assistant coach.
  • Good write up here from Derek Peterson looking at just how much a home football game is worth for Nebraska. 
  • The Gifford family, including current Dallas Cowboy, Luke, and current Husker, Isaac, has been back under one roof of late and things are, uh, getting interesting. (Premium)

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