The Broyles Award might be my favorite of college football's many awards. It's often a glimpse into the future of the sport. Lincoln Riley, Tom Herman, Gus Malzahn and Kirby Smart all won the award as the nation's top assistant coach in the past decade.
But for a certain kind of coach, the career assistant, the Broyles Award might represent the top of the profession. John Chavis had coached 31 seasons before winning the award in 2011 as LSU's defensive coordinator. (Though he did win the AFCA's assistant of the year award in 2006 while at Tennessee, just 26 years into his coaching career.) Coaching and winning are more important than awards, of course, but for the kind of coach who, for whatever reason, never quite took the next step to head coach the Broyles Award is as good as awards get.
Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco is closer to the latter category. He was a head coach early in his career, but his "life's work," as he puts it, has been devoted to teaching quarterback play. Verduzco was announced as one of 53 nominees for the 2018 Broyles Award.
That's not easy to do as a quarterbacks coach. Forty-two of the 53 nominees this year are coordinators. In the 19-year history of the award, it has only ever gone to a coordinator. Of the 11 non-coordinator on this year's initial list, four of them have the title of assistant head coach and five are offensive line coaches. Verduzco is the only pure quarterbacks coach on the list.
He's there, in part, for the remarkable progress of true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez. But I also wonder if this isn't a bit of recognition for a career that, in the college football world at least, happened a little bit off the beaten path. From 1996 to 2015, Verduzco worked at three schools: Rutgers, Northern Iowa and Missouri State. Over the 14 seasons at Northern Iowa, Verduzco's starters –– which included dual threats, pocket passers and everything in between — combined for a 142.95 passer rating. That 14-year average would've been good enough to rank in the top 25 of FCS passers any year during that stretch.
Verduzco hooked up with Frost at UCF in 2016 and McKenzie Milton's two-year development into a Heisman contender continued Verduzco's success from UNI. But two other UCF assistants drew the Broyles Award attention. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander was a semifinalist in 2016, and offensive coordinator Troy Walters was one of five finalists in 2017. (Scott Frost was a finalist in 2014 while at Oregon, losing out to Herman.)
Now that Martinez is showing extraordinary promise at one of the game's blue bloods, however, Verduzco is getting some deserved recognition. Given Nebraska's historical clout, this was always possible, but you never really know until it happens.
Back in the summer (https://hailvarsity.com/s/4507/a-conversation-with-mario-verduzco-about-whats-on-his-bookshelf), I asked Verduzco, who is in no way eager for for this sort of recognition, if he ever thought about how being at Nebraska might amplify his unique methods for teaching quarterback play.
“You would be foolish if you didn’t recognize that, you know?”
Of course Verduzco doesn’t do forced naiveté either.
“I’m going to work just like I have at all the places I’ve been,” he says. “God willing the cubes are going to be successful. I’m confident that they’re going to be able to do everything that Coach Frost and Coach Walters want them to do and be effective and efficient.
“If that allows me a platform by which I can maybe change some perspectives and to continue Coach Walsh’s philosophy about coaching the position because I’m at Nebraska, man, wow, that’s awesome.
“That’s tremendous to me.”
The first Broyles Award was awarded in 1997, which is a big part of the reason Nebraska has never had one of its assistants win one. This year's winner will be announced Dec. 4th at a ceremony in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The Grab Bag
- Nebraska volleyball made quick work of Iowa last night, . . .
- . . . but in the other Nebraska vs. the State of Iowa matchup, Huskers women's hoops dropped its season opener to Drake. (Photos)
- Some good quotes here from offensive line coach Greg Austin on how the Huskers are handling in-game adjustments now versus earlier in the season.
- In this week's mailbag the HV staff offers some Nebrasketball season predictions and touches on 2019 expectations for football.
Today's Song of Today