Photo Credit: John Peterson

Huskers Looking for Leaders to Emerge on Offense

August 10, 2022

Casey Thompson is looking for more leaders on his side of the ball.

The transfer and top candidate for Nebraska’s starting quarterback job acknowledged that the defense got the best of the offense in today’s practice, and said he called the unit together “three or four times” today to keep their spirits up.

“We have to push through adversity. Quite honestly, we need more people to speak up on offense,” Thompson said. “We got me and Travis Vokolek and Turner Corcoran but we need more guys to speak up. I think that the defense does a great job of having a lot of voices, a lot of leadership. So I would say I told everybody today, just pick each other up and stay positive, keep encouraging each other.”

At the same time, Thompson knows his position requires him to take on a leadership role and is confident in his ability to do so.

“Leadership is something that I feel like that you either have in you or you don’t,” he said. “It’s hard to teach someone how to be a leader and it’s hard to teach someone how to speak and the words to say at the right time, but you know, I’ve been playing football since I was 4 years old. And I’ve been playing quarterback since I was a young kid and I just feel like that leadership is kind of an innate quality.”

Thompson said it was a “fine line” when he came to Nebraska, between understanding that he’s new to the team but that he’s also the quarterback. He’s careful to not step over the line, but wants to avoid not saying anything at all. Nebraska has a leadership committee comprised of offensive and defensive players along with one specialist, and Thompson said that helped his transition to the team. He named Vokolek, Corcoran and Garrett Nelson as players in that group.

Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple still wants to see more from his quarterbacks on days like today.

“I can only get you on the sidelines,” Whipple said. “Quarterbacks got to take control, Casey’s got to be better, Chubba (Purdy), those two guys I got on today a little bit. They’re the guy in the huddle that speaks, where 10 other guys listen.”

Chubba Purdy, another transfer arrival in the offseason, seemingly isn’t far behind in the quarterback race. Whipple said he and Thompson have been splitting the first team reps, although it’s still Thompson’s job to lose. Logan Smothers currently stands as the third quarterback in the depth chart.

Purdy said that regardless of who the starter is, he wants to be ready whenever his number is called. That extends to his leadership ability, something he’s grown comfortable with. He said he was truly able to step up this summer after coming back from a foot injury.

“Once we started running in the indoor having workouts I was around them a lot, doing everything they were doing,” Purdy said. “So when times were getting tough, we’re speaking up to them and telling them that we’re going to do it, we’re gonna finish it. Just those kinds of things and just being around them and having them see me do the work as well with them, not just standing and watching to prove to them that I’m ready to go and I’m ready to work.”

He said that Whipple told the quarterbacks today that they needed to have more of an edge to them, and finish when times get tough. Purdy also pointed out Corcoran, who hasn’t been able to practice recently, as a strong leader.

Thompson added that leadership can’t only come when the team is having a rough day.

“I think it’s also important to know that you don’t have to have a low point in a practice or game to talk,” Thompson said. “So I try to walk around and I try to give guys high fives on the receivers and offensive line and the running backs and say good job. I would say that really having a positive tone and a positive approach to even just keeping guys up. If we’re doing good, keep going and keep staying positive or if we’re doing bad, then trying to pick each other up.”

That consistency is something he wants to take into the season. The top two quarterbacks and many other players on the team haven’t played a game in a Husker uniform yet. The season opener will be in another country. The ability to keep steady no matter the environment is something Thompson emphasized.

“I told the team today, we’re gonna play in Michigan, we’re gonna play in Dublin, Ireland, we’re gonna play in Lincoln, Nebraska,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t matter where we’re at. We have to stick together. We have to push through it.”

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