Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Logan Smothers runs with the b all after broken play
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Logan Smothers is Nebraska’s Backup Quarterback, Which We Probably Knew All Along

September 05, 2021

There is an old adage that the most popular player on a football team is the backup quarterback. That’s been especially true for Nebraska in 2021, mostly because the starting role firmly belonged to veteran Adrian Martinez. The spot behind Martinez, however, has been the question mark.

Would it go to second-year freshman Logan Smothers, first-year freshman Heinrich Haarberg, or fourth-year sophomore Matt Masker? Coach Scott Frost gave a little perspective during fall camp.

“I think Logan Smothers has had a really good camp,” Frost said at the time. “His mind works really fast. He gets the ball out on time to the right people. He’s running our run game really well, making good throws.

“Haarberg is really talented. He’s still 18 and a true freshman, so he’s kind of catching up right now a little bit, but he looks good. He looks great.”

Nebraska—who traveled all four quarterbacks to Illinois—never saw anyone against the Illini but Martinez. While Smothers warmed up at the No. 2 spot before that game, it was never officially confirmed he was in the spot. Nebraska doesn’t release a depth chart, opting to list its game-by-game starters instead.

As the Huskers prepared for Fordham, it seemed likely that fans would see a quarterback other than Martinez. If they didn’t, that would mean things were going wildly unexpected against the Rams. While it was a bit unruly for Nebraska at first, the Huskers settled in and gained a comfortable lead in the second half. With just over three minutes to go in the third quarter, Nebraska led 38-7 and Martinez was done for the day.

Enter Smothers. Everything that was assumed was finally confirmed.

Smothers completed 4-of-7 passes for 50 yards and ran the ball four times for another 36 yards on Saturday, helping lead Nebraska to its final two touchdowns of the day. He fumbled the ball once—on an option run—but overall had a pretty good outing.

“I thought Logan did well and that’s kind of what I’ve seen from him,” Frost said following the game. “That was a tough fight. I trust the other two kids—Matt got a snap there at the end—and I thought Logan played really well, other than putting the ball on the deck. He felt bad about that, but it’s good to see him out there.”

Nebraska likely would have wanted to get the game to a place sooner to allow Smothers more time, but experience is experience. Only Martinez had taken a snap for Nebraska out of its four quarterbacks, which presented a number of concerns regarding depth. If Martinez is unavailable—which he has been at some point during each season he’s been with the Huskers—the next man up would have had no game experience.

That changed on Saturday. Smothers has done the work—quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said as much during fall camp—and worked on things like his throwing mechanics.

“I feel pretty good, and I think he feels pretty good about where he is right now with regards to that particular part,” Verduzco said then.

Weeks later, Nebraska fans now know what always seemed to be true: Logan Smothers is the Huskers’ backup quarterback.

Maybe leave it at that, though. When asked about that backup spot—was it truly and officially Smothers for good?—Frost wasn’t ready to say it was a done deal. He may never be.

“Can we focus on the things we need to focus on here?” Frost said. “Matt Masker is a really good player. Haarberg is going to be a really good player. Logan won the number two spot through his body of work and he got the opportunity today.”

And so he did, which is exactly what Nebraska needed two games into its season.

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