Mario Verduzco smiles in endzone after spring game
Photo Credit: Ryan Loco

Mario Verduzco Shares Some of the Process, Talks D’Artagnan, Clapping, and More

December 03, 2020

Nebraska quarterback coach Mario Verduzco went on the Husker Sports Nightly radio show Thursday evening. Here’s a brief rundown of everything he talked about.

>> Logan Smothers, Nebraska’s true freshman quarterback out of Alabama, is nicknamed D’Artagnan after the mustachioed character from The Three Musketeers. Yes, this is the most piece of important information from the evening and that’s why it’s leading us off. 

On a more serious note, Smothers has traveled to every game so far this season. Though he hasn’t played, Verduzco likes that experience the young quarterback has gotten from those trips. 

“He’s responded very well to that,” Verduzco said. “Very mature. We want our guys to be relaxed, but when it’s time to lock in, he knows how to do that, and I think that comes from his dad, Shane, being a ball coach back in Alabama and doing a great job with him. Logan knows the ins and outs of being a quarterback and what’s required.”

>> Verduzco wasn’t much interested in talking about how the Husker quarterbacks graded out following the 26-20 loss to Iowa last Friday. His brother called to tell him about Adrian Martinez’s line (he only missed two throws on the day) and Verduzco thought it was nice, “but it doesn’t make a damn bit of different when you end up losing a close game to Iowa.”

He did, however, offer some interesting insight into how those grades are handed out. 

“Right after practice is done, all the film is loaded for me to ‘grade,’ … I grade every play, and usually that takes me about an hour and a half before I have to go into an offensive meeting with Coach (Scott) Frost,” Verduzco said. “I load all that stuff in—in terms of the critique—in their quarterback folder for each particular gameplan week so they’re able to see the plays and the critique, good or bad, whatever it might be, before we step into our quarterback meetings later that evening.

“They’re probably watching at least an hour of practice tape a week. And then you put on top of it that they need to be prepared to understand what the defense is like on first and second downs, what they’re like on third downs, what they’re like on backed-up offense, down-under offense, open-field, the fringe, high red zone, low red zone and goal line, making sure they have a sense of what they’re gonna be facing in each of those situations and contingency offense situations. What are they gonna be like in two-minute? What are they gonna be like in four-minute? Not bogging them down with the details of everything, but ultimately that they understand the moral of the story.”

Lots to digest. 

In terms of game review at the end of the week, Verduzco gets to his office insanely early (relatively speaking) Sunday mornings to grade every snap from that Saturday’s game. When he’s done, it gets shared with the guys to look over.

“They look at the tape, evaluate what I have said, usually those knuckleheads will call me or text me with a question about what I wrote, and we’ll talk about that,” he said. “If they want to come in and watch, I can’t demand they come in because Sunday is their day off, but if they want to come in and watch tape, great. If not, that’s awesome, too.”

Not groundbreaking, but nice to get a peak behind the curtain every now and again.

>> Verduzco was pretty clear on a couple of questions asked Thursday night: he does what Frost thinks is best. Asked if Nebraska might utilize more two-quarterback sets similar to the looks thrown at Ohio State in the opener, Verduzco said “I wouldn’t be averse to that,” but that it’s ultimately the decision of Frost and offensive coordinator Matt Lubick on what fits the gameplan week to week. Asked if there might be more boots and rollouts, Verduzco said that’s be a question for Frost and Lubick. 

He didn’t question the two-quarterback system Nebraska deployed against Iowa, either. Asked if the switching at quarterback might effect the chemistry with the center, Verduzco said that’s not something they should worry about as quarterbacks.

“The placement of the quarterback within the gun is always the same, in terms of his depth in relationship to the center, so I can’t imagine that has any impact on it,” he said. “From our standpoint in the quarterback room, we just can’t worry about those things. Cam (Jurgens) has to do his job in the best way he can and whatever happens, happens. We’ve just got to make do.”

The cadences of Martinez and Luke McCaffrey, Verduzco says, aren’t a whole lot different either.

>> Since #clapgate was a thing this week, how about a clap thought: Nebraska uses clapping instead of verbal cues for snaps because, believe it or not, the clap is easier to hear in a packed stadium than a spoken word. “We just have not wanted to change our clapping with regards to the snap count,” he said. Especially not on a temporary basis.

>> Another nugget Verduzco dropped: it’s “rare” for a quarterback to alter the play at the line of scrimmage.

“I know I’ve been in offenses where we did a lot of that, either direction on the ball or full audible checks or kills or alerts or whatever,” he started. “In our offense, because there’s so many options within the framework of one play, there’s really not a lot of need for that.

“Don’t overthink it. Just go through your reads and keys, be true to your reads and keys, and let it rip.”

An awkward moment came later when an anonymous question filtered through asking Verduzco if he had any concern with the speed with which quarterbacks have gone through their reads.

“Ha. Who’s that question from?” he responded. When told it didn’t come with a name, he paused for a brief moment before saying, “You’re gonna get through your reads as fast as your receivers can run routes.”

They go hand in hand, don’t they, host Greg Sharpe said back.

“Ya think?”

So.

>> You hear this from Frost regularly when he talks about needing to simplify because of the youth on the roster, but Verduzco kind of touched right on the nose of it Thursday night: we still haven’t seen the full breadth of this Nebraska playbook three years into the Frost experience.

“There’s been some stuff we’d like to get to, and even some stuff that would be more effective and efficient the older we get, the more mature we get,” he said.

There’s some fun stuff in there. Soon.

>> Verduzco said the identity of this offense is it’s flexibility. Nebraska has been searching a little bit for something it can hang its hat on lately.

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