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Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Mark Whipple Talks Quarterbacks, Tight Ends on the Mend and Red-Zone Offense

March 30, 2022

After dealing with a minor injury that kept him from being a full participant earlier this spring, Chubba Purdy is back practicing and isn’t limited to 7-on-7 passing drills, either.

Purdy, Nebraska’s transfer quarterback from Florida State, was even able to hop in team reps Wednesday at practice, according to offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. Purdy is in a quarterback competition that includes top candidates like Texas transfer Casey Thompson and last year’s backup, Logan Smothers.

Whipple met with the media inside Memorial Stadium on Wednesday to detail how the spring has been going. The quarterback competition is one of the items near the top of the priority list to figure out.

“Everybody’s competing, but I think they’re helping each other out. It’s a good room. That’s important. They’re helping one another out,” Whipple said of his quarterbacks. “You miss something, talking about it, those guys are talking a lot in the meeting and on the field. There’s not any animosity in the group.

“They’re all trying to get better at different levels and we’re trying to build a library for each of them so when we come back, I can go over with it before we get to summer. But they’ll study their own plays they’ve had.”

It’s spring ball, so nothing is perfect right now. Whipple mentioned there was an interception in the red zone in Wednesday’s practice.

“We’re getting more work in the red zone, which will help us in the tight windows and third down and things like that,” Whipple said. “Casey has done well, Chubba has worked a little bit more, so that’s good to see him. Young guys are coming. Bunch of really good kids who like the game and are fun to be around.”

The red zone is an area of the field where Whipple would like to use his tight ends—when they’re healthy. Travis Vokolek and Thomas Fidone II are giants at the position, standing 6-foot-6, 260 pounds and 6-6, 235, respectively. Vokolek isn’t practicing this spring as he rehabs an offseason surgery while Fidone sustained an injury earlier this spring and isn’t practicing, either.

But wait, there’s more.

Both Chris Hickman (6-5, 215) and the undersized Chancellor Brewington (6-3, 185) also haven’t been practicing as they are each dealing with injuries. That leaves young tight ends like Nate Boerkircher, James Carnie and AJ Rollins as the main trio running with the ones and twos.

Tight ends are an important part of a Whipple offense. Last season at Pittsburgh, Lucas Krull caught 38 passes for 451 yards and six touchdowns. The No. 2 tight end/H back, a true freshman by the name of Gavin Bartholomew, had 27 catches for 317 yards and four scores.

“I think the size of those guys can help you in the red zone,” Whipple said of the Husker tight ends. “That would be a place where 6-5, 6-6, 6-7 down there, where the windows are tighter and you have to be physical on catching the ball and the speed is not as important as learning about leverage on defenders and those things.”

More news and notes:

>> Tight ends coach Sean Beckton was also part of the media scrum. He mentioned how Whipple’s passing offense is one that likes to feature the tight end at times.

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