This is a series taking a look at each position on Nebraska’s 2023 roster. It’s a brief glimpse on the most intriguing aspects of each position. For full previews on every position, each opponent, feature stories and various important tidbits concerning Nebraska’s 2023 season, check out the Hail Varsity annual yearbook. This year’s edition is 162 pages filled with all you need to know to get the season started. You can read it here by purchase, by subscribing or by finding your local magazine retailer.
Albeit with a vastly different-looking quarterback room from last year, Nebraska finds itself in a similar position going into 2023. A seasoned transfer portal arrival is the apparent starting quarterback although there’s been no formal announcement from the coaching staff.
Jeff Sims not only played with the first-team offense in the Red-White Game (putting together the best day among quarterbacks by far) but he’s also headed to Indianapolis to represent Nebraska at Big Ten Media Days. Sims comes to Nebraska with a career 57.5% completion rate, 30 touchdowns and 23 interceptions at Georgia Tech. Head coach Matt Rhule values Sims as a true passer, as he said after the spring game. Sims was an Elite 11 quarterback out of high school and has shown an ability to sling. His athleticism also excites the staff. His 6-foot-4, 220-pound body can run the 40 in 4.4 seconds and spread defenses. He’s thrown for at least 200 yards and ran for at least 50 in six career games.
The quarterback situation beyond Sims is far more uncertain. Which could be an issue. Sims hasn’t played a full season since his freshman year (2020). He started eight games in 2021 and seven last year as he succumbed to injury issues. So who do the Huskers have beyond him?
Chubba Purdy stands out right away. He’s the only one in the quarterback room at this moment who has game experience playing at Nebraska. He even started two games last year in injury relief before a high ankle sprain ended his season. Purdy’s on-field results at Nebraska are-less-than stellar. He went 22-of-47 for 147 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions last season. That’s on the heels of a 2021 season at Florida State where he was 5-of-5 with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Then there’s the wild card in Kearney native Heinrich Haarberg. He didn’t make the travel roster for road games last year. Former offensive coordinator Mark Whipple flinched when asked of Haarberg’s availability last season, saying the Kearney Catholic graduate wasn’t ready. Haarberg impressed the current coaching staff in winter workouts with his athleticism and physicality. He further wowed with a behind-the-head slam dunk in the first “Huskers Olympics” that seemingly won the competition. Haarberg made some promising plays with his feet in the Red-White Game but finished 2-of-9 throwing. With rumors of a position switch behind him, Haarberg could not only dress but compete for field time this fall.
Nebraska added a few new-face walk-ons since last season. One is former IMG Academy slinger and Ole Miss transfer Jack Woche. He finished 0-for-1 in limited snaps during the spring game. Nebraska also added Sioux City, Iowa, native Luke Longval to the room last month. Longval committed to walking on in Lincoln instead of competing for the potential No. 1 spot at defending NJCAA National Champion Iowa Western CC. He graduated from East High School in Sioux City in 2022.
Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Marcus Satterfield leads this group. He’s previously said he wants a quarterback that can take care of the ball and can extend plays. Satterfield received criticism much of last year at South Carolina for times the Gamecocks offense misfired. Not until the offense exploded in wins against Tennessee and Clemson did the unit find consistency. Now he comes to a program that finished in the bottom third of the country in offensive drive efficiency. With the “Who is the starter” question seemingly put to bed, the more appropriate question might be “Can they find consistency?”