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Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Coaches Excited About QB Runs While Stressing Ball Security

April 04, 2023

Several people (or what seems like several hundred people at this point) have asked Marcus Satterfield what Nebraska’s offense will look like. And he’s usually shook it off. It’ll match personnel, it’ll be tough or it’ll involve runs and passes. Nebraska’s offensive coordinator told local media earlier this spring the kind of offense he wants is one that values the ball.

No one on this coaching staff goes on a ledge with guarantees. They all inherit the head coach’s mentality of controlling what they can control. So the only thing close to a gold-star stamped on this offense is its clamp on the pigskin.

“One consistent thing we can guarantee is that we’re going to try to play clean football, protect the football,” Satterfield said.

The coordinator explained all healthy quarterbacks are currently taking as close to even reps as possible. Sometimes one naturally gets more but coaches are actively trying to keep them with in 10 reps of each other. When asked if there’s a certain type of quarterback he prefers, Satterfield doubled down on what he cares about.

“I’ll put my dog out there to play quarterback if he takes care of the ball and helps us win games,” he said. “We don’t care what shape, size he looks like, we just want him to take care of the football and be a winner.”

Following Saturday’s scrimmage, head coach Matt Rhule said the offense is probably further along than the defense. There could be many reasons for that. Coaches and players alike complimented how the offensive line has moved and blocked this season. Nebraska’s current stable of running backs offers the offense potentially its deepest position, talent-wise. Nebraska’s receivers are hungry for catches. And the quarterbacks responsible for dealing them the ball are largely dynamic athletes. Transfer arrival Jeff Sims has garnered praise. Kearney Catholic graduate Heinrich Haarberg is a gem of an athlete to this coaching staff. Chubba Purdy has thrown well in practice, redshirt freshman Richard Torres is a promising prospect and former Ole Miss quarterback Jack Woche recently joined the team as a walk-on.

“They all bring something different to the table,” Rhule said on Saturday. “I think we probably turned the ball over twice so we’ve got a few things we have to correct. But we saw a few good situations, third-down, we had 2-minute, got red zone, and for the most part I thought they played really well.

“That added dynamic that they bring of being able to run. When Richard is in there we’re able to do different things, when Heinrich is in there we do different things with him. I was really pleased with quarterbacks today.”

Rhule mentioned how quarterback runs went for big gains during Saturday’s scrimmage. While he admitted part of that could be not telling the defense that quarterbacks were live until that morning, allowing defenses to tackle quarterbacks to the ground on Saturday, Rhule also mentioned quarterbacks bouncing off tackles and running for significant gains.

Sims ran for nearly 500 yards as a freshman at Georgia Tech but an injury-hampered 2022 campaign kept him to 302 yards. Team diagnostics showed Haarberg with one of the fastest GPS-mapped times on the team during winter workouts. Purdy also stood out there. Torres, out of San Antonio, was a dual-threat quarterback out of high school with a big arm and capable legs.

Obviously, Casey Thompson and Logan Smothers are a different part of the conversation. Both wear gold jerseys in practice so they participate in drill work but workout together during organized live-ball reps. Smothers ran for 28 yards in limited game time last season, not quite meeting the 133 yards he ran for in 2021. Thompson actually ran for 157 yards for Texas in 2021. While he showed some ability to extend plays at Nebraska, he rarely exhibited a willingness to tuck the ball and run upfield, as evident by his negative-21 rushing yards.

Coaches love the run dynamic wile stressing ball security basics. Nebraska’s offense had 19 turnovers, including 13 interceptions. Sims didn’t fumble in 277 attempts but threw 23 interceptions at Georgia Tech. Satterfield is working with him to remedy that.

“I know what he’s got from a physicality standpoint, he’s got really good arm talent,” Satterfield said. “I want to see him be accurate and take care of the football.

“We told everybody, anyone who touches the football, if you don’t take care of the football you will not play. And so every position, especially quarterback, you’ve got to show that you’re going to be responsible with the ball in your hands and make sure that we have it after every whistle blows.”

Sims said the whole quarterback room is fighting for reps in practice and showing what they can do. They want competition to drive the position, wherever it goes. Admittedly, part of his competition is fighting through the cold that’s already crept in during winter workouts and morning practices. Haarberg also spoke with local media earlier this spring and mentioned the detail with which Satterfield coaches. He sometimes throws in smaller footballs in order to ingrain hand placement on the laces. That helped the offenses show their potential during Saturday’s scrimmage.

“I think it’s a very good offense. I think we retain information very good,” Sims said earlier this spring. “And we just go out there and fight every day. The biggest thing I like about us as an offense is when we get thrown things we don’t complain, we just fight through it.”

While unable to play to that degree, Thompson lends his leadership and experience at practice and in the film room. Sims said it’s been helpful having Thompson there and it’s clear why he’s a leader. Thompson wants to see everyone at their best. As a quarterback, Sims also wants to lead if given the call. He brings more of the dynamic running approach to strike on a stretched-out defense. So does Haarberg, Purdy and Torres. And, despite Thompson’s status on the sidelines now, he showed last season he’s not willing to sit out without a being forced to.

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