Football is back, people! Well, sort of. Fall camp opens this week and with the roster more or less set, now is a perfect time to take a closer look at what Scott Frost really has on his hands in Lincoln.
For this series of position previews, we’re going to identify one number that the Huskers need to replicate and one that needs to change dramatically for each position if Nebraska hopes to get things turned around.
First up is one of the most intriguing positions on the team: quarterback.
Position Group: Tristan Gebbia (rFR), Adrian Martinez (FR), Andrew Bunch (So.), Noah Vedral (rSO), Matt Masker (FR)
One Number That Must Improve: 57.7 Percent Completion Rate
It was hard to pick out just one number. As a result of factors both in and out of Tanner Lee’s control, the quarterback position ended up disappointing as much as any considering the hype heading into the season. Lee showed flashes for sure, but the end result simply wasn’t good enough for Nebraska to be better than a 4-8 team.
The 17 interceptions (16 by Lee and one by Patrick O’Brien) is a big number as well and could have easily been the choice for this section. With the goals of Frost and offensive coordinator Troy Walters for their offense, 23 touchdowns (slightly more than half of what Frost’s quarterbacks at Central Florida produced) isn’t nearly enough.
But I went with the completion percentage, which is about 10 points lower than what McKenzie Milton and Vedral produced in Orlando. This offense is all about efficiency, explosiveness and tempo. It’s going to be pretty difficult to keep the offense rolling and catch the defense off-guard if passes end up in the turf almost as much as in the hands of receivers.
Quick decision-making and accuracy are two of the necessary traits in a quarterback in Frost’s offense, and that is what makes Gebbia a very viable candidate to start the season opener despite Martinez having the edge in terms of running ability (also important in Frost’s offense).
One Number Nebraska Hopes to Maintain: 277.5 Passing Yards Per Game
While it was hard to pick out just one number that needs to improve, it was equally difficult to find one number that was good enough last season. However, I settled on passing yardage. Nebraska will be fine if that average stays the same, so long as the Huskers reach that number in a different way.
Milton set an almost impossible standard for a freshman to live up to last season with Heisman buzz-worthy numbers for the undefeated Knights. It might be asking a bit much to expect Gebbia or Martinez to throw for 310.5 yards per game like Milton did. However, Nebraska’s quarterback doesn’t need to in year one.
As a true freshman who took over the starting job a few games into the season, Milton was just under 200 yards per game. With the talent at receiver and tight end as well as the pass-catching ability of the running backs, whoever wins the starting job will have plenty of targets in the passing game. It’s still to be determined how well the offensive line will be able to block for the running game in year one under Frost and offensive line coach Greg Austin, so that places a premium on the quick passing game.
If Gebbia beats out Martinez, that will put even more emphasis on the passing game as Gebbia is better through the air than on the ground. In that scenario, 200 yards per game won’t be enough. On the other hand, 260 to 275 is a pretty solid range. The trick is that Nebraska will hope to reach that number on fewer attempts (see the number that must improve above).
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.