New coaches and new quarterback candidates, transfers who probably need to have an instant impact and veterans who already have but missed the spring, Nebraska has had a lot of moving parts this offseason. Despite that, offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, in his first media availability of fall, said he’s “seen the offense take a step forward” through the Huskers’ first five practices.
Credit a rule change that allowed assistant coaches to spend a little more time on instruction, and credit the individual efforts of the players to continue learning a new take on Nebraska’s offense.
Maybe credit Casey Thompson, too.
Whipple said the Texas transfer and Nebraska’s top quarterback to start fall camp “did a good job, all the quarterbacks did, of organizing things that way.
“You can see a difference now. They’re not looking around, and they know when they make a mistake. That’s kind of when you can see you’re making progress. You can see the young guys make a mistake and they don’t know, but the older guys know right away and then, ‘Boom, I’ll get it next time.’ We’ve minimized the mistakes and made some progress.”
On to some other quick hits from Whipple’s time at the podium.
>>Senior tight end Chancellor Brewington was one of those veterans who missed spring, but has made a difference early on in fall camp. Whipple mentioned him by name. Wide receiver Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda, a New Mexico State transfer who missed the spring, also drew praise. Senior tight end Travis Vokolek, another spring sit-out, has made a jump from his first practice last week, Whipple said.
>>Whipple also cited the progress of linemen Teddy Prochazka and Turner Corcoran after recovering from injury during the offseason. Corcoran started 10 games at left tackle last season, Prochazka two, but Whipple said they were still “mixing guys around” early in fall camp.
>>Thompson has “taken another step” since the spring, Whipple said, when the quarterback was dealing with a thumb injury that required offseason surgery. He’s full-go for fall camp.
>>Thompson’s edge on the other Husker quarterbacks might be as much mental as physical right now, though Whipple said Thompson can make all the throws.
“We probably had 90 different concepts in the pass game, so he only got maybe one or two reps [in the spring],” he said. “In the summer he had a few more and was able to see it, where you can shortcut some of the things in the progression by coverage, understanding what the defense is doing. I think that’s where he has a leg up over the other guys.”
>>True freshman quarterback Richard Torres might have the strongest arm on the team, but Florida State transfer Chubba Purdy isn’t far behind. Whipple praised Purdy’s ability in the run game along with his arm strength.
>>Nebraska worked on its red-zone offense on Monday. It was a pain point in 2021 as the Huskers ranked ninth in the Big Ten and 106th nationally in red-zone conversion percentage.
“We were alright, not great,” Whipple said of the morning’s red-zone work. “We didn’t turn the ball over, that’s the big thing. That’s the focus always in the red zone because everything’s constricted. I told them today, ‘Play it like it’s the first quarter against Northwestern.’ We get down there, we want to get points on the board. Yeah, I want a touchdown all the time, but if it’s not there, be smart, get rid of it, we’ve got a good kicker and want to get points on the board.”
Whipple’s 2021 Pittsburgh offense ranked 28th nationally in conversion percentage, 12th in touchdown percentage.
>>About that first game against Northwestern, beginning the season with a Big Ten opponent has been a consistent message from Whipple this offseason.
“I think first games, at any level of football, are lost more than they’re won,” he said.
That makes taking care of the football and making sure the quarterbacks in particular are comfortable with the play sheet a little more important as the Huskers prepare for the opener in Ireland on Aug. 27.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.