Logan Smothers had an interesting first year, to say the least, but Nebraska seems to be encouraged by the progress he’s made so far.
It started like normal, for sure. The Muscle Shoals, Alabama, native enrolled early, the same as every quarterback since the Scott Frost-Mario Verduzco brain trust came to Lincoln. Smothers knew the value of getting on campus early.
And then March hit and everything was whisked away from him. With sporting world shut down by the coronavirus, Smothers lost spring ball and what would have been some pretty crucial developmental time on the practice field.
“Now he got a jump on it with regards to signals and that sort of stuff, but we were still basically starting from the ground up,” Verduzco said last week, speaking in Columbus at one of his two stops on the Big Red Blitz tour.
Verduzco was asked earlier in the day about how they evaluate quarterbacks, what specifics they look for. Athleticism has to be there, naturally, given the offense they deploy on gameday.
“The athleticism part of it is interesting,” he began. “Some quarterbacks in high school are pigeon-holed as pro-style quarterbacks or they’re dual-threat young guys. When we go through the list, we don’t look at the tags. If he’s a ‘pro-style’ guy but he’s athletic and got a gun and he can run, it doesn’t matter what his label is.”
Smothers, for sure, can run.
“God, the young guy ran, what, 10.8 in the 100m as a sophomore, junior?” Verduzco said. (As a junior he ran a 10.93 to win gold.) But the biggest thing with a quarterback is what’s upstairs. “The thing we really liked about him—and most of our guys have that sort of characteristic—is he’s a quick-blinker, makes fast decisions, typically doesn’t second-guess himself about doing X, Y, Z, and he plays fast.”
The limiting factor for a guy in general, but in this offense in particular, is not whether he has the physical tools to do X, Y, Z, but whether he has the cognitive speed to process all the things that happen that lead to X, Y, Z. Read the field and go.
That’s going to translate directly to the NFL. That’s what those guys look for, and Verduzco tells his quarterbacks as such.
Smothers has that.
The second-year freshman didn’t play in a game last season as he served as the No. 3 behind Adrian Martinez and Luke McCaffrey, but with the latter having transferred away, Smothers is in a position to earn the primary backup spot this fall camp.
He’ll have to fight off first-year man Heinrich Haarberg to do so, but Smothers has a year on Haarberg when it comes to understanding of the playbook.
Verduzco said there was a small—and easily correctable—issue with Smothers’ mechanics last year that creeped up again a little this spring.
“At the point of release, (his) control, it was just inconsistent,” Verduzco said. “And we knew that going in, that was something we realized.” In thinking about that this spring, Smothers would, at times, be too focused on his mechanics. “What ended up happening to him a little bit in spring ball is anytime you’re worried about something with regards to your psychomotor skills, whatever it might be, it’s gonna have an impact on your ability to process information.
“Some of your frontal lobe is getting used up with the mechanical piece and it shouldn’t be. It should just all be cognitive.”
Now, though, as Verduzco has been able to observe some of his work in summer drills, “it looks like he’s got it pretty cleaned up.”
Which should allow his natural talent to shine.
“He has innately good vision. You can get a guy to be good, if not great, but innately he has that,” Verduzco said. That can be coached to an extent, but “(Smothers) just innately can see a wider picture. He’s really good at it.”
The Huskers’ quarterback coach seems altogether pleased with where his second-year quarterback is at entering into the summer.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.