Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletics

Whether Logan Smothers Wins the Starting Job or Not, Credit to Him for Staying and Fighting for It

March 13, 2022

Anyone with a heart has to feel for Logan Smothers.

The kid from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, verbally committed to a then newly-hired Scott Frost and Nebraska in May of 2018, just over two months after being offered. Even as other schools from the SEC and ACC threw a scholarship his way—Ole Miss and Louisville, respectively—Smothers stuck with Frost, then quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco and Big Red.

That was the situation then. But things have changed.

Frost is entering the most important season of his head coaching career. He fired four assistant coaches—Verduzco among them—some of whom he was very close friends with. His contract was restructured and buyout lowered. With four straight losing seasons and no bowl appearances, his program needs to show progress. It’s make or break in 2022.

With longtime starting quarterback Adrian Martinez now playing for Kansas State, Frost was faced with a dilemma earlier this offseason after hiring Mark Whipple from Pittsburgh to call the plays: stick with an inexperienced quarterback in Smothers or do what most coaches in college football are and take a look in the transfer portal. The additions of Casey Thompson from Texas and Chubba Purdy from Florida State gave everyone Frost’s answer.

Standing in front of a large group of reporters, cameras, lights and recorders last Wednesday, Smothers, wearing a long sleeve Husker shirt and a black Adidas headband, stood tall and handled questions like a pro. There were short, direct answers, which seems to be his interview style. He looked like someone who understands the situation he’s in, and he’s not backing down from it.

“I came here from Alabama, this is where I want to be,” Smothers said when asked if he ever entertained the idea of transferring. “The whole time I knew I’m staying right here.”

Make no mistake about it—Smothers, as well as Heinrich Haarberg, have their backs against the wall in this quarterback race. Purdy hasn’t been able to practice with an injury this spring, one that isn’t related to his collarbone issues he faced in Tallahassee. He seems behind the eight ball. Will he be able to make up the ground to catch Thompson or Smothers?

Thompson is the most experienced quarterback in the room and has a been-there-done-that veteran vibe to him when he talks. He started 10 games for the Longhorns and has big-game experience, like when he threw for 388 yards and five touchdowns against Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown. He’s a safe bet to win the starting quarterback job.

But there’s something to like and respect about how Smothers is handling himself. Only a select group of people behind the scenes know what Smothers’ plans are if he does indeed end up being the No. 2 guy. He could still transfer after the spring, something that isn’t unfamiliar in college football and at Nebraska. After losing the competition to a then true freshman Martinez in 2018, Tristan Gebbia transferred in August, just before the season started.

“Competition. Love it,” Smothers said.

There’s plenty to like about Smothers’ game. He’s a true dual-threat and is among the fastest athletes on the team. He was the perfect recruit for a Frost offense that utilized spread formations, option football and speed at quarterback.

But it’s becoming more clear that the offense in 2022 will be Whipple’s. The coaches are trying to help the quarterbacks during the installation process. Most of the terminology is the same from last year. But there are new NFL-style passing concepts to learn and throw. New faces at receiver to know and understand.

After years of playing in offenses that are run primarily out of the shotgun, Smothers will be asked to go under center more often. While on the surface it doesn’t seem like a good fit for Smothers, quarterbacks learn. They adapt. That’s what spring is all about anyway—working on things.

“We do a lot more footwork drills with Whipple compared to coach Verdu (Verduzco),” Smothers said. “We’re doing a lot of five-step drops, we didn’t do that with coach Verdu, so that’s new for us. A little more under center, so that’s a little new for everybody. Nothing we can’t handle.”

The last time fans saw Smothers was in the season finale against Iowa. For it being the first start of his career, and against a stingy defense like the Hawkeyes’, Smothers largely impressed for three quarters. Not surprisingly, he made freshman mistakes in the fourth quarter when he fumbled the ball at the mesh point with Brody Belt, was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone that resulted in a safety and threw a game-ending interception after a miscommunication with Levi Falck on an option route.

Smothers said he watched the Iowa tape just once. That was enough.

“Moving forward. New Year,” the third-year quarterback said.

Smothers didn’t get into too much detail about why he thinks he should be the starting quarterback at Nebraska. Like every one of his answers, he responded with a short and direct response.

“This will be my third year. I feel comfortable, I feel like I can lead,” he said.

To be fair, Smothers doesn’t need to tell the world everything that’s on his mind. That doesn’t do the team any good to create another storyline. Instead, he’s choosing to put his head down and keep playing football. That’s something to appreciate about a young player, especially at the position he plays.

“Just everything—the atmosphere, just the guys in the room,” Smothers said when asked why he wants to keep fighting for the job in Lincoln. “Those are my boys, I want to be here with them.”

Smothers would be the first to tell you college football is big on business and low on catering to feelings. The ultimate goal is to win football games, and the clock is ticking at Nebraska. May the best man win.

The situation has changed since Smothers became a Husker. He hasn’t, though. He’s still the kid from Alabama who wants to be the starting quarterback at Nebraska. Though Smothers faces an uphill battle against Thompson, and incredibly likable and impressive person in his own right, it’s clear he has a good chunk of the fan base on his side, rooting for him.

Whether Smothers wins the job or not, I suspect those same people will still be in his corner, wanting the best for him. That’s what happens around here when someone stays and fights.

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