The quarterback battle was one of the dominant story lines surrounding Nebraska football last offseason. This season, after Luke McCaffrey’s departure, it’s less about who is starting and more about who else is going to be in the room with Adrian Martinez.
As of now, Nebraska has Martinez (two years of eligibility remaining) as the entrenched starter, Logan Smothers and Heinrch Haarberg (four years of eligibility plus a redshirt year available for each) behind him and then three walk-ons in Matt Masker, Brayden Miller and incoming freshman Jarrett Synek.
Quarterback attrition isn’t particularly surprising, but Noah Vedral and McCaffrey transferring out leaves Nebraska in an awkward situation.
“I think it’s smart in this day and age, just with the way things are, 1,600 kids in the transfer portal, I think you’ve got to expect some guys to leave,” Scott Frost said on Thursday. “We kind of did. There’s always going to be surprises too, and I think you have to stay light on your toes and be ready to adapt and solve problems when you need to. With 1,600 kids in the portal and basically barely over 100 Division schools, there are a lot of kids out there looking for spots and probably not enough spots for all of the kids.”
Frost said the Huskers intentionally kept a couple of spots in their back pocket to address any roster holes they find — perhaps including quarterback — but for now, they’re standing pat.
“We thought about maybe doing something before this semester started and trying to address the issue, but I didn’t want to make any quick moves that might be mistakes,” Frost said. “I imagine there will be more kids in the portal after the junior college season and I-AA season and even probably more movement after spring ball. I also really want to see what we have in the room. I’ve really been impressed with Logan since he’s been here, really been impressed with Heinrich in the short time that he’s been here. Quarterback’s no different than anywhere else. We’ll take a look at what we have and we have a couple spots in our pocket to see if we need to get some help anywhere.”
Frost had no interest in talking about what he might look for in the portal if he does decide to push for an addition to the quarterback room.
“That’s way too far down the road for me to get into details about what we’d be thinking if we need one,” Frost said. “That’s not what we’re thinking right now. I want to coach the kids that are going to be here and the kids that on our team, and we’ll see what happens down the road.”
Martinez’s track record is extensive at this point. After returning from his early-season benching, Martinez completed 77.1% of his passes for 825 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions to close out the 2020 season.
Nebraska went into the 2020 season with a multi-year starter in Martinez, a redshirt freshman and a true freshman in terms of scholarship quarterbacks, and that’s essentially where they stand now heading into the spring. The primary difference is McCaffrey at least logged some snaps in 2019 while Smothers did not see the field at all this season. At this point, he’s a complete mystery for Nebraska fans.
“I’m excited by what I’ve seen so far,” Frost said. “Logan’s as good an athlete as all those other guys in the quarterback room. I think what I’ve really been impressed with so far is his savvy and ability to process information quick and make good decisions. He’s been really accurate. Mario [Verduzco] been working with him on his throwing motion to make that a little more consistent and efficient and powerful. I’ve seen Mario do wonderful things with guys from that standpoint. I’ve got higher hopes right now than I did when we recruited Logan and he’s going to get his share of reps this spring, so I’m anxious to see where he is.”
Frost will have some decisions to make in the future, but for now, he’s in evaluation mode and the quarterbacks already on campus will get plenty of opportunities to show their coach what they’re capable of.