Quarterback Preview 2021

2021 brings a lot of unknowns to the Nebraska football team. What’s crazy to think about is Nebraska returning a 4 year starter at the most important position on the field, who was a 2018 Freshman All-American, and fans still not knowing what exactly we have. I’ve always been a Martinez fan, I think he gets a bad rap based on the situations he has had to deal with. He’s lost his best WR from the previous year every single season he’s been here (Morgan, Spielman, Robinson), he’s had some injury issues, we moved a guy to get the ball to him that may not quite have been ready yet but we were willing to deal with the bad on that for the ceiling he gave us, and an OL that may have underachieved a bit the past few seasons. But I also understand where some of the angst from fans comes from as he’s been a Heisman darkhorse candidate and seemingly has struggled to get over the improvement hump from year 1. I get it, you could convince me of things with him either way.

All reports are that this dude is back to his 2018 self, with a 4 year knowledge of the playbook. The issue comes back to the fact though that he’s our leading returning rusher (we lost 3 of our top 4 rushers from 2020) and the next closest who isn’t a QB is Marvin Scott III, who didn’t even get to 100 yards last year. We lose Wandale at WR (and RB for that matter) so our leading returning pass catcher is Austin Allen, who fans said we didn’t use the TEs as much as we should be last season either. However, I think we are in a much better spot for 2021 for offensive ability than we were in 2020 (my next preview will be WR, that will be fun to dive into). I think people forget that we changed coordinators, and then barely got a spring practice to get used to the differences (I know this is mostly Frosts offense, but a change in coordinator does matter). What it will come down to is how quick can Martinez mesh with his new RBs and WRs. That’s something that no camp report from anyone can tell us. And as much as anyone tells you how great these new toys are for Frost/Lubick/Martinez, if they aren’t on the same page or don’t pick up the offense, it doesn’t matter at all. The unknown is crazy with a four year starter returning.

So that takes us to really the controversy or talking points for the QB room. Unfortunately we probably have our worst depth here since 2018 when Gebbia transferred out and it was the Martinez show. I remember people trying to spin Vedral transferring before 2020 as a positive because “he knew McCaffrey was going to be starting possibly this year and he left because he’d been bypassed.” We now know that wasn’t the truth, he wanted to play and start somewhere. Tough to fault a kid there. We also know that McCaffrey was a pretty decent change of pace QB, but I don’t know if he will thrive at the QB spot. I think he has unique abilities that can really make him trouble at Rice, but he’s gone. So we are left with walk-on Matt Masker, second year player Logan Smothers (who didn’t get a spring in 2020 and barely and reps in the fall of 2020), and true freshman scholarship player Henrich Haarberg.

Again, we are as thin as we’ve ever been here. But let’s be real, unless you are Bama, Clemson, Ohio State, if you are worried about if your backup can get the job done you might be in trouble during the season anyway. It’s up to your starter. From what i’ve been hearing, Smothers it exactly what we recruited after Martinez won the job as a true freshman and having Verduzco as the coach. And that is, get the most athletic QB out there and teach him how to throw with his athleticism. I am not a Verdu fan, but his coaching and recruiting pitch makes sense to guys like McCaffrey and Smothers. Guys who struggle to throw naturally, Verduzco can say “70% of the time you aren’t setting your feet and throwing anyway, so I teach you how to biomechanically throw properly while on the run and while you use your athleticism.” Kids like McCaffrey and Smothers eat that up because other programs are either telling them they are going to need to work on QB skills, or worse yet move positions. At Nebraska, they are afforded the possibility to further develop the skill that has all the teams interested in the first place at the position they are hoping to play.

I get the concept, I just don’t know if it’s working. I would say Martinez is about the same as he was his freshman year, McCaffrey is out, and Smothers is TBD. You now have Haarberg with a better arm than Smothers but less athleticism, and the X factor is Masker who knows this offense better than any other QB on the roster not named Martinez. I think our staff figured out that throwing accuracy was pretty important, possibly even more important than athleticism. Whoever wins the backup job in 2021 is going to have a long road ahead of them to keep that job once AMart leaves. I think it depends on if there is something that happens to #2, how long he’s out for. A few series or the rest of the game, maybe Smothers. Longer than that, probably Masker or Haarberg.

Bottom line, we have a 4 year returning starter that was a Freshman All-American during his career here. I get why Frost is riding with him. We obviously go as far as Martinez takes us. After that we have a multitude of options depending what you’re looking for. Do you want the guy that has a ton of knowledge of the playbook? Do you want a run threat that can break the game open? Or do you want a pretty accurate passer with a decently high ceiling but still learning a bit?


So let’s talk hypothetical (which I hate). But in college football you have to be forward thinking or you get caught with your pants down and thin thin thin! Let’s say we get to 9 or 10 wins, that probably means Martinez is a beast, all-conference at minimum, he is taking the next step and declaring for the draft. Frost and Nebraska are setting up for what most fans were clamoring for in the 2021 recruiting class that I told them wouldn’t be happening, and that is a grad transfer QB. As soon as Martinez is gone, bet the mortgage on that happening. But here is the issue, i’m not sure I see 9-10 wins for us. So let’s say we get to 7-5, Martinez is what he’s been for us which would mean more than likely a free agent signing… what do we do? Do we hope year 5 would be different than year 1-4? I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole, but what i’m getting at, is no good grad transfer is coming here unless the starting position is open for the taking. Which is why we didn’t go after one in 2021. Something to ponder there. And again, i’m a Martinez fan, so I hope he crushes it and gets a draft grade that is favorable.

On deck…. Wide Receiver Breakdown!

10 thoughts on “Quarterback Preview 2021

  1. Good read but I don’t understand why Verduzco wasn’t replaced after it was clear his recruiting and coaching strategy didn’t work. That’s a pretty big mistake and ruined two years of QB recruits. Anyone in business who is being compensated like these assistants are who makes that kind of mistake would be fired.

    1. I completely understand this line of thinking, I referenced i’m not a fan in the post as well. For me, I would have loved to see Frost move on from him and be the QBs coach himself while hiring a full time special teams coach as I don’t believe Dawson is all that thrilled to be doing it anyway.

      His communication style is just interesting in my opinion, it doesn’t resonate with me. But i’m not in college anymore. I completely get how McCaffrey and Smothers were enamored with it, but we’ve struggled the past 3 years to progress. I’m hoping the monkey gets off the back this season.

      1. The paragraph which generally states that we are offering really good athletes and figuring we can teach them how to throw the ball is – in my opinion – complete and utter garbage for a supposedly big-time college football program. I understand that a high school or small college might try this to maximize what they have. Or you try it with an elite athlete and you have already figured out they are a great QB in high school, then great.

        But that is not a plan “A” in my book. If you are on some level trying to compete with other major schools who have good QBs, and continue to develop them, and we’re like “let’s get a really good athlete and we’ll make him a QB”, yeah our future is bleak in my opinion.

        I’m totally on board for a mobile QB, but I don’t think they need to be, regardless of they current trends. But the elite QBs who are mobile are also great Qbs as well, like in college Rattler, or Mahomes in NFL. I get not everyone is going to get the top-tier elite QBs, especially Nebraska, but if our mentality is what is stated above, I think we are perpetually chasing mediocrity and it isn’t going to change unless we are extremely good at all other facets of our roster, or we start recruiting actual QBs who understand the position and can throw and read defenses at a high level.

        As for Martinez, he is kind of like a lot of our past QBs for me. I feel bad that sometimes frustrations get taken out on them personally, where we refer to the players being garbage, but it’s like sometimes we have to remember it’s not their fault they’re the best we have. That being said, I have always been impressed with Martinez’ demeanor, work ethic, and character. I probably have just been frustrated like with many of our other QBs like T. Martinez, J. Lord, or T. Armstrong, I felt like we had a short ceiling based on their throwing ability (although I liked Armstrong the best, felt like he at least tried to use his legs to try to throw downfield, just wasn’t always accurate).

      2. Yep I get your point. I actually didn’t mind it when we were going to be starting Martinez for 4 years anyway. Gave us a chance to develop them but also they probably understood they weren’t ready. Fast forward and in 2021, all we really have right now is Martinez because Smothers isn’t ready and McCaffrey transferred out. I’m actually a little surprised their 2022 commit isn’t a bit more highly touted, but that’s probably a result of not being very good on the field right now and recruits not knowing who will be here.

  2. With NU’s issues at quarterback the past few seasons, do you feel like Verdu had a perfect storm with Milton and UCF in 2017? His message is good and Milton “got it” (along with his supporting cast) while NU’s quarterbacks just haven’t gotten it to click? Or is it more of the Big10 versus AAC? Some of both?

    I’ve seen it in my daughter’s athletic career – Coach A’s message was perfectly fine, but for whatever reason, she couldn’t translate what she saw and heard to her body. Coach B comes along and teaches the same stuff in a slightly different way and it all comes together. It’s like I’m not even watching the same kid anymore.

    1. That’s a really good question. I’ve tried to speculate on that, because there’s really no way of knowing. But let’s take it a bit further, do we think 2017 was the perfect storm for a lot of things? Frost doesn’t have a winning season besides that one. Our strength coach only has 2 winning seasons out of 11 tries (one of those being the perfect storm). But I also think the AAC defenses were pretty trash compared to B1G defenses, which is why I get some people not being happy to bring Chinander along (even though he was one of our lone bright spots last year).

      I just am not a Verdu fan personally, but i’m also not sure if he’s the issue. I just put it up in my RB preview and will go deeper into OL preview tomorrow, but who do we put the blame on? QB decision making, OL no push, play calls? It’s a combination of everything unfortunately.

  3. I’m curious why you don’t like what we’re doing in the S&C room? For the record I’ve never been a fan of Duvall dating back to when we had him at Wyoming. Being both an alum of UW and UNL I keep tabs on both. We were always huge at UW under him but no explosiveness. Everyone could bench a dump truck but we looked horribly slow.

    1. I don’t want to blow him up too much, but basically for the same reasons you are pointing out. If i’m looking for a guy that can create unbelievable get off the bus guys and put on massive amounts of weight/muscle first year, not much better. But to what you pointed out, if it doesn’t translate to the field, does it matter how big we are?

      Further, Barrett Ruud talks all the time about how the game used to be in a phone booth when he played, and now the game is spread out and creating one on one matchups. If we are still doing what we did in the 90s that worked then (I have a verbatim quote if you’d like it), wouldn’t it make sense it’s not really working now? I said on the other site i’m not sure you can combine Oregon Speed with Husker Power. Heck, there’s a quote out there from him that you don’t test 40s close to season because you don’t risk injury. Isn’t it just sprinting? I think there’s a reason that NFL scouts told our draft picks they needed to slim down, be more flexible and athletic.

      1. Thanks for the reply and I totally agree! I was referred to you by someone on 247. I got killed for that opinion but I saw first hand at UW what he does with players. UW ended up getting the asst. S&C at OU and he did wonders after Duvall left for UCF (blessing in disguise).

        I really enjoy and appreciate your candor, insider info and perspective. I’ll definitely be a regular.

      2. Ya, they didn’t have a winning season under his guidance up there. They switched to more of a sprint based model (you see me sucking off the guys now at Bama from Indiana) and all of a sudden Bohl and Wyoming have something cooking a bit. He’s only ever been hired by ex 90s Nebraska guys. I don’t blame him for that at all, I just think if he was as good as everyone thinks he is, he wouldn’t have 2 winning seasons in 11 tries. Heck, if we have a winning season this year it’s only 3 out of 12.

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