Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco requires a high level of efficiency and effectiveness from his players.
“There’s no B.S. to it,” he says of his evaluation system. “The head coach has certain standards. So it’s like, ‘These are the things we need to do, these are the areas where we need to improve.’”
Husker sophomore standout Adrian Martinez is all in as a learner.
In fact, “He’s really hard on himself, probably more so than he needs to be,” Verduzco says. “I tell him every now and then, ‘Hey, Adrian, just take a break from yourself and relax. Just relax. You just play, I’ll coach and we’ll have fun. We’ll be fine.’”
Verduzco has a better-than-fine situation in his quarterback meeting room. Of course, Martinez leads the way. But sophomore Noah Vedral was a smooth operator during the Red-White Spring Game. Junior walk-on Andrew Bunch shows confidence and command of the offense, and true freshman Luke McCaffrey captures your imagination with his bursts of speed and command.
If you were to rank the best overall quarterback situations in the Big Ten, you would start with Michigan and Nebraska. It’s a close call at the top. Iowa and Indiana also return effective starters and both programs have good depth at the position. I’ll stop there. It’s dangerous to rate the QB situations because there are too many projected starters — Hunter Johnson at Northwestern, for instance — who have big-time potential but are unproven in college.
If you’re a Nebraska fan, there is something especially interesting about this conversation: I’m guessing Ohio State — yes, The Ohio State — is a tad envious of the Huskers’ strength and stability at quarterback. How often has that been the case in recent years?
Because of Matthew Baldwin’s decision last week to enter the NCAA transfer portal, Ohio State now has just two scholarship quarterbacks — transfers Justin Fields (from Georgia) and Chris Chugunov (West Virginia). Chugunov, a senior, arrived last year. Look for the Buckeyes to add a graduate transfer to get up to three scholarship QBs in the fall. Of course, Fields, the No. 2-ranked player overall in the class of 2018, is the runaway favorite to be the Buckeyes’ starter.
“If Fields gets hurt, they’re done,” writes Doug Lesmerises of cleveland.com.
Of course, some would say the same about Nebraska if Martinez were to go down. But when you size up Nebraska’s quarterback situation in totality versus Ohio State’s, my heavens, you would take the Huskers’ depth chart every time.
In considering Ohio State’s quandary, a few interesting talking points arise. One is the challenge of recruiting backup quarterbacks who can be effective if needed but probably will never win the starting job — yet will stay in your program anyway. The Buckeyes thought they had one in Baldwin, a redshirt freshman from Lake Travis (Texas) High School. But the former four-star recruit apparently got homesick and maybe wasn’t a great fit.
Which brings up another talking point, as mentioned by Lesmerises: Quarterback transfers are common nowadays, but your best shot to keep guys around is to get to know them and develop strong ties during recruiting. Another way to keep guys around is to recruit in-state quarterbacks (Vedral) who are eager to fight for the home-state school through thick and thin. Cardale Jones was a prime example at Ohio State.
Meanwhile, Fields apparently has enormous upside. Ohio State believes he’s the type of talent that can lead the school to the college football playoff. Yes, you go all out to land that sort of quarterback even if it scares away others. As Lesmerises concludes, you take top-end talent over depth. But you shoot for both.
Bottom line, Nebraska has both, and Ohio State doesn’t.
* This is where we should mention something Verduzco constantly preaches to his quarterbacks: “We’re only as good as the people that are around us — seriously,” he said.
That’s where Fields and Ohio State have the advantage over Nebraska.
Anyone else looking forward to Sept. 28?
* Perhaps you noticed the other big quarterback news in the Big Ten from last week. Penn State fifth-year senior Tommy Stevens entered the transfer portal in part because, according to his father, Stevens would’ve had to compete for the starting job in August with sophomore Sean Clifford. Heaven forbid.
Stevens was limited this spring by a foot injury.
* Fred Hoiberg is off to a promising start on the recruiting front. Along those lines, Doc Sadler made a good point about the new Nebraska men’s basketball coach.
“He’s got a name,” said Sadler, the former Husker head coach (2006-12) who’s now a Hoiberg assistant. “His name will allow him to go to Iowa and compete for its best players.”
Same goes for Minnesota, Doc said.
Same goes for Chicago, a hoops hotbed.
“Fred has that name recognition and that’s something different from any of the other coaches who have been here,” Sadler said. “People know who he is. Let’s be real, probably very few people knew who I was when I came here. Probably very few people knew who Tim (Miles) was. But I think Fred’s name recognition is an advantage nobody else here has had.”
* Omaha native Terence Crawford’s sixth-round TKO of Amir Khan on Saturday night may have ended in unfortunate fashion, but Crawford showed well. He remains the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Bottom line, Crawford was on his way to victory, most likely by KO.