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Huskers fall practice, Day 5, 8/8

Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco watches a blocking drill during a Huskers football camp practice Wednesday at Hawks Championship Center.

Nebraska’s quarterbacks didn’t have a perfect record in the spring, but Mario Verduzco nonetheless came away pleased with the way his group protected the ball.

The Husker signal-callers threw just four interceptions and had a couple of “close calls,” the quarterbacks coach reported, but all in all the group played relatively cleanly.

That was reinforced by a turnover-free spring game save for an interception thrown by walk-on wide receiver Todd Honas on an errant trick play.

The beginning of preseason camp has proceeded differently, though. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said Monday that the defense had forced several takeaways in the early stages of camp.

So, good plays by the defense or bad decisions by the "cubes," as Verduzco refers to the quarterbacks?

“Combination of both,” Verduzco said. “I think the guys in the secondary, those young cats and also the older guys, are starting probably to understand what (defensive backs coach Travis) Fisher and (secondary quality control coach) Jack Cooper want. I think they’re better at breaking on balls and all those sorts of things that go into that side of it. That part of the team, at least in terms of the secondary, as I can see it, has got a lot more crisp.

“I know that’s not where Coach Fisher wants it to end, he wants it to keep moving forward, but I’ve seen that difference.”

Count redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia, too, among the believers that the NU defensive backs made progress over the summer and have benefited from an infusion of young talent.

“They’re making great plays now,” Gebbia said Wednesday. “They’re flying around. The competition between the receivers and the DBs has grown exponentially. Off the field we’re friends and all of that, get after it at the training table and make jokes and laugh and all that stuff.

“The defense pushed the bar up the first couple of days of practice and then the offense caught back up and now we’re going at it. Now we’re just competing against each other.”

Huskers work ahead in QB recruiting: Verduzco’s never been two classes ahead when it comes to quarterback recruiting.

Now, though, he’s got verbal commitments to NU for the 2019 and 2020 cycles already in place.

Verduzco, of course, can’t talk about specific recruits until they sign a National Letter of Intent, but the Huskers have pledges from Luke McCaffrey (Littleton, Colorado) for next year and Logan Smothers (Athens, Alabama) for 2020.

“It’s been really good,” Verduco said. “It’s real positive. Obviously, there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge until 2021 and all that business, so we’ve got to stay on top of it, but God, I … think Frosty and the rest of the staff, they’re really pleased with how that piece of the puzzle is going right now.”

Verduzco and company are already looking at a select group of 2021 prospects, including a highly touted legacy player in Jake Garcia (Harbor City, California). Garcia’s dad, Randy, also played quarterback at NU. The young signal-caller already has offers from the likes of Georgia, Florida, Florida State, USC and LSU, among many others.

Legrone’s 'tremendous' skill: Sean Beckton has repeatedly expressed excitement about his group of tight ends, which skews young.

Now he’s got freshman Katerian Legrone in his room full-time. It wasn’t clear exactly where the Atlanta native would land, but with the summer departures of Matt Snyder and David Engelhaupt, Legrone appears to be at tight end for the foreseeable future.

“Some guys are no longer on the team so we decided to bring him over,” Beckton said. “We recruited him as a big athlete and he’s starting to flash for us a bit. The game is starting to slow down for him and really for all those guys. Him and Cam Jurgens.

“I see a lot of good things out of all those guys, particularly (Legrone) for being a tremendous ball catcher and begin able to get down the field and catch the football.”

Vedral impressed with DBs: Noah Vedral watches some of practice from the secondary’s perspective these days. The redshirt freshman is sitting out this fall to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements and wants to pick up some knowledge of how defenders think and react.

So far, he’s impressed with NU’s young talent.

“We’ve got some really, really, really good young safeties, some new safeties,” he said Wednesday. “Cam Jones, Cam Taylor and then even Deontai (Williams) are really fast and they make windows shrink quickly.”

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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