Following the conclusion of Nebraska football’s spring practice season, The Daily Nebraskan is breaking down each position group and evaluating which players might make an impact in 2019. This is the first of nine installments.
A year ago, any injury at the quarterback position would cause widespread panic and severely limit Nebraska’s offensive potential. After all, the Huskers had just three eligible quarterbacks for the first half of the 2018 season,and none of them had thrown a collegiate pass heading into the team’s first game.
This year, the outlook in the quarterback room is much different, and according to head coach Scott Frost, much better.
“Well, just in general, we feel better about the quarterback position than we did a year ago,” Frost said after the spring game on Saturday. “I think we have better depth. I think we have better talent, [and] we’re going to have a little more experience. We were as young as you could be last year at that spot by the time the season hit.”
Sophomore Adrian Martinez will once again lead the team after an impressive freshman campaign where he amassed over 3,200 yards of total offense and scored 25 touchdowns. Martinez’s spot was never in question, but the depth behind him has been a point of competition throughout the spring.
Frost said after the spring game that if the season began today, sophomore Noah Vedral would be the team’s backup, but nothing is certain until the fall. A Nebraska native, Vedral followed Frost to the University of Central Florida and eventually back to Nebraska but had to wait for the NCAA to grant him immediate eligibility last season. He only appeared in one game against Bethune-Cookman, but two years under Frost’s coaching staff gives him a leg up on the competition.
That competition could come from freshman Luke McCaffrey, a 4-star recruit from Colorado who showcased his talent during Saturday’s spring game. McCaffrey only completed three of his 13 passes, but he displayed his ability to throw on the run and looked confident running the offense.
“He made some real nice throws, some good plays, and he controlled what he could,” Martinez said on McCaffrey’s performance. “I think he did a solid job out there.”
Per a 2018 NCAA rule change, McCaffrey could play in four games and still retain his freshman eligibility, a strategy Frost may employ to get the young quarterback playing time.
Of course, there are also other quarterbacks who could push McCaffrey further down on the depth chart. Junior Andrew Bunch returned to the team this offseason despite considering transferring away from Nebraska.
“Nebraska’s where I want to be,” Bunch said on April 8. “It’s the team I want to play for. It’s the team I’ll go to war with. I love playing for Coach Frost and Coach Verduzco.”
The team’s backup for the first half of the season, Bunch nearly led a late comeback against Colorado and threw two touchdowns in a loss to Troy, a game he started in place of the injured Martinez.
Additionally, freshman Matt Masker redshirted last season after failing to appear in a game and will provide additional depth in the quarterback room.
While last season’s quarterback depth was an issue for the Huskers throughout most of the season, there is reason for optimism and growth among the team’s quarterbacks this season.
“I’m definitely thankful to be a part of such a special group,” Martinez said. “… We just feel like a family. It’s a special bond that we all share.”