Even at 17, Nebraska quarterback Luke McCaffrey is 'like Coach Frost'

Luke McCaffrey flashed the considerable physical and mental tools that supported why he was a coveted 2019 prospect.

LINCOLN — A photo request. It was the only thing that slowed down Luke McCaffrey all day.

The true freshman joined the four other Nebraska quarterbacks wearing green jerseys and surrounded quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco and offensive quality control assistant Steve Cooper for an on-field pose moments after the spring game concluded. The early enrollee stopped to greet family and friends. When he realized he was the last player on field, he quickly sprinted through the northwest tunnel.

McCaffrey, who was 17 years old coming into April, appeared comfortable in front 85,946 at Memorial Stadium and on BTN throughout the afternoon. His numbers on four drives didn’t necessarily support a breakout — he went 3 of 13 for 14 yards and ran eight times for 19 yards on both teams — but flashed the considerable physical and mental tools that supported why he was a coveted 2019 prospect.

QB photo

Nebraska quarterbacks Matt Masker, Andrew Bunch, Luke McCaffrey, Adrian Martinez and Noah Vedral pose for a photograph with quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco and offensive quality control assistant Steve Cooper.

“The offense is a good fit for him,” defensive back Cam Taylor said. “Basically he’s like Coach (Scott) Frost, he can run it, he can throw it. I just believe when he gets comfortable and gets the freshman jitters out — I had to get them out — once he gets them out, he’ll be a great player.”

McCaffrey, a Colorado native, wasn’t the only standout on the White team, with Miles Jones (three catches for 44 yards) and Jaylin Bradley (12 carries for a game-high 57 yards) also making plays. But the 6-foot-2, 185-pound son of NFL receiver Ed McCaffrey drew “ooohs” from the crowd twice while throwing the ball 50 yards downfield in the game’s final seconds. He made correct reads time and again, only getting intercepted late in the game on fourth-and-8. His ability to extend plays by rolling out drew comparisons to teammate Adrian Martinez.

Senior 310-pound defensive end Khalil Davis let out a long sigh as he thought about chasing McCaffrey.

“He brings that dual-threat quarterback (threat),” Davis said. “And so does Adrian, but going up against McCaffrey, once you get him off the spot and he starts running, it’s hard. He’s pretty fast. He gave us a good look every day in spring.”

Frost said if the Huskers played a game this week, sophomore Noah Vedral would be the No. 2 quarterback. But the fact that McCaffrey isn’t currently in the top two is more a testament to the position’s depth than a knock on the teenager who has impressed coaches with his quick understanding of the offense.

Jones and Bradley were the other White standouts in a game where they matched up mostly against Nebraska’s best defenders. Jones, a redshirt freshman who missed most of the season last year with an injury, stood out in the receiving game by catching a contested pass over the middle and staying in bounds on a third-and-long play for a 14-yard catch from McCaffrey.

Bradley, meanwhile, busted a game-best run of 18 yards and was generally explosive and shifty at the point of attack. After what coaches termed a make-or-break spring, the Bellevue West graduate has kept himself in the running back conversation into the fall.

“That’s tough sledding when you’re playing on a team where the other team has more of the guys that are going to be playing on Saturdays,” Frost said. “I thought those two guys did a good job.”

Senior outside linebacker Alex Davis said the breakout of McCaffrey, Jones and Bradley is no surprise to those in the locker room. Now, he added, fans should have them in mind as soon as this season.

“They’re coming out,” Davis said. “I know they’re fresh out and they’re coming to prove themselves. Every day, you can see them just hungry, willing to learn, willing to listen. It’s great to see.”