LINCOLN — The Nebraska offensive brain trust still hasn’t chosen a starting quarterback, but offensive coordinator Troy Walters hinted a decision may come after a “situational scrimmage” Thursday.
“Whoever gives us the best chance to win,” Walters said. “Whoever’s giving leadership and whoever can run the offense and make plays with their legs but their arm and also protect the football.”
Walters said the offensive coaches would sit down and decide together who starts between Adrian Martinez and Tristan Gebbia. Quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said coach Scott Frost, himself a former quarterback, has the final say. Verduzco expects to be in lockstep with Frost, but he’ll present the “objective” evidence to Frost and go from there.
One potential separator, Verduzco said, will be playmaking ability.
“Both guys know the playbook forward and backwards, but, for whatever reason, one of the guys just has a knack for — I hate that phrase, ‘making a play,’ because what’s ‘making a play’ other than doing your friggin job? — but doing the job the moment you’ve got to do your job. Some guys, just, man, it’s amazing how that happens sometimes.”
Verduzco doesn’t want to play two quarterbacks but will allow for that contingency. It’s one of the closest races he’s overseen.
“I love those cats in there, you know? And they’re all good guys,” Verduzco said. “You get to know them. It’s not easy. It’s easy when it’s clear-cut. It’s hard, man, when it’s tight.”
Running backs by committee
Nebraska’s running back position will be by committee, Walters said.
That committee will likely be Greg Bell, Maurice Washington and Devine Ozigbo.
Notably, Tre Bryant likely won’t be used early this season. He injured an ankle last week.
“He’s come a long ways,” Walters said of Bryant, who missed most of last season with knee injuries. “We didn’t know if we were gonna have him after spring and he’s done a great job of rehabbing and he’s shown some flashes.”
Washington, a true freshman, garnered lots of attention after he arrived on campus just in time for fall camp. But that hasn’t gone to his head, running backs coach Ryan Held said. Washington is still impressing on the field. It’s just a matter of keeping him in line off the field, too, Held said.
“I’m on him every day about learning to be a collegiate athlete, student-athlete,” Held said. “He’s gotta know he’s gotta get up and go to treatments, he’s gotta go eat, he’s gotta go practice, then he’s gotta go to class.”
Washington spent his four years of high school at three schools and got to campus in August after retaking his ACT in July.
“I like where he’s at, but I’m not satisfied with where he’s at,” Held said. “He’s got a lot more work to do but I’m on him every day, and I’m not going to settle for anything but a championship level student-athlete.”
Keeping a healthy rotation of backs will be key for 2018, Walters said.
“We don’t want to burn them out first game, we want to make sure they last all 13 games,” Walters said. “Maybe 14. Maybe 15.”
WR McQuitty ready to roll
Jaevon McQuitty spoke with reporters Wednesday. That means he had to again address a knee injury that he outran months ago.
Injuries derailed last year for the redshirt freshman from Columbia, Missouri. He enrolled early in 2017 but missed spring ball with a shoulder ailment. A knee injury in training camp kept him from seeing the field at all.
But a strong spring — he caught three passes for 33 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown in the spring game — and steady summer have the 6-foot, 205-pound receiver dreaming about what’s to come.
“I feel great; (the knee) doesn’t bother me,” McQuitty said. “I don’t even think about it until y’all say something about it to me. It’s all good.
“I’m just ready. It’s been almost two years and I have never gone without football that long. I’m a little crazy right now.”
The four-star prospect with seven Big Ten offers out of high school said NU’s receivers are all “ballers.” Sophomore JD Spielman in particular is someone he looks up to for vision and creativity.
But, McQuitty added, the unit as a whole has to earn its reputation in a new offense that requires wideouts to be quicker than ever.
“We have a lot to prove,” McQuitty said, “and a lot to do this year.”
TE depth chart materializing
While position battles continue elsewhere, tight ends coach Sean Beckton and his group are in the fine-tuning stage of fall camp.
Jack Stoll continues to have the “upper hand” at the position, Beckton said. Redshirt freshmen Austin Allen and Kurt Rafdal are in a “fierce” battle for No. 2. True freshman Cameron Jurgens follows in fourth.
Assignments in the run and pass game still aren’t as smooth as Beckton would like. Tight ends are tasked with having a deep understanding of presnap fronts and coverages that an opposing defense may show, and that remains a work in progress even after the “tremendous strides” the group has made since the spring.
“As a tight end, you’ve got to be almost like a quarterback out there,” Beckton said. “You’ve got to know a lot as far as run game, pass game. The biggest thing we’re trying to harp in on is detailing everything.”
Walters said true freshman wideout Andre Hunt has done a good job of learning NU’s offense — he’s an outside receiver — and he’s fast.
“He was a good route runner in high school — that’s what drew us to him,” Walters said. “He kind of knows the details of route running. And he has some speed where he can create separation from the corners.”