Mystery and uncertainty are two things that come to my mind when I think of the Nebraska quarterback position since there heyday in the 90’s.
The Huskers have had absolute greats at the position in the likes of Turner Gill, Eric Crouch, Scott Frost, Jerry Tagge, Turner Gill, Tommie Frashier, and Brooke Berringer. All of them stepped up when there name was called upon on the field and were true leaders for Nebraska.
Most importantly all of them focused on the little things first. If a big play presented itself they took it, but they weren’t quarterbacks who were relied upon to throw the ball 25-30 times a game.
As you look at the Huskers of the last two decades that consistency at the quarterback position just hasn’t been there. Yes, there have been flashes of greatness like Zac Taylor in 2006 and Joe Ganz in 2008, but for the most part the position has been marred by mediocre play.
Looking at the quarterback position coming into the 2020 season, Nebraska has two names that stand out in Adrian Martinez and Luke McCaffrey.
Upon coming to Nebraska, there was a lot of hype put around Martinez. Part of it was because he was the first quarterback to play under Scott Frost in his return to the Huskers as the head coach, and part of it was due to the fact that he was among the nations best dual threat quarterbacks coming out of Clovis West in Fresno, California.
He lived up to the hype in his freshman year with 2,617 passing yards with 17 TD’s and eight interceptions. Martinez also rushed for 629 yards and eight touchdowns.
Last season his stats regressed and he only threw for 1,956 yards with ten TD’s and nine interceptions. A far cry from his freshman season where he worked himself into talks for the heisman going into 2019.
While Martinez struggled during his sophomore year, Luke McCaffrey showed glimpses of stardom during his redshirt season. He rushed for 166 yards on 24 attempts for an average of 6.9 yards per attempt. Through the air he had nine completions on 12 attempts for 142 yards. McCaffrey was averaging over thirty yards a pass on the season.
Now yes this was a small sample size due to Nebraska wanting to keep his redshirt in place, but you can’t deny the fact that he isn’t afraid to make plays. A lot like his All-Pro brother for the Carolina Panthers Christian McCaffrey.
I think what sold me on McCaffrey is when he came in during the third quarter of the game against Iowa last season. We were down 24-10 and we couldn’t do anything right. All he did was complete a pass for 39 yards for a touchdown using his legs to get out of the pocket.
It was the spark the Huskers needed to tie the game back up at 24 apiece. Even though we eventually lost 27-24, his big play in the third helped turn the tide of that game and gave Nebraska a shot when it looked as if they were going to get blown out of the water.
Another interesting quarterback in the mix is Freshman Logan Smothers from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. At Muscle Shoals he passed for over 2,000 yards and 27 touchdowns while also compiling 800 rushing yards and 13 scores as a senior.
In the 2020 recruiting class he was ranked the fourth best dual threat quarterback in the country.
I believe that Nebraska is headed in the right direction in terms of stocking up on dual threat options at the quarterback position. What I would like to see is Nebraska focus more on passes in the middle of the field where we have excelled and go to more of an option look.
I truly believe if we cut down on more of our passes, and use Martinez, McCaffrey, or Smothers in an option set the Huskers would be much more lethal.
There are many out there that believe that style of football is long since dead, but I disagree with that notion. Tell that to Navy who was 11-2 last year and is seemingly in a bowl every year running the triple option set.
We can continue to sit here and complain that our quarterbacks aren’t doing statistically as good as they are suppose to be or we can try and put them in a system where they don’t have to focus on making so many passes and let them use there scrambling abilities to make plays.
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