LINCOLN — The defense looks great, true freshman Maurice Washington is setting fall camp on fire and depth is building at nearly every position of need.
But coach Scott Frost would like to see more out of his quarterbacks.
That was his main message after Nebraska wrapped up the first week of fall camp Friday. Frost said he’s amazed at the team’s growth since January. But the quarterbacks need to be better.
“I’d like to see them be farther ahead right now than what they are,” Frost said. “I think at the end of spring they were doing a really good job and it seems like they got it. We didn’t quite pick up there where we left off from spring.”
That’s the opposite message of the team overall after the first week. It seems it retained a good chunk of information from the spring, coaches said. Outside linebackers coach Jovan Dewitt even said the defense looked better after a summer of work.
But the three eligible quarterbacks — true freshman Adrian Martinez, redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia and walk-on sophomore Andrew Bunch — are still coming along, Frost said. All three quarterbacks are taking equal reps. That will change after a scrimmage that will happen in the next week or so, Frost said.
They all need to be quicker, need to make faster decisions and be more consistent.
“Everything has just got to operate faster for them and that’ll come when they’re familiar enough with the offense that it clicks in their mind faster,” Frost said. “We’ve gotta make some quicker decisions out there.”
You fix that, quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said Wednesday, by removing uncertainty. And you remove that with reps on reps on reps. That speeds up information processing.
“The better they know the playbook, they know the formations and they know the source of plays that are going to be hooked up,” Verduzco said, “the faster they’re going to be able to process the formation in regards to the play itself, the defensive structure.”
Already the quarterbacks have taken two “tests” given by Verduzco. They’re working on a fall camp open-book test. But knowing the schemes on paper is different than executing and making quick decisions in practice. Which is why Frost said Friday they don’t like giving the quarterbacks long, drawn-out meetings. If you are going to preach to the quarterbacks quickness, you have to do everything quick.
“So as many reps as we can give them in the classroom and on the field gives them an opportunity to improve,” Frost said.
The race is between three quarterbacks, but it will most likely be cut down to Martinez and Gebbia. Martinez is vying to be the first true freshman opening-game starter in Nebraska history. At times, Frost said, he looks great.
“Other times he looks like it’s moving a little too fast for him” Frost said. “And he’s gotta pick up his pace physically and mentally. And at times its tremendous, at other times, when he’s not quite sure, he’s a little tentative.”
That’s the case of every quarterback in this system, Frost said. Eventually, quarterbacks speed up and become more efficient. In 2017, UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton was second in the country in pass efficiency. But in 2016 as a redshirt freshman still grasping of the offense, Milton wasn’t close to the top 20.
So for the most important and most scrutinized position for Nebraska in 2018, it’ll be a slow burn.
“We know we have miles to travel before Akron,” Verduzco said. “I feel good about the fact that they’re gonna be where we want them to be for Akron.”