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Before last week, Andrew Bunch was widely regarded as an afterthought in the competition to become Nebraska's starting quarterback.

Then again, perhaps "afterthought" is being kind. Many fans and media essentially dismissed him as a viable candidate.

That all changed in a flash, or so it seemed, and the man who coached Bunch at Scottsdale (Arizona) Community College sounds like he knew it could happen.

"When my offensive coordinator showed me Andrew's high school film, I was like, 'OK, we can't touch this kid,'" said Scottsdale CC head coach Doug Madoski.

In other words, Madoski felt Bunch was talented enough to play for an FBS program, even a Power Five school.

"I was like, 'Why are you even showing me a kid we have no ability to get?'" Madoski said.

The offensive coordinator, Tommy Ziegler, thought there was a chance. He felt Bunch was being under-recruited coming out of Independence High School in Thompson's Station, Tennessee, 25 miles south of Nashville. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Bunch put up big numbers at Independence, throwing for 3,405 yards and 41 touchdowns as a senior, with only four interceptions.

Directing an up-tempo offense, Bunch added 520 rushing yards as his team never lost a game en route to the Class 5A state championship.

Even so, he had only one scholarship offer from an FBS program — Eastern Michigan.

Woody Wommack, a recruiting analyst for Rivals.com who covers the Southeast, said the state of Tennessee in the past 15 years or so has a limited track record for producing high-profile college quarterbacks. Perhaps that bit of recent history worked against Bunch.

So, it was off to the desert.

"There's something about him," Madoski said of Bunch. "He's got some real leadership ability. He throws a really good ball. He's athletic. He's deceptively fast and makes some things happen — he's active with his feet. He's just a pretty talented kid."

He's no longer an afterthought, that's for sure. For what it's worth, I still regard redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia as the favorite in the Nebraska quarterback race. But I base that only on what I hear from those who watch practice as opposed to first-hand observation. You also must consider that true freshman Adrian Martinez was Scott Frost's hand-picked quarterback in the class of 2018. The rookie seems to be progressing well.

But Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco says Bunch takes a backseat to nobody in camp. That became evident last week when sophomore Patrick O'Brien decided to transfer largely because his repetitions in practice were cut drastically. Bunch's reps apparently weren't cut; he's clearly in the hunt — yeah, much more than an afterthought.

"He's got some swag about him, some confidence in his abilities — no question," Madoski said. 

Madoski then hinted at why Bunch perhaps didn't exactly have Power Five programs lined up at his doorstep after he played the 2016 season at Scottsdale CC. Right before preseason camp started, Ziegler, Madoski's trusted assistant, left the program because his wife was pregnant and he needed a higher-paying job.

"We promoted a couple guys from within our program to co-offensive coordinator roles," Madoski said. "But it really impacted Andrew. Had things stayed where we anticipated them being, I think he would've blown up.

"You get coaches that kind of get thrown right into the mix like that, that have to really, truly start game-planning, all aspects of it — pass game, run game — it was just tough for Andrew. But the thing that was interesting about it, he didn't crumble at all under circumstances like that. He went out and worked his tail off."

His numbers were decent: 118-for-212 passing (55.7 percent) for 1,331 yards and 13 touchdowns, with six interceptions.

But the Artichokes finished 1-9.

Bunch's dad, David Bunch, was a walk-on at Nebraska. Following in dad's footsteps made sense.

Meanwhile, Wommack, the recruiting analyst, scratches his head wondering why Bunch failed to attract much recruiting attention in high school. After all, he played in a strong program that in recent years produced players who ended up at Michigan, Mississippi State, Cal and Tennessee.

Wommack recalls watching Bunch run a 4.62-second 40 at a Rivals camp in February 2015, before his senior season at Independence.

"Bunch is waiting on his first (FBS) offer, but he looks like an ideal candidate to run a spread offense thanks to his combination of passing ability and speed," Wommack wrote at the time.

"How about that?" the analyst said Friday in an interview.

How about that, indeed.

"I know that's an awfully big stage in Lincoln," Madoski said. "But Andrew can handle it."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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