On a day when Nebraska coach Scott Frost described the first week of fall camp in positive terms and pointed out several players who have so far exceeded expectations, he took a more measured approach when discussing his group of young quarterbacks.
“Quarterbacks have been doing good, but I’d like to see them be farther ahead than they are,” Frost said Friday morning after the Huskers’ seventh preseason practice. “The one thing is, I think at the end of spring they were doing a really good job and it seemed like they got it. We didn’t quite pick up there where we left off from spring.
“The last few days I’ve seen a big improvement, but everything’s just got to operate faster for them. That will come when they’re familiar enough with the offense that it clicks in their mind faster.”
The trio of signal-callers competing for the starting job — redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia, freshman Adrian Martinez and sophomore walk-on Andrew Bunch — are approaching what appears to be a watershed moment in camp.
The Huskers are holding their first intrasquad scrimmage in the coming days — Frost did not say specifically when, though the team practices Saturday and Sunday before a Monday off day — that sounded like the first stage of a mid-August reckoning.
“I think after that we’ll adjust the reps at all the positions, not just quarterbacks, to make sure we’re getting more reps to guys that we think are ahead,” Frost said. “But it seems like we’ve been here two months already and it’s only been a little over a week. There’s still a lot more reps to be had for everybody.”
That camp already seems long to Frost speaks to the amount of work he thinks his first Nebraska team has accomplished to date.
“It’s been good,” Frost said during his first media availability since NU began practices last Friday. “I see so much improvement from spring until now, January until now. It’s amazing how far the guys have come. We still have a lot to improve on and a lot to get better at, but overall I think camp’s been really, really good and the players have given us a lot of effort.”
There is much to settle tactically and with personnel, of course. A running back pecking order to be determined — Frost said senior Devine Ozigbo looked "at least a step faster" than he’s ever been before and the coach complimented the work of several others — a placekicking job to settle, jobs in the secondary to be won and lost, Akron scouting to complete, all in addition to that quarterback competition.
But in addition to all the sifting and scheming, there’s room for the continued growing of a mentality Frost says he’s seen the group gradually develop since winter conditioning, through spring ball and the summer and to this point. It’s budding, but not yet fully in bloom.
“(Strength coach) Zach Duval is as good as there is in the business and he’s changed our team,” Frost said. “All you have to do is walk out on the field and look at each individual and see how much improvement they’ve made with their bodies, with their speed, with their strength. But along with that has to be guys that are willing to fight and strain.”
That part takes more time, it seems, than adding muscle mass.
“Being tough is a mentality,” Frost said. “I got the impression watching from afar that last year when things got tough, the team kind of shut it down and quit. They tell me the same thing. I don’t want guys that will quit. I want guys that, when things get hard, they’re going to push through and be even better in those situations.”
NU’s upcoming scrimmage will likely measure where the Huskers fall on that spectrum as they push into the middle third of camp that features 20 total practices on the books before an off day Aug. 26 and then the beginning of a true game week.
“I want a whole team that when they’re tired, they’re going to play even harder,” Frost said. “And when we’re behind they’re going to play even harder. And in the fourth quarter they’re going to play even harder. We’ve got a ways to go to get to that mentality.”