Nebraska’s preseason camp is nearing its conclusion and there’s still no clear winner in the Huskers’ starting quarterback competition.
But the light might be starting to appear at the end of the tunnel.
Redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia and freshman Adrian Martinez are locked in a close battle for the starting job, and their position coach, Mario Verduzco, is pleased with what he’s seen in recent days.
“They’re battling. They’re getting after it, man,” Verduzco said Wednesday, following NU’s 17th practice of preseason camp. “It’s going good, though.”
Wednesday’s session was a bit sluggish overall, according to offensive coordinator Troy Walters, but Verduzco said his young signal-callers have made fewer and fewer mistakes as camp has progressed.
“There’s about four or five points where we wanted to see where we were trending,” Verduzco said. “One is the consistency part of it, and they’ve done a better job of it from practice to practice.”
The schedule between now and Sept. 1 is clear and getting compressed in a hurry. Walters said the team would conduct a situational scrimmage Thursday and then preparations for Akron begin Friday.
Head coach Scott Frost has said from the outset that he’d like to have the quarterback situation settled when preparations begin. It’s fair to say, then, that Thursday provides another critical juncture in the road.
“Oh yeah,” Verduzco said. “Practice and the situational scrimmage, so on and so forth. They’re getting after it.”
One option that’s not yet been broached: fully shared duties under center.
“That’s Coach Frost’s decision, you’d have to ask him,” Verduzco said.
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Could NU devise a plan to play both?
“Obviously you’re always concerned about if a guy’s got some rhythm going, all of those sorts of things that have nothing to do with the X's and O's and are more psychological in nature,” Verduzco said. “Coach Frost is cognizant of that, being a quarterback himself. That’ll be something he’ll have to decide and how he’d want to piece that together. Certainly he’d let me know and I could let them know to kind of anticipate what the plan might be.
“But as of right now, there is no plan to play two quarterbacks.”
Frost and Verduzco have both previously said they prefer to pick one guy and let him play, though Frost also said last Friday, “If we had to play tomorrow, they’d both deserve to play.”
Verduzco didn’t give anything away about whether one had a slight lead over the other and only reiterated that he has confidence that either can handle the job.
Neither Gebbia nor Martinez has played in a competitive game — not including an all-star game for Martinez in January — since the fall of 2016. Gebbia finished his senior season at Calabasas (California) High then and subsequently redshirted here, and Martinez played his junior year at Clovis West (California) High in Fresno but missed his senior season with a shoulder injury.
Whoever wins the job or however the Huskers approach Sept. 1, the bottom line is there’s a lot left to learn.
“There’s going to be another evaluation. It’s game time, right?” Verduzco said. “I think it’s rare, but sometimes what happens is the way a guy practices isn’t sometimes what happens when you’re watching the game, as rare as that is. More times than not, how guys practice with regards to ... their body language, their feet and eyeballs are in the right place, it’ll transfer over to the game. So you shouldn’t have any issues.
“But, on the other hand, if a young guy gets in a game and all hell breaks loose and you can’t even recognize the young guy, then you have to kind of step back and figure out, well, what was the problem?”
There are no problems at the moment for the Husker quarterbacks, just a big decision still to make.