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Huskers fall practice, Day 5, 8/8

Nebraska quarterbacks line up during football practice outside the Hawks Championship Center Wednesday as competition for the position continues in fall camp.

Five practices down, no daylight between Nebraska's three contenders for the starting quarterback job.

At least not publicly.

Quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco lauded the work completed so far by redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia, freshman Adrian Martinez and sophomore walk-on Andrew Bunch over the summer and through the opening five practices of preseason camp, but said none has separated himself so far.

"They’re all right there, all right even, you know?" Verduzco told reporters Wednesday morning. "They’re battling. They’re battling in 7-on-7, they’re battling in the team periods, they battle in the mixed periods. You see what they do on tape and you know, it’s going good right now."

Pressed and pressed and asked the question in several different ways, Verduzco gave no hints about anybody holding any kind of lead in the race. Right now, the trio is rotating evenly and the goal is an even number of repetitions for each.

"Last spring it was basically the same process and I think when it was all said and done I think we might have been two or three reps off per period," Verduzco said. "We keep track of that, I’m very mindful of that because it's important to those guys that are competing for the job. It’s important for Coach (Troy) Walters and it’s important for Coach (Scott) Frost."

Frost, of course, has taken the same approach. Before camp started, he likened the quarterback competition to a game of Monopoly. All of the quarterbacks started the month of August on "Go."

Gebbia, a Calabasas, California, native who was originally recruited to NU by former head coach Mike Riley, said he didn’t hear Frost say that, but had his own twist, apropos of a player neck deep in trying to win the job.

“It sounds like a great analogy to me, but the one thing I would say is Monopoly is more of a game of chance and this is a game of will and competition,” Gebbia said. “We’re all doing a great job of trying to show that we are who we think we are.

“At the end of the day, as long as we’re winning games, that’s all that matters.”

But it clearly also matters to each quarterback. And there is certainly pressure that comes along with trying to win the job.

“I just keep my head down, to be honest with you,” Gebbia said. “I’m just focused on me and focused on my reps and trying to help those guys in any way I can.”

Added Martinez, “It’s fun, great, competitive. We know what it’s about. We all want to see each other succeed and I feel really good about where our group is at right now.”

None of the three has taken a snap in a Division I college football game and each would be a monumental win in his own right. Martinez could be the first true freshman to start a season opener in NU history. Gebbia would be a hold-over from a pro-style system holding off a highly touted, hand-picked player. Bunch would complete an unlikely journey from junior college to walk-on to starter over a pair of prized recruits.

Verduzco is playing everything close to the vest.

Anybody standing in leadership? “I wouldn’t be able to say one guy is doing that better than another right now,” he said. “I think in regards to their personalities and who those guys are, I think they’re all the same kind of cats.”

How about in the run game? “They’re all doing good with that right now.”

For now, they’re all getting the same number of repetitions in practice, all working to earn the first crack against Akron on Sept. 1.

“Our team respects their work ethic in the weight room, what they’ve done on the field in terms of 7-on-7 and all that kind of work," Verduzco said. "From that standpoint, those guys are across-the-board even keel.”

It can’t last forever, though. Frost said he ideally would like to decide who that will be by the time game preparations for the Zips hit high gear about a week before the opener.

Between now and then, it will be the head coach who moves the process into its end stage.

"Coach Frost is going to come to the staff and he's going to come to me and he's going to say, 'We need to have a discussion about this,'" Verduzco forecast. "We'll talk about it and ultimately he'll make the decision based on our recommendations and we'll go from there."

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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