Mario Verduzco is the quarterback expert around here.
But you don’t have to be Bill Walsh to recognize the smoothness with which Noah Vedral operated during the Red-White Spring Game earlier this month. The Bishop Neumann graduate was 13-for-19 passing for 144 yards and rushed twice for 17 yards.
Gifted athletes often make challenging work look easy. That's Vedral. He's an exceptional athlete.
Vedral looked much more comfortable in the April 13 Red-White scrimmage than he did last October against Bethune-Cookman. Playing the entire second half after Adrian Martinez engineered a 38-3 halftime lead, Vedral was only 2-for-9 passing with an interception while netting 13 yards on seven carries.
But Verduzco, the Nebraska quarterbacks coach, emphasizes that Vedral wasn't granted eligibility until two weeks before that game. A transfer from Central Florida, he had worked with the scout team until mid-October, so his timing was awry at times. Great athleticism aside, he plays in a sport that demands good timing.
I was struck by how much more in-command he looked April 13.
"Smooth" is an excellent word to describe Vedral, his position coach says.
“That was exactly my impression of him when I saw Noah as a high school player and my impression of him when he first started getting into the groove with us at UCF,” said Verduzco, who was on Scott Frost's staff at UCF in 2017.
“Things appear effortless for him,” Verduzco added.
Vedral, a sophomore, is Nebraska's No. 2 quarterback entering the long offseason. He will continue to chase Martinez, also a sophomore, while simultaneously trying to stay ahead of junior Andrew Bunch, redshirt freshman Matt Masker and true freshman Luke McCaffrey. Never underestimate the importance of May, June and July in a football program. Important work is being done, and QBs have to lead the way.
There is excellent competition among Verduzco's group. It feels healthy. It's why QB is one of the most stable parts of Frost's second-year program. Granted, some wonder about the drop-off at quarterback after Martinez. I have wondered about it, too, which is why I watched Vedral intently during the spring game. I admittedly had the Bethune-Cookman game, his only appearance last season, in the back of my mind.
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If nothing else, there's now more balance in the discussion, at least the ongoing one in my head.
“That game against Bethune-Cookman was a function of, hey, he's on the field with some guys who are maybe having some issues of their own, and that obviously has a dramatic impact on us (quarterbacks) — right, wrong or indifferent," Verduzco said last week.
As for Vedral's 2018 season as a whole, “It was just kind of a wash for the guy," Mario said. "It was just a weird, unsettling sort of thing for him. It kind of showed up like it showed up. But how I know Noah Vedral is how I saw him in this past spring game. That’s what I see at every practice.”
“He’s really, really competitive — really freakin’ competitive,” the coach added, making clear that all his quarterbacks possess that trait.
Vedral’s work ethic is excellent, Verduzco said. The 6-foot-1 200-pounder understands what needs to be done. He listens to Verduzco when the coach emphasizes the need for his guys to acquire power (read: leadership) through performance.
“He’s able to process information very quickly, and yes, he’s athletic,” the coach said.
But there is a burning question among fans: Does Verduzco feel comfortable with the gap between QB1 and QB2?
“I don’t think there’s a quarterback coach or an (offensive coach) in the country that ever feels totally comfortable with that,” Verduzco said.
Verduzco emphasizes his job is to make sure the gap isn’t wide. It’s his job to identify areas in which each of his quarterbacks needs to improve, and to diligently and enthusiastically address those areas.
In that regard, Vedral needs to get bigger and stronger, Verduzco said.
"Just that mass will allow him to generate more thrust on the ball, even though he already throws a really damned good ball,” Verduzco said. “Otherwise, all those other pieces of the puzzle that we saw in place when he was backing up McKenzie Milton (at UCF) are still in place now.
“Let me give you an example: We were beating a team, Noah goes in the game, and the defense zone dogs him from the field. He sees it, changes the protection, and throws a completion. That was a true freshman. It was impressive.”
Vedral will be even better going forward, especially as he adds strength and size.
That'll make the ride that much smoother.