Husker quarterback competition remains even, says QB coach Mario Verduzco

Husker quarterback competition remains even, says QB coach Mario Verduzco
"All three" of the Husker quarterbacks vying to start the season opener have impressed Mario Verduzco during camp. (CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD)

LINCOLN — Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco has one specifc job in fall camp: To develop and ultimately pick a starting quarterback.

He’s playing poker so far on whether Adrian Martinez, Tristan Gebbia or Andrew Bunch is ahead. Those three are splitting reps equally, and Verduzco isn’t tipping his hand yet.

“They have started where we left off in spring,” Verduzco said. “And some of those finer details are coming in play to play. They’re progressing well.”

Has anyone taken the bull by the horns?

“All three of them,” said Verduzco, who added that all three have earned the respect of teammates on the practice field and in the weight room.

None of the three have taken a game snap at Nebraska. Bunch is a walk-on sophomore. Martinez and Gebbia are freshmen. Martinez is vying to become the first true freshman in school history to start a season-opener.

“There’s no nervousness,” Martinez said. “There’s a Peyton Manning quote, ‘You can never be nervous. You can only be anxious. If you’re nervous, that means you weren’t prepared.’ Coach (Scott) Frost and Coach Verduzco prepare us, whether it’s me or Tristan or Bunch. That guy’s going to be prepared.”

Verduzco said Martinez has worked on his throwing motion. Verduzco calls it the “cha-ching,” and the “cha” is the first part of the motion. That’s where Martinez has made strides. Bunch and Gebbia, Verduzco said, have good throwing motions already.

Gebbia said he wants to work on every part of his game.

“You will never stop progressing until you hang your cleats up,” Gebbia said.

Bunch, the dark horse in the race, said he believes he’s still in it and coaches haven’t given him any indication otherwise.

“When we got out on the field I could tell there were no biases toward anyone as to who was going to play,” Bunch said.

Noah Vedral, who transferred to Nebraska from Central Florida, said Wednesday he will redshirt this season and run the scout team.

Maurice Washington only arrived at Nebraska last week — but he’s already impressing

LINCOLN — If the hype surrounding Maurice Washington was loud before the running back joined Nebraska last week, it’s become deafening after five fall practices.

And now the praise is coming from teammates of the heralded true freshman.

Washington — a top-100 recruit who signed with the Huskers over Ohio State and others — is playing from behind after learning he would be academically eligible only last week. But offensive coordinator Troy Walters said the newcomer has done an “incredible job” considering he missed summer conditioning and is still learning the playbook.

“He’s special,” Walters said. “When he’s out there, he has another gear. He has some instincts that you just don’t coach. Guys have that or they don’t, and he has it.”

At 6-foot-1 and just 170 pounds, Washington has weight to gain, Walters said. But he’s already making plays in practice, including flashes of explosiveness and agility during the portion of Wednesday’s workout open to media.

His quarterbacks are impressed, too. Noah Vedral called him a “special player,” describing how hard it is for defenders to bring him to the ground even in basic contact drills.

“You’ll know that name,” Vedral said.

Said redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia: “He’s a phenomenal talent, I’ll put it to you that way. He’s definitely got a lot of shake and bake to him. He’s gonna be a really good tool this year.”

True freshman Adrian Martinez — a burner in his own right — said fans will soon learn how quick and slippery Washington is.

“We’re really excited about him,” Martinez said. “I can’t say enough good things about the guy. I’ll try and just keep it down for now. He’s just fast, man. He can do a little bit of it all. He’s a damn good player. Husker Nation’s really going to love him.”

Running backs coach Ryan Held offered the most tempered compliments for Washington, who ran for 10.2 yards per carry last year on a Texas state championship team. But Held has also been wowed by the package of speed, vision and footwork that has the back 10 yards downfield in the blink of an eye.

“I tell you what, everybody’s excited about him,” Held said. “I have to do a good job, we have to do a good job, of making sure he’s grounded and build him up, because he’s still a freshman at 18 years old, away from home, and wasn’t here in the summer.

“He’s gotta know where to go at 5 o’clock and 6 o’clock. I’m cautiously optimistic he can help us this fall, but I’m also not going to put unrealistic expectations on him to where everybody thinks he’s going to come out and be the Heisman Trophy winner game one. He’s got a lot of work to do just like everybody else.”

More freshman walk-ons from Nebraska make Huskers’ 110-man roster than last year

Scott Frost said the walk-on program was going to be a focus for Nebraska under his regime. With the 110-man roster released Wednesday, it appears Nebraska hit a home run with the 2018 walk-on class.

That class consisted of 15 in-state walk-ons, and 11 of them were listed on Wednesday’s 110-man roster. That’s more than the six true freshman in-state walk-ons that made the camp roster last year.

Moses Bryant (Elkhorn South) is listed as a cornerback, though it’s possible he ends up at running back eventually.

Two walk-on offensive lineman are listed: AJ Forbes (Bellevue West) and Collin Shefke (Lincoln Southwest).

There are five quarterbacks on the 110-man roster, including Kearney Catholic product Matt Masker.

North Platte’s Bryson Krull is one of six tight ends on the roster, along with true freshman scholarship player Cam Jurgens.

Bennett Folkers (Gothenburg) is listed at wide receiver. The 6-2, 195-pounder chose to walk on at Nebraska instead of Wyoming.

Two stars from the state championship games are listed as well: Isaiah Stalbird (Kearney) at safety and Simon Otte (York) at outside linebacker.

Gretna’s Joseph Johnson shined at the Shrine Bowl in June and is on the 110-man roster at outside linebacker. Chris Cassidy from Lincoln Pius X is an inside linebacker.

Norfolk Ryan Schommer also made the cut on the defensive line.

Last year there were six true freshman walk-ons on the 110-man camp roster: receivers Dylan Reynolds (Broken Bow), Christian Banker (Omaha Skutt) and Brandon Robbins (Bellevue East); offensive linemen Hunter Miller (Cross County) and Trent Hixson (Omaha Skutt); and kicker Cole Frahm (Omaha Burke). Banker, Miller, Hixson and Frahm also made the 110-man roster this year.

Husker back Tre Bryant feels like a ‘kid in a candy shop’ after recovering from knee injury

LINCOLN — Sometime over the summer Tre Bryant finally felt like he was back.

No more knee pain. Better explosion. Knowledge of the new up-tempo offense he’d studied since Scott Frost arrived.

“It’s kind of like being a kid in a candy shop again, just going out there and having fun,” Bryant said. “I don’t have no personal goals because I know what it’s like to be down and not be able to play. So it’s just having the best of both worlds, being down and coming back. So now I’m just having fun with it.”

Bryant said he was in “survival mode” after tweaking his right knee last summer. He played the first two games of the season, accumulating 299 rushing yards and two touchdowns, before going down with a season-ending injury.

Bryant said he submitted paperwork to the Big Ten for a medical redshirt a couple weeks ago. His position coach, Ryan Held, said Nebraska is confident it will go through the NCAA and Bryant will retain sophomore status for the upcoming season.

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