LINCOLN — The lights are not on Andrew Bunch.
He wasn’t sought after like the others in the quarterback room. Wasn’t part of a “Calibraska” movement like Tristan Gebbia, wasn’t called upon at halftime of a Big Ten road game like Patrick O’Brien, wasn’t the first phone call from Mario Verduzco after UCF’s win over Memphis last December like Adrian Martinez.
Of the four quarterbacks who could start next season, Bunch is the only one not on scholarship. But the 6-foot-1, 200-pound sophomore isn’t here to provide depth, he said. He’s here to win the starting job.
“I’ve never thought of myself as a walk-on,” Bunch said after practice Tuesday. “I’m proud to be a walk-on, but I’m definitely trying to do my very best.”
Bunch is reserved, a little quiet, a little wary to speak highly of himself. But Frost and Verduzco have been quick to praise Bunch this spring.
“He’s more athletic than I expected him to be,” Frost said Tuesday. “When he takes off running, he can make some things happen. So he’s been a pleasant surprise for me because I wasn’t expecting as much as I’ve seen.”
Compliments are good and appreciated, Bunch said, but he’s just trying to stay focused. Though Bunch may not say it, there’s no doubt this offense with Frost fits him better than Mike Riley’s, giving him a better chance at playing time.
Bunch led Independence High School in Thompson Stations, Tennessee, to a 15-0 record his senior year and Class 5A state title in 2015. He threw for 3,405 yards and 41 touchdowns while running for 520 yards with nine scores. Out of high school, Bunch chose junior college instead of accepting a scholarship from MAC schools. At Scottsdale Community College, he threw for 1,331 yards and 13 touchdowns in nine games.
While there, he kept in touch with Riley and Danny Langsdorf, who recruited him in high school but didn’t offer a scholarship. After his freshman year at Scottsdale, Nebraska asked him to walk on. Andrew’s father, David Bunch, walked on at Nebraska as a wide receiver in the 1980s.
“I kind of decided if it came to it, I was willing to walk on,” Bunch said. “I always wanted to be a Husker.”
Bunch role-played as J.T. Barrett and Trace McSorley on scout team last year, often gaining praise from coaches for his ability to stress the first-team defense. But in Riley’s pro-style offense, Bunch’s game didn’t necessarily fit. Then came Frost.
“I think everybody in the country wants to play for Coach Frost,” Bunch said. “So if he’s coming here, then I’m not leaving.”
Bunch ran an up-tempo offense in high school and loved it. So this new scheme, he said, feels natural. He’s not worried about trying to adjust his game to it. He’s just excited to stick around and compete.
“It’s been a dream. It’s been amazing,” Bunch said. “I take every single day, I appreciate every single day, and so I’m excited.”
All the quarterbacks but O’Brien were interviewed Tuesday. Bunch was one of the first interviewed, but when others walked into the room, the crowd around Bunch thinned out. When Gebbia walked into the interview room, cameras and reporters flocked, some even leaving Bunch for the redshirt freshman.
But with the lights on others, Bunch remained in the background, visible, where he plans to stay.