For the first time this spring, the Nebraska football team’s new quarterbacks opened up about their early experiences in spring practice.
Nebraska lost four-year starter Adrian Martinez to the transfer portal, and the football team’s starting quarterback position remains unfilled, with returning sophomore Logan Smothers, Texas transfer junior Casey Thompson and Florida State transfer freshman Chubba Purdy competing for the starting spot.
“Competition is gonna make us all better,” Smothers said at Wednesday’s media availability. “It’s gonna push each one of us.”
The competition comes with learning a new offense, implemented by experienced offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. Smothers noted a number of changes from last year’s offense, including an increased number of under-center snaps, more five-step drops and a heavier emphasis on passing.
“[Whipple] likes to air it out, pro-style, that’s what he loves to do, ”Purdy said at Wednesday’s media availability. “As a quarterback you love to hear that.”
Whipple’s hire was a primary reason Purdy committed to the Huskers from the transfer portal, as Whipple had recruited him out of high school at his previous job at Pittsburgh. At Whipple’s encouragement, Purdy visited Pittsburgh in the transfer portal after his departure di lui, but it didn’t feel right committing without him, so Purdy landed at Nebraska.
Purdy has been limited to just 7-on-7 drills so far due to injury, but is hopeful to return fully after spring break.
While there is an increased focus on the dropback passing game, the quarterback runs that have been a staple of Frost’s offense will continue to be part of the gameplan, according to Smothers.
The general mobility among the quarterbacks will also help Whipple’s offense, as he plans to work on scrambling drills when the unit returns to practice from spring break, particularly with Thompson.
“He’s a little bit more mobile than you think,” Whipple said about Thompson, who had just 157 rushing yards last season, at Wednesday’s media availability.
Whipple praised Thompson’s early adjustments to the offense, and mentioned that the quarterback led the team to a touchdown in the two-minute drill at Wednesday’s practice. He lauded Thompson’s attitude di lui at practice as well, praising his composure di lui after throwing an interception while learning a new concept.
Thompson has embraced his leadership role on his new team, adjusting well to his new teammates, focusing on building relationships off the field. He worked extra with wide receivers on route sessions, and said that he took the offensive line out for dinner at Rodizio Grill.
Despite just arriving at Nebraska in January, Thompson has already been one of the faces of the team.
“If I go to a restaurant, or a local high school basketball game or even the gym getting some lifts in on the weekend, I might end up getting stopped and having to take pictures,” Thompson said at Wednesday’s media availability. “Every time I’ve left the house I think so far, other than going to like the gas station, I’ve been stopped.”
Thompson has used his recognizability for NIL opportunities, calling Nebraska one of the best spots in the country for NIL. That being said, he prizes balance between certain NIL opportunities and his on-field responsibilities in spring ball.
He also touched on his reasons for choosing Nebraska in the transfer portal over Oklahoma and Auburn. Thompson prioritized a starting opportunity, talent at receiver and great offensive minds in the coaching staff.
At Nebraska, Thompson saw a fit with all three. He studied Whipple’s film at Pittsburgh with Heisman-finalist quarterback Kenny Pickett, and was familiar with Frost’s offense after being recruited by him at UCF and watching his Oregon offenses in middle school. Wide receivers coach Mickey Joseph also heavily recruited him, as he knew Thompson’s father di lui, former Oklahoma quarterback Charles Thompson, from his playing days at Nebraska.
The receiving corps received high praise from Thompson, noting sophomore Alante Brown as a great route runner and leader, and calling junior Brody Belt a “young Wes Welker.”
A key to any quarterback’s success at Nebraska involves strong offensive line play. Head coach Scott Frost said he’s noticed improvements in this unit early.
“The first thing is they’re just coming off the ball, and that’s been something that I’ve been frustrated with for a long time,” Frost said at Wednesday’s media availability. “When I was playing here, guys looked like they’re in 40-yard dashes when the ball is snapped, and that wasn’t up to the standard that I wanted.”
Frost mentioned transfer offensive linemen junior Hunter Anthony and senior Kevin Williams as tough guys who play with a lot of energy. According to Frost, they’re thick in the conversation for playing time.
On Friday, Nebraska will do a full-team, live to the ground scrimmage at practice, the first of the spring.
“We only get so many live to the ground days, so we’re gonna use one on Friday. That should give us some time to heal if we get nicked up again, ”Frost said. “As a head coach the first thing you wanna see is effort and improvement, and you want everybody to walk off the field healthy.”
With the quarterback position battle already in full swing, practices like Friday’s scrimmage will be key in shaping the depth chart in the run up to the new season.