Perhaps no position holds more excitement than that of quarterback as Nebraska heads into 2019.
Adrian Martinez made history the moment he stepped on the field in becoming the first true freshman quarterback to ever start a season opener. While Nebraska struggled in their first few games, Martinez showed that he is something special. By season’s end, he gained the following accolades (taken from Huskers.com):
Honors & Awards
- Freshman All-American (2018, Football Writer’s Association of America)
- Honorable-Mention All-Big Ten (2018, Coaches & Media)
- NU Offensive Back of the Year (2018)
- Three-Time Big Ten Freshman of the Week (Oct. 22, 2018; Nov. 5, 2018; Nov. 12, 2018)
- College Football Performance Awards Co-National Performer of the Week (Oct. 22, 2018)
- National Freshman of the Week (Athlon Sports, Sept. 10, 2018)
- Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll (Spring 2018)
- Career 400-Yard Total Offense Games (3)
- Season Total Offensive Yards Per Game (295.1 in 2018)
- Season 400-Yard Total Offense Games (3 in 2018)
- Season 300-Yard Total Offense Games (7 in 2018)
- Game Completion Percentage [min. 20 att.] (86.2 vs. Minnesota in 2018)
- Freshman Completions (224 in 2018)
- Freshman Completion Percentage (64.6% in 2018)
- Freshman Passing Yards (2,617 in 2018)
- Freshman Total Offensive Yards (3,246)
- Freshman Passing Touchdowns (17)
- Freshman Total Touchdowns (25)
He came close to setting records other than those listed above. His completion percentage of 64.6% is second only to Joe Ganz season record of 67.86 in 2007, and Ganz’ career completion percentage of 65.13. There’s a good bet Martinez will improve between his freshman and sophomore seasons, giving him that record as well.
Nebraska has a sure quarterback starter in Martinez heading into 2019. He played so well and garnered so much attention that he got on the Heisman Hype train for the coming season.
Nebraska’s quarterback problem is in finding a solid backup for 2019. Martinez missed the Troy game after being injured during a dirty cheap-shot play against Colorado. Andrew Bunch received the start against Troy.
Bunch received a single start last season - the previous mentioned start against Troy. It would be easy to say Nebraska would have won that game had Martinez been able to play, but that’s ignoring the fact that the Huskers were still a work in progress at that point.
Bunch played in five games total, completing 31 of 47 attempts passing with two interceptions. That’s a 66% completion percentage - not too shabby when considering Nebraska football history.
Bunch has entered his name into the transfer portal and is exploring his options. Transfers have become commonplace recently, especially at the quarterback position. Guys want to play. Say what you want about “loyalty”, but coaches move around to improve their careers, so the idea that a player should be loyal to your school is nothing but grousing.
Vedral transferred from UCF to Nebraska last season, following Scott Frost. He was initially ineligible to play last season, but received a reprieve on October 12th because that’s the weird way the NCAA does things. He played the whole second half against Bethune-Cookmman, completing two passes for 29 yards, and scored on a 20-yard touchdown run.
Vedral preserved his redshirt season as he only played in one game last season.
Masker is a walk-on out of Kearney Catholic. He did not see action last season. He will, as they say, provide depth at the quarterback position.
Newcomer - Luke McCaffrey
Luke McCaffrey, whose name I will always be misspelling, comes to Nebraska out of Valor Christian High School in Littleton, Colorado. Mr. McCaffrey is already enrolled at Nebraska. He is 6’ 3”, and 185 lbs, so you’d think he’ll benefit from the weight program immediately.
McCaffrey comes from good stock - note this bit linked from UglyDog’s article above:
His dad Ed had a 13 year NFL career, his mother was a 3 year starter for Stanford soccer, his grandfather was an Olympic silver medalist, his oldest brother Max plays WR for the 49ers, he is also the younger brother of Michigan’s Dylan McCaffrey, as well as former Stanford Cardinal and current Carolina Panther Christian McCaffrey.
With that kind of pedigree you’d think he’ll be bound to finish second in the Heisman!
The key here is whether McCaffrey can learn the offense and adjust to college life quickly enough to be a quality backup for Martinez.
Summary - Quarterbacks
Nebraska is set at the starting quarterback position. There hasn’t been a quarterback this exciting since forever. Martinez has been brilliant at times, showing that he’s good at decision-making in his young career and able to pull the ball down and make plays with his feet should the need arise.
That’s what sets Martinez apart from the other quarterbacks on the roster - dynamic, explosive playmaking. Our beloved Huskers will need to score plenty of points to be successful next season. I don’t say that because I have little faith in our defense, I say that because that’s what great college football teams do. They score. A lot.
Your dad might say “defense wins championships” and believe it, but I think it’s debatable as to whether or not that’s the case anymore.
Nebraska needs to find a good backup. That’s pretty obvious.
Can Luke McCaffrey come onto the scene and make a difference early in his Husker career? The good news is that he can play in up to four games and still preserve a redshirt season. The other good news is that he’s the new guy on the block and everyone loves a new backup quarterback.
Will Bunch stay and can he or Noah Vedral take a step forward? Possibly, but there’s that “explosive playmaking” trait that appears to be missing from both these guys.
The best case scenario is obvious. Adrian Martinez stays healthy for the entire season. Everyone else gets some playing time. Everyone improves while Nebraska wins the Big Ten West and gets a shot at the Big Ten title.
Maybe. Maybe not. It’s the offseason where dreams are still intact!