LINCOLN, Neb. — The biggest question new Nebraska coach Scott Frost faces as he enters spring practice: Who will play quarterback?
Sophomore Patrick O’Brien, redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia and incoming freshman Adrian Martinez all are being given an equal chance to win the job.
“We’re not really worried about who’s a 1 and who’s a 2 right now,” Frost said Wednesday. “Guys are going to get plenty of reps in practice. As many reps as we get in spring practice and fall camp, it’ll be pretty obvious who the best guys are.”
O’Brien appeared in three games last season as Tanner Lee’s backup and is the only quarterback on the roster with game experience. Gebbia was impressive in the 2017 spring game, and Martinez is a four-star recruit who enrolled in January after missing his senior season in high school because of injury.
O’Brien and Gebbia are moving from former coach Mike Riley’s pro-style offense to the spread option system Frost used at UCF. The adjustment will be challenging.
“The most obvious difference is you’re not in a huddle situation,” quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said. “The requirement of being able to play fast as you possibly can from play-to-lay and process a boatload of information — that in itself is just a fundamental difference between the two offenses, without making too big a deal out of it.”
Some things to know as Nebraska enters spring practice with a 6 a.m. workout Friday:
DB JoJo Domann (knee), center Michael Decker (knee) and LB Luke Gifford (hip) probably will miss the entire spring. LB Sedrick King (undisclosed injury) and RB Tre Bryant (knee) could practice in limited roles. OL Cole Conrad, who has battled an assortment of injuries, will be evaluated after the team returns from spring break March 26.
GETTING A MOVE ON
An intense offseason conditioning program has created what Frost called impressive before-and-after pictures, especially with the offensive linemen.
The Huskers will hold fast-paced and shorter practices than they did under Riley, but Frost said they won’t be as grueling as fans might think.
“This isn’t Navy SEAL hell week,” Frost said. “We have one SEAL on the team (Damian Jackson), and I’ll be anxious to talk to him about it because I don’t think this will come close to it. Our practices are fun. The guys will enjoy them. We’re not going to kill them first day. We’ll ease them into it.”
MAKE MISTAKES FULL SPEED
Frost and his staff have imparted this philosophy: “Desire to excel and no fear of failure.”
“We’re not going to yell and scream at kids; we’re not going to cuss at kids. I don’t think that’s right,” Frost said. “If someone misses a tackle or drops a ball, they don’t need to be yelled at. They need to be taught to do it the right way so it doesn’t happen again. Once you take away the fear of what might happen if you make a bad play, it really frees you up to make a great play.”
SIMPLE DEFENSIVE GOAL
Nebraska ranked 101st in total defense and 116th in scoring defense last year under defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. The Huskers will continue playing the 3-4 base alignment under Erik Chinander.
So what will be the difference between the old system and the new?
“Biggest difference? Hopefully we can get some stops,” Frost said, drawing laughs from reporters. “I have respect for the coaches who’ve been here before. … We have good players here. We need more of them and we’re going to keep recruiting to our schemes. The players here, I love the buy-in and work ethic they’ve shown us.”
“I didn’t want to do half of spring ball before spring break and half after. I’ve seen a couple college spring breaks on MTV, and I’m not sure you’re going to get the most out of kids before or after that.” – Frost, on why Nebraska will hold one get-acquainted practice Friday and then go into full-fledged spring practice starting March 26.