LINCOLN, Neb. — Think you know who Nebraska’s starting quarterback will be come the fall? Any assumptions at this point are just that, at least from coach Scott Frost’s perspective.
It still would be tempting to assume freshman Adrian Martinez is the front-runner, though. It appeared that way at times on Saturday, especially considering his stat line. Martinez was 10-of-13 for 114 yards and 1 touchdown in the air. On the ground? He added another 60 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground.
Redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia went 12-of-17 for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns in the air, but he did not match Martinez’s production on the ground. Again, it can feel safe to assume that seals the deal. Right?
Well, not so fast.
“I told the quarterbacks just before the game to just go play, we’re not going to choose who the starting quarterback is [Saturday],” Frost said following the spring game. “In a game like that, you might be the guy that’s in there when the right play is called and the right guy is open. You might be the guy that’s in there when somebody misses a protection and you get sacked and quarterbacks can look good or bad through no fault of their own. So, we’re not going to judge them too much on the play [Saturday].”
Frost went on to discuss Martinez’s composure. It impresses him, much like it’s impressed many members of the media as they’ve spoken to him. Considering Martinez is only 18 years old and should be at his prom this weekend, his composure and maturity are among his most striking features.
But again, it’s best not to get too far ahead.
“That was a good job, but I thought all four handled the situation really well,” Frost said.
Offensive coordinator Troy Walters agreed. While he handled play calling for the Red team, he also kept his eye on the White team. He was pleased with the quarterbacks overall, but especially pleased with the Red team’s lack of interceptions.
The two quarterbacks on the Red team? Martinez and Gebbia.
“I thought they did well,” Walters said. “Adrian showed what he could do with his legs. Very athletic, explosive, made some great decisions on when to keep the ball and when he gets out in space, man, he’s tough to bring down. Tristan did a good job with just leading the offense and decision-making. Red didn’t have any turnovers, any interceptions. Any time the quarterbacks can go a whole game without an interception, they’re doing their jobs.”
Whether it was intentional to peg Martinez and Gebbia against each other on the Red team — there were some conflicting messages about that over the week — both seemed to make the quarterback decision a little more difficult by the end of the spring game.
For Frost and Walters, they’re OK with that. They saw plenty of good things from the two quarterbacks on Saturday, but they also saw plenty of room for improvement. That’s a big component in why a decision doesn’t need to be made just yet.
And when you consider that Nebraska has had only 13 practices to date, it helps put the need to declare a starting quarterback immediately to rest just a bit.
For now, the next few months will be vital for Gebbia, Martinez and Andrew Bunch, especially when it comes to learning the nuances of the offense and studying the defenses of Nebraska’s future opponents. None of the quarterbacks are well-versed enough in any of that yet.
So, maybe it’s tempting to want to declare a starting quarterback now. Take it from Frost though, that decision is still a ways away and it’s probably a good thing in the long run.
“We’re not going to make any decisions about depth charts right now,” Frost said. “I think repetition usually clarifies itself and we don’t have to do much with that. It’s really hard to judge people until everyone is familiar with the scheme and playing on an even playing field.
“Once everybody knows what we’re doing then we can evaluate who’s doing a better job than somebody else, [and] then we will make some of those decisions.”