Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco is a veteran in the college football world. So much so, he boasts an impressive 41 years of experience. After spending two seasons at UCF with new Huskers coach Scott Frost, Verduzco made the choice to stay with Frost and relocate to Lincoln, Neb., this past December.
Verduzco quickly made a name for himself at his new school, helping secure the commitment of 4-star quarterback Adrian Martinez, who signed early and enrolled at Nebraska this month.
And Verduzco made quite the impression on Martinez when they first met.
“Me and my dad met with him in the quarterback meeting room,” Martinez told the Lincoln Journal Star. “He was just kind of giving us the surface-level introduction of what he really wanted to teach the quarterbacks, and how he talked to his quarterbacks. It was kind of mind blowing, really, the way he was teaching it to us.”
With winter conditioning officially underway, Verduzco’s quarterbacks room is expected to be a busy one this spring. After the departure of starter Tanner Lee, Martinez, sophomore Patrick O’Brien and redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia will compete for the starting spot. However, those three won’t be the only ones worth keeping an eye on before next season rolls around.
Junior Andrew Bunch is still on the roster, and sophomore Noah Vedral is following Veruzco and Frost from Central Florida to Nebraska. On top of that, Kearney (Neb.) Catholic quarterback Matt Masker accepted his preferred walk-on offer with the Huskers in December.
That’s a lot of quarterbacks, but it’s not a new situation for Verduzco. During his first season with UCF in 2016, the Knights had six quarterbacks on their roster. Of those six, five were on scholarship. If that seems similar to the quarterbacks room Verduzco is now building at Nebraska, it’s not by coincidence. It’s clear that he and Frost prefer a larger group that provides competition and options.
Frost and Verduzco were more than familiar with each another when they linked up at UCF. Verduzco spent 14 years at Northern Iowa, which is where he and Frost met. Verduzco was the quarterbacks coach at UNI from 2001 to 2014, as well as the co-offensive coordinator starting in 2006.
Frost was at UNI as the linebackers coach in 2007 and defensive coordinator in 2008. When he found himself as the head coach in Orlando several years later, Frost knew instantly who he wanted coaching his quarterbacks.
That decision stemmed from Frost leaning on Verduzco’s knowledge when Frost coached quarterbacks at Oregon.
“When I became a quarterback coach again after coaching a lot of other positions, Mario was the first one I went to in order to brush up on quarterback fundamentals and coaching the position,” Frost said at the time. “He’s the best I’ve ever been around in terms of getting a quarterback ready to play.
“A lot of the things I taught [Oregon quarterbacks] Marcus Mariota and Vernon Adams were what I learned from Mario.”
Verduzco is also already familiar with one Big Ten foe. He served as an assistant coach at Rutgers (assisting with quarterbacks and as recruiting coordinator) from 1996-99, and then as quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator in 2000. During Verduzco’s time with the Scarlet Knights he coached Mike McMahon, who went on to play for the Detroit Lions.
For the quarterbacks on Nebraska’s roster, playing for Verduzco has to feel promising. Aside from his impressive résumé, his accomplishments highlight what he and Frost would like to do with the Huskers. In fact, Verduzco’s quarterbacks at UCF helped take an offense that was ranked 125th nationally in scoring and 127th in total offense in 2015, to fifth in both categories in 2017.
Verduzco also helped develop UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton into one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. During his two seasons with Verduzco, Milton completed more than 64 percent of his passes, threw for 5,778 yards and 45 touchdowns, and rushed for 655 yards. Even more impressive, UCF quarterbacks had nearly a 3-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in Verduzco’s two season with the Knights. UCF threw only 16 interceptions compared to 45 touchdown passes.
Winter conditioning may only be beginning, but the quarterback position should be a fun one to watch for Nebraska fans this spring. A big part of that will be Verduzco, who will have the opportunity to show once again what he can do with a room of quarterbacks waiting to be developed.