Quarterback Battle Is Ongoing as Newcomers State Their Case
By Scottie Spinazola
The debut of junior quarterback Casey Thompson in a Nebraska uniform was anticlimactic.
The Texas transfer took the first team reps through spring game warmups and was under center for only eight plays in the game. He threw four passes, completing three. Then his day was done.
Thompson’s best play of the day might have come when he led the team out of the tunnel. And that’s no insult. He sees it as one of his duties and an honor. He did it as a Longhorn, too.
“I mean it’s kind of something that I’ve always done during my whole time being a player,” he said. “Even as a backup in Texas I tried to be in the front. As a quarterback I try to be a leader and try to lead the guys and instill some confidence in the rest of the team and let them know that I have their back no matter what.”
Thompson spent most of the day on the sidelines, and took a leadership role there. But he showed some good things in his eight plays, too. He has short-throw accuracy. All of his completions were of about 10 yards. Despite the heavy pass rush, the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder remained calm, stayed in the pocket and made good decisions.
“There is a lot of learning for quarterbacks,” coach Scott Frost said. “They say when offense is behind defense is usually when you are doing new things and quarterbacks take the worst of that. There are pieces of two different systems that those guys are all learning not just (Thompson). That is why I think at times we have looked like a million bucks and other times looked a little lost but I have seen good progress from that position from multiple guys.”
Other quarterbacks were able to display more of their skill sets.
Sophomore Logan Smothers relieved Thompson and threw 14 passes, completing five for 46 yards. The agile Smothers ran three times for negative-six yards against a defense that only needed to touch him to end the play.
Fans also were excited to see Florida State transfer Chubba Purdy. The redshirt freshman did not disappoint, going 5-for-10 through the air and showing speed and elusiveness on his feet.
Purdy, dealing with a foot injury, spent most of spring resting but still managed to shine. His most impressive throw came when he hit redshirt freshman tight end AJ Rollins, who made a diving catch in traffic for 27 yards.
Purdy will seemingly play a secondary role to Thompson this year but if the spring game showed anything it is that the quarterback position is in good hands with the 6-2, 210-pound quarterback.
Quarterbacks Heinrich Haarberg, Matt Masker and Jarrett Synek all showed some good things in the second half when the defense was tackling.
The headline, perhaps, is Nebraska has depth and ongoing competition. As a coaching staff, that’s a good thing.
“There will be a lot more reps for everybody to make a decision,” Frost said.