McCaffrey Adding Depth, Competition Among QBs
Maybe taking a test becomes a tad easier when a home-cooked feast is involved.
Or maybe, just maybe, Luke McCaffrey has studied his Nebraska football playbook inside and out, backwards and forwards.
Whatever the case, the true freshman recently scored very well on Nebraska assistant coach Mario Verduzco’s written test for his quarterbacks.
“It was really, really good. As good as I’ve ever been around for a young guy,” Verduzco said. “Being able to come in and handle 722 questions on a playbook test and missing very few. That’s unbelievable.”
Wait a second.
Did he say seven-hundred and twenty-two questions?
“Oh, shoot, that’s an all-day event,” a smiling McCaffrey said Wednesday, brushing it off as no big deal.
McCaffrey explained how the quarterbacks meet Verduzco and his wife, Kate, at their home, where they fix their “Italian feast.” He said Verduzco is the main chef.
“We take one test, grab a little food, take the next test,” McCaffrey said. “It’s an all-day adventure.”
McCaffrey isn’t sure how many questions he missed, but Verduzco said his final score was “out of sight.”
That’s one way, at least, to make an impression when you’re battling for Nebraska’s No. 2 quarterback job behind incumbent starter Adrian Martinez.
“That’s a fun test. It’s the base knowledge of our offense,” McCaffrey said. “The fun thing about that is, as I’m sure the other four guys can attest, is once you get into it, it’s awesome. You get it all down on paper, but then bullets are flying when you get into a game scenario and everything changes.”
That’s likely one reason Noah Vedral entered fall camp, according to Verduzco, with a slight edge over the 6-foot-2, 200-pound McCaffrey for the No. 2 job – Vedral, the UCF transfer, has game experience.
McCaffrey, meanwhile, is doing what he can to counter that.
“Attack each practice like it’s a game,” McCaffrey said. “Coach Verduzco really, really has an emphasis on that. Our meetings each day, we just want to go out and attack it like it’s a game. Obviously, all of us quarterbacks, all five of us, are competitors. We all want to have the job. But all we can do is make a role and keep expanding that each day.”
McCaffrey arrived early on campus in January and participated in spring practices to get ahead of the learning curve, doing what he can to challenge Vedral, and push Martinez.
“I think Luke’s been doing a great job,” Martinez said. “He’s a bright, young kid with lots of talent. He’s fast, can throw the ball.”
Martinez also knows the long, grueling process to becoming a team’s quarterback, and making that jump, he said, can be tough for many people.
“Luckily for him, he has a great coach in Coach Verdu and we have a great quarterback room who’s all supportive of each other,” Martinez said. “We’re going to continue to support him and make him better.”
Coach Scott Frost said Nebraska is “vastly improved” at quarterback, from the No. 1 position all the way down the roster.
They can do more than throw the football, too.
“I wish our season would come down to a 4-by-1 relay with our quarterback group against everybody else’s,” Frost said, “because we've got some guys that can run."
McCaffrey said he’s thankful to have four other quarterbacks who’ve welcomed him and taught him, especially Vedral, who’s had the most experience with Frost’s offense. He’s also grateful for the coaching from Verduzco, who’s helped McCaffrey with some mechanical issues with his technique.
“He’s incredible. He’s one of the big reasons that I came here,” McCaffrey said. “What I love about him is he always has us strive to get better. He always wants us to keep improving. He’s not going to settle, whether you’re Adrian, coming off a really hot season, or whether I’m brand new. He’s always going to get on you and keep helping you improve to the best ability that you can.”
McCaffrey, an offensive standout at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, comes from a long line of successful, talented athletes in his family. His father, Ed, who served as his high school coach, played 13 seasons in the NFL. His older brothers, Max, Christian and Dylan have all played football – Max for Duke, then the San Francisco 49ers; Christian for Stanford, then the Carolina Panthers; and Dylan, who’s currently playing quarterback at Michigan.
“I can’t thank my brothers enough for the influences they’ve had on me throughout my life,” Luke said, noting each brother has offered his own advice, but all of them, in some way or another, gave the same tip.
“Their best advice would be to attack it, to not dip your toe in the water,” McCaffrey said. “Coach Frost hones in on that in a lot of our meetings, to just dive right in. You see some freshmen doing that right now. … just attacking it, just going in and not taking any steps, not wondering what it’s going to be like, but just embracing it.
“You’re going to make some mistakes, but overall, just have a tenacity.”
McCaffrey said Martinez, a sophomore coming off a stellar true freshman season, has been an “awesome leader and player,” and someone always striving to get better. He reeled off several defensive backs who’ve impressed him, including Cam Taylor and Lamar Jackson. And every day, another true freshman is making an impressive play, he said.
“Every minute I get with these guys, I’m thankful,” McCaffrey said. “We have a team who I believe genuinely likes each other. That’s something special. You don’t always see that. That’s something we can all appreciate.”
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