Door isn't closed on Martinez, McCaffrey competition at QB
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Door isn't closed on Martinez, McCaffrey competition at QB

Nebraska has a junior quarterback entering his third season as the starter in Adrian Martinez, but even that hasn’t stopped the conversation of a potential legitimate competition under center.

Martinez’s rollercoaster first two seasons in Lincoln, paired with the rapid development of redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey have kept things somewhat interesting as the Huskers gear up for their opener at Ohio State two weeks.

Quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco chose his words carefully when asked about where things stood between Martinez and McCaffrey.

He didn’t say anything to change the assumption that Martinez wouldn’t be the Week 1 starter, but he also didn’t put the narrative of McCaffrey’s rise to bed, either.

Neither did Martinez.

“The best quarterback is going to play. Period," Martinez said. "Luke’s been pushing me, and I love it. I’m here for the competition. He’s a talented guy. He gets after it; I get after it. I think that’s definitely helped me progress as a player.

“It’s gotten some fire out of me, and I think it’s great for both of us, and it’s great for this team.”

Martinez said he was feeling as healthy as ever after battling through another injury-filled sophomore campaign in 2019. The extended time off as a result of COVID-19 also allowed him to focus more on “the little things” he felt he’s lacked over his first two seasons.

For McCaffrey, he admitted it was “a bummer” to miss out on a full spring of practices, but he too used the offseason to improve upon his biggest weaknesses.

Along with adding five pounds of muscle over the break while making sure to maintain his speed, McCaffrey honed-in on specifics like bolstering his “stroke and thrust on the ball,” on which Verduzco said he had made noticeable progress.

Verduzco added that even the experience gap between Martinez and McCaffrey wasn’t as big of a factor as some might think, as McCaffrey “has gotten a boatload of reps” during fall camp with both first and second-team offenses.

Verduzco punted any conversation about potential playing time scenarios at quarterback this season to head coach Scott Frost but added that he felt “very good” about rolling with Martinez or McCaffrey in a game.

“They are very similar in a lot of ways in terms of their skill set,” Verduzco said.