Thursday practice hot takes: McCaffrey keeps pushing Martinez
Here are some quick takes and reactions on what we learned following Thursday's Husker football practice.
McCaffrey is going to make Martinez better in 2020
A year ago at this time, "true" competition wasn't even a thought at Nebraska's quarterback position.
Luke McCaffrey was just a true freshman learning the offense and Noah Vedral was also in the picture, but nobody ever thought Adrian Martinez was in a position to be pushed.
Then 2019 happened. Martinez struggled, he looked a step slow and his throws were off the mark at times. He also battled a shoulder and a knee injury that slowed him down, which allowed us to get a small taste of McCaffrey.
That small taste created a curiosity amongst Husker fans to see more of McCaffrey as we head into 2020.
Nobody is probably going to debate you that Martinez has the leg up and will be the Huskers starting quarterback. However, I think we all can agree McCaffrey has proven he's capable of stepping in, and more importantly capable of pushing Martinez for the starting job.
That competition is going to make everyone better. A year ago, Martinez never felt like he was being pushed. 2020 reminds us more now of the intense battle Martinez won to win the starting job in 2018. That competition drove him and made him better. I have no doubt it's going to be similar for Martinez again this year.
The No. 2 running back matters, but it's really all about Mills
We've heard both head coach Scott Frost and now running backs coach Ryan Held talk about the battle for the No. 2 tailback spot behind Dedrick Mills.
We know Rahmir Johnson probably has the leg up over Ronald Thompkins, Marvin Scott and Sevion Morrison. Nobody at this point is tipping their hand.
Yes, it is important to have a quality No. 2 option, but let's be real. This season is all about Mills. As Held said on Thursday they need Mills to be a "bell cow back" in 2020.
There is not one 1,000 yard running back that returns in the Big Ten Conference in 2020. Mills has a chance to be one of the top backs in the league if he plays to his capability.
They need Mills to probably be a 20 to 25 carry back in 2020, while the rest of the backs will probably see around 10 combined carries per game if I had to project today.
Managing the unknowns of 2020
This has been an off-season unlike any before. Between playing, then not playing to eventually playing, it has been a roller-coaster for everyone.
Now the challenge is making sure your team is ready to play this season in a tightened fall camp window to go along with the different safety protocols in place.
So far it appears NU has a handle on all the new protocols. Being knocked out for 21 days though should get every player’s attention.
With that said, I think all the uncertainty this off-season has brought this team closer. The players have publicly fought together to bring back football. They have also had more player led workouts then ever before this off-season.
I’ve had multiple people tell me this team has really grown over the off-season. I know we hear that every off-season, but 2020 as we know if a different year. It’s present unique challenges both on and off the field that should pay off for this team.
Expect some bumps and bruises after Saturday
Nebraska will take the field on Saturday for what will probably be their only live scrimmage before moving into game preparation.
A normal August probably brings two of these types of scrimmages. NU will have to really maximize this time on the field to make key evaluations at several positions.
You learn so much about your team when you do a game-simulated live scrimmage with full tackling.
I know Frost has tried to do a lot more live work than normal this October, and they are hoping it will have them ready for their game at Ohio State on Oct. 24.
I had one source tell me “they have been hitting a lot” in practice over the last 10 days or so. Saturday will be the pinnacle of that. I expect you will see some bumps and bruises on the team after Saturday, but hopefully they will come out of it alright.