Could Joe Burrow make his way from Columbus to Lincoln to shake up the Huskers' quarterback competition?
Nebraska football head coach Scott Frost isn’t interested in talking about any quarterbacks besides those on campus right now. He made that much clear following the Cornhuskers’ first practice back after spring break. However, he did mention that the idea of bringing in another signal-caller is a topic that may be revisited.
“We’re trying to get the guys here up to speed and playing as well as they possibly can. I think after spring ball we’ll take a look at that, but I’ve been impressed with the quarterback group,” he said following Nebraska’s Tuesday practice.
It makes complete and total sense that Frost is focused on getting the guys he currently has as familiar with the playbook as possible. While talented, the Big Red’s quarterback room is inexperienced. The longest-tenured members are Patrick O’Brien, walk-on Andrew Bunch and UCF transfer Noah Vedral, all sophomores.
Tristan Gebbia has one year in the program as a redshirt freshman while incoming former four-star recruit Adrian Martinez and walk-on Matt Masker have never seen live action at the college level.
On the plus side, Frost has an endless amount of praise for the Huskers’ new quarterbacks coach, Mario Verduzco, and clearly believes that he can maximize the current crop’s potential. However, as good as Nebraska’s signal-callers can be, there’s only so much you can learn during one round of spring football. Even work over the summer and fall camp isn’t going to produce immediate results.
Considering Vedral actually has worked in Frost’s system before, if he were eligible to play, it’s not a stretch to suggest he’d have an edge over any other quarterback Nebraska has on its roster based on experience alone. Unfortunately, he’s not available until next season due to standard transfer protocol.
Now, that’s not to say that O’Brien, Gebbia or Martinez — the three names currently touted as most likely to get the starting nod — won’t be able to operate Frost’s offense at a high level. But with a merciless schedule lined up for Frost’s first year, minimizing the unknown is an obvious necessity.
One easy way to do that would be to test the graduate transfer market. The good news for the Huskers in that arena is a quarterback happens to be looking for a new home and Lincoln apparently is a landing spot he’d entertain, according to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg.
UCLA, Indiana, Nebraska and Florida Atlantic are among the schools showing interest in quarterback Brandon Dawkins, a graduate transfer from Arizona. Dawkins is planning to visit FAU and Indiana in the coming weeks. Dawkins passed for 2,418 yards and... https://t.co/lkA5wMcTy1— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) March 23, 2018
Dawkins played in seven games for the Wildcats in 2017, spelling Khalil Tate. He threw for 732 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 459 yards and eight scores.
Another option should Nebraska consider the graduate transfer market is current Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow, son of former Husker assistant coach Jimmy Burrow and brother to Jamie and Dan Burrow, who both played in Lincoln.
There was plenty of confusion as to why then-head coach Bo Pelini didn’t make a stronger attempt to secure the youngest Burrow considering the massive number of connections to the school, but the time for his addition to the Big Red's roster may be now considering the program’s completely clean slate.
Burrow will be competing with Dwayne Haskins and highly-touted freshman Tate Martell for the Buckeyes’ starting gig. However, if he falls short, the likelihood that the junior looks elsewhere seems probable.
He was listed as the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school according to the 247Sports Composite Index after throwing for 11,416 yards and 157 touchdowns while running for 2,067 yards and 27 scores during three years of varsity play at Las Vegas prep powerhouse Bishop Gorman, according to MaxPreps.com.
If either player has interest in becoming Cornhuskers, Nebraska would immediately gain a quarterback fit for Frost’s system and one that has seen live action in multiple seasons. This would not only increase competition for the starting spot — an idea that Frost has made no bones about being a fan of — while both adding depth and decreasing pressure on current underclassman quarterbacks.
Nebraska may eventually have interest in a graduate transfer, but we won't likely hear about any publicly until later this spring at the earliest. No doubt Frost wants to conclude April’s work before giving all of his attention to that idea.
However, it wouldn’t be a shock for the Huskers to keep tabs on Dawkins’ visits and Burrow’s progress. Dawkins is scheduled to visit Indiana and Florida Atlantic “in the coming weeks,” but obviously that’s incredibly vague. Burrow wouldn’t be examining his options unless he didn’t get the starting gig or — just a hypothetical — he was given some manner of assurance by Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer that he’d be in the thick of competition come fall with a potential co-starter tag.
Either way, this is easily one of the most interesting storylines in the state of Nebraska outside of what’s currently going on during Frost’s first spring as the Big Red's head coach.
(Scott Frost courtesy of Nebraska Athletics)