Why Husker QB coach Mario Verduzco has no problem recruiting ‘athletes’ as quarterbacks

Why Husker QB coach Mario Verduzco has no problem recruiting ‘athletes’ as quarterbacks
Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco has a lot of traits he looks for when recruiting quarterbacks. (World-Herald News Service)

LINCOLN — Nebraska has 11 offers out to quarterbacks in the 2019 class.

Some of those include pro-style quarterbacks Mike Riley’s staff offered. But that doesn’t include prospects labeled as “athletes” by recruiting services that Nebraska is pursuing as quarterbacks — like four-star Luke McCaffrey and three-star Peyton Powell.

Powell received an offer from Nebraska and quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco on Wednesday night. He’s from Odessa, Texas, and attends Permian High School, famous for its portrayal in the “Friday Night Lights” book and movie.

Powell is the No. 41 athlete in the 2019 class and has 19 offers. He’s also being recruited as a wide receiver and safety.

Which begs the question: Why does Nebraska recruit guys who sometimes aren’t traditional quarterbacks?

Verduzco said Thursday it’s a mix between a gut feeling and the quarterbacks “stroke” or throwing motion.

“You watch a guy and you ask yourself, ‘Is he athletic? Can he do the things Coach (Scott) Frost and Coach (Troy) Walters expect a quarterback to be able to do in our offense, a la, Marcus Mariota, Vernon Adams, McKenzie Milton, so on and so forth,'” Verduzco said.

Some guys, he said, are so dynamic you have to take a good look at them, despite maybe not having a perfect throwing motion. That was the case when Verduzco was recruiting Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton, who on some recruiting sites was technically considered an athlete.

When watching tape, sometimes you can see a throwing motion that’s salvageable. Sometimes it takes a trip out to see a recruit to diagnose the stroke, Verduzco said, which is what he’s been doing the past few weeks on the recruiting trail.

“Coach Frost and I feel like if a guy has some issues — (Milton) had some issues when he first came — we’ll get them corrected,” Verduzco said. “We have the drill work that is designed to first diagnose the problem, then you got drills that are designed to medicate, train and polish his stroke. (Milton) went through that process with us.”

Verduzco flew out to Hawaii to watch Milton throw, thought his “stroke” was close enough, malleable enough, and Milton got the offer. Milton started as a true freshman, and as a sophomore in 2017 threw for 3,795 yards, completing 69 percent of his passes with 35 touchdowns. He finished eighth in Heisman Trophy voting.

“What ends up happening for us is the pool of quarterbacks that are available to us is bigger,” Verduzco said.

So Nebraska has no issue taking chances on a kid at quarterback even if other schools aren’t, such as Powell or three-star George Johnson III, who is being recruited by schools as a wide receiver.

Nebraska is also in the hunt for four-star Jayden Daniels out of San Bernardino, California. Daniels recently put Nebraska in his top eight schools and is the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 class. Nebraska is also high on the list for four-star Michael Johnson Jr. from Eugene, Oregon. He’s the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback and plans to visit Lincoln sometime this summer. Nebraska received a visit from Luke McCaffrey, brother of NFL running back Christian McCaffrey, in the spring.

Nebraska has three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster right now with Adrian Martinez, Tristan Gebbia and Noah Vedral. Andrew Bunch remains a walk-on. Nebraska does, however, want a 2019 quarterback to fill out the room.

There is not a pecking order. At this point, it’s first come, first serve for the 2019 quarterbacks, Verduzco said Thursday.

“We’ll take any of them,” he said. “We like all of them.”