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Husker Quarterbacks Speak on Progress Early in Spring

by Apr 4, 2024Nebraska Football

Quarterbacks coach Glenn Thomas answers questions after football practice Thursday, April 4, 2024 in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John S. Peterson.
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

No position in football garners the spotlight quite like quarterback, and after Thursday’s spring practice, all three scholarship signal-callers in Lincoln took turns in front of the cameras to speak with the media.

Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield and quarterbacks coach Glenn Thomas set the stage before turning the podium over to the young quarterbacks. Thomas, in his first spring with the program, said he’s excited about where the group is and the amount of reps each of them are getting under the current practice format, especially considering the variety of looks Tony White’s defense is throwing at them.

Thomas said he isn’t looking for any kind of separation five practices into the spring; the focus is entirely on getting all of them as many reps as possible and on day-to-day improvement, because the passing game has to take a significant step forward this season.

“We’re going to throw the ball,” Satterfield said. “We have to be able to throw the ball. I think we’re always going to find a way to run the ball, but as you saw last year, you can run the ball well, but there’s going to come times when to win a game you have to throw the ball, so we’ve really been focusing on just our passing game and our pass protection and route running and just all the concepts of throwing the football.”

Nebraska quarterback Heinrich Haarberg answers questions after football practice Thursday, April 4, 2024 in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John S. Peterson.

The veteran of the group, Heinrich Haarberg, went first. The Kearney Catholic product started eight games and played in 10 last season, leading Nebraska in passing yards (967) and touchdowns (seven) as well as rushing yards (477) and touchdowns (five). However, he also completed 49% of his passes and threw seven interceptions.

“We’ve talked about the completion percentage and trying to get that up,” Thomas said. “We talked about mechanics and elbow and arm angles and those type of things. Those are constant things we’re talking about, and then again, the application from the meeting room corrections to the field I think has been good. We’re trying to continue to work through the concise decision-making as far as when I’m supposed to be, where I’m supposed to be, and I think we’re in a good place like that.”

While he struggled with his passing efficiency, Haarberg provided a power running element to Nebraska’s offense, though it took its toll on him as the season played out and the hits accumulated. Haarberg said he still wants to be a physical, downhill runner who punishes defenders, but he has learned he needs to be smarter about avoiding unnecessary hits in order to stay relatively healthy throughout the season.

Haarberg is the only quarterback in the room who has taken a snap at the Division I level as his competition for the starting job comes in the form of a pair of freshmen who enrolled early. Through five practices, Bellevue West product Daniel Kaelin said that decision was the right one for him.

“I think that’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since I wanted to play college football,” Kaelin said. “I went to Bellevue West and I remember Jay Ducker was a guy who did that early on and then really every year at Bellevue West we kind of had people do that after. So it’s something I planned on doing for a while and I definitely made the right choice. I feel like I’d definitely be a little behind if I came in the summer.”

Husker legacy and 5-star recruit Dylan Raiola is the other early enrollee, and Satterfield called the way the two freshmen have handled the transition “amazing.”

Nebraska quarterback Dylan Raiola answers questions after football practice Thursday, April 4, 2024 in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John S. Peterson.

“We were watching them two days ago, practice four, completing a bunch of balls and you sit there and you forget sometimes that that’s Dylan and Danny’s fourth practice in college going against these guys and they’re still able to have the poise and the footwork and the timing in their brains and the knowledge of the system already to get completions, because it’s hard to do, especially against our defense moving around like they do,” Satterfield said. “So I think that they’re ahead of schedule. The good thing about those guys is they’re competitors and they work their butts off on the field and off the field to make sure when they do get on the field they understand what’s going on where everybody’s going to be.”

Both quarterbacks have made a good early impression on their position coach. When asked about Raiola and what has stood out about him thus far, Thomas made sure to include Kaelin in his answer.

“They’re both natural passers, they’ve got great rotation,” Thomas said. “As far as upper body, they use their lower half really good, which creates some arm strength. It comes off their hand and they throw a really catchable ball, which I think it goes under-appreciated sometimes. I love the fact that both of them are creating that application from the meeting room to the classroom, and really being coachable to getting better each day.”

Raiola said adjusting to the speed of the game has been his biggest challenge early on. He’s been proud of his ability to generate big plays, specifically by getting the ball to his playmakers in space. Conversely, he’s hoping to make strides with his understanding of protection calls and ability to adjust based on what the defense is showing.

Nebraska quarterback Daniel Kaelin answers questions after football practice Thursday, April 4, 2024 in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John S. Peterson.

Kaelin said the size of the playbook and all of the checks and calls that come with it has been his biggest challenge to this point, though he praised the coaching staff for preparing the young quarterbacks to hit the ground running this spring. He’s been proud of his ability to process things on the field, especially with the way the defense keeps the offense on its toes. He’s also hoping to make strides in his pre-snap recognition of what the defense is doing.

Haarberg said he’s enjoyed the dynamic in the quarterback room on and off the field over the past few years that Adrian Martinez and Matt Masker had established by the time he set foot on campus, and he’s worked to maintain that standard as the veteran of the group. Kaelin said the way they’ve helped each other most has been the friendly competition in the room.

“I have a lot of confidence in myself,” Kaelin said. “Obviously, Dylan does as well; he’s a great player. So not only him, but Heinrich, all three of us, I think, really do a good job of pushing each other and I think we’ve all gotten a ton of reps this spring so far. So it’s been good to kind of see what one guy’s doing, not only learn from each other and help each other but also compete and try to do better than the guy next to you.”

Expectations among the fan base are understandably high for Raiola based on his name and what he accomplished in high school, but the staff appears to be a long way off from naming a starter. The spring is all about competition and maximizing reps, and Nebraska’s green quarterback room is looking to make the most of the opportunity.

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