Logan Smothers’ moment has arrived.
The 2020 freshman quarterback is in line to make his first career start for Nebraska after junior Adrian Martinez suffered a season-ending right shoulder injury Saturday against Wisconsin.
That means Smothers’ first extended action will come on Black Friday against Iowa in the Huskers’ season finale.
Coach Scott Frost said Monday that Smothers is the likely starter but that it’s possible that 2021 freshman Heinrich Haarberg could get his first career collegiate experience as well.
“Smothers and Haarberg are both taking reps and we’ll get them ready,” Frost said. “They’ve both done some really good things in practice, Logan’s done some really good things in games and I’ve got confidence in them. …
“I think there’s a scenario where they both could play. Obviously, Logan’s earned the right to be the guy right now, but I can see a scenario where both get a chance.”
Smothers has appeared in five games so far this season, including three plays before halftime Saturday after Martinez was first injured. He also played a series against Michigan State and led a drive that was beset by two offensive line penalties when Martinez was getting an X-ray on his jaw in the locker room.
Smothers’ other three games came in cleanup duty against Fordham, Buffalo and Northwestern and he’s made a favorable first impression.
“He had a great day of practice today, both of them did,” Frost said. “I think he’s been looking forward to this moment. You guys have seen it, he’s done really well when he’s been in games and operated well. This is a good defense we’re playing, obviously, so it’s going to be a big challenge.”
Smothers, a Muscle Shoals, Alabama, native, has completed 7 of 11 passes for 119 yards, highlighted by a 54-yard strike to tight end Chris Hickman against Buffalo on Sept. 11.
He’s also rushed 13 times for 69 yards and fumbled at the end of a drive against the Bulls.
Haarberg is a physically imposing presence for a young quarterback at 6-foot-5 and about 220 pounds.
The Huskers took an aggressive approach against Wisconsin and put the ball in the air on half of their 70 offensive snaps. Martinez turned in a season-high 351 passing yards and produced nine “chunk” pass plays, also the best number of the year for NU.
Can Nebraska really expect to play the same way against Iowa with Smothers and perhaps Haarberg?
“We did some unique things, but also a lot of those things were kind of in our catalog and menu of things we can do,” Frost said Monday. “We dressed it up a little different and had some new things. These two have been in quarterback meetings all year, taking reps all year, so they’re familiar enough with what we do that there’s plenty of good things that we have available.”
Smothers, of course, was also in the program for the 2020 season, though he didn’t appear in a game during the shortened schedule. He worked extensively on his throwing mechanics with former quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco and now has a short week to get ready for his first start with interim quarterbacks coach Steve Cooper.
“(Smothers) is really sharp,” Frost said. “He’s not the fresh-faced kid who’s going to get surprised by a bunch of things or pressures or different looks. He’s really smart and knows our offense and can operate it.
“We’re going to give him the ball and let him try to do it.”
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